World War One diaries of St Helens officer revealed

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Central Library recently hosted a well-attended launch event for an insightful, moving and never-before-seen wartime diary, written by an officer during his time serving with the St Helens Pals.

The event took place exactly 101 years after the St Helens Pals left their home town to prepare for and fight in World War One, some tragically never to return.

With the help of St Helens Council, the St Helens Townships Family History Society was awarded a £40,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to research the history of 11th Battalion South Lancashire Regiment - known as the St Helens Pals.

‘The Great War Diary of A.T. Champion’ is the next instalment of the four year project by the society. Written by Alan Treweeke Champion, the Commanding Officer of ‘A Company’, the diary provides a personal narrative of 11th Battalion’s daily life and military operations during the First World War.

Local military historian and editor of the book, Dave Risley, launched the book with a brief introduction to the events which led him to find the unique diary during his research at Lancashire Infantry Museum.

Many dozens of residents visited the library throughout the afternoon to collect a copy of the diary, listen to Dave’s talk and chat with members of the society, including St Helens Mayor and Mayoress, Councillors Steve and Lynn Glover.

Dave has spent much of his time over the last year at Fulwood Barracks, home to the museum, transcribing the original diary for publication.

He said: “It was a painstaking job to transcribe the diary, but it gives such a personal view of the 11th Battalion and is a wonderful companion to the St Helens Pals book which was published by the project last year.”

Coun Jeanie Bell, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Wellbeing, whose portfolio includes libraries, said: “Dave and the society have done a great job of bringing to light the history of the St Helens Pals over the course of the project, and the large turn-out at the event shows there’s an appetite for this history locally.

“The diary is all the more important since in the centenary years of WWI, it’s one of the few remaining voices we have of that period.”

Copies of the book were freely available at the event. If you missed it and want to get your hands on a copy, there is a limited supply remaining at the Local History and Archives Library, Gamble Building.

A limited number of the St Helens Pals Personnel book – another previous publication by the project – was also given out to people whose family members served with the regiment.