In 1970 Keith Loudon’s father, Gavin, was so moved after reading of the death of SW Harris, a veteran of the original Leeds Pals battalion, that he wrote to the Yorkshire Post expressing his gratitude to the young volunteers, adding he would like to buy a Pals cap badge.
The request led to him being contacted by a reader who still had a badge which had belonged to her late husband and was happy to pass it on.
As yesterday marked the 100th anniversary of the final day of the Battle of the Somme, Keith spoke of how he still treasures the memento, which was later passed on to him by his father before his death.
“It means that we are here today because of the sacrifice the Pals made,” said Keith, 83, of Horsforth. “It illustrates the great tragedy of what happened. A generation was killed.”
Keith, senior partner at Leeds-based Redmayne-Bentley and a former city Lord Mayor, added: “My father was a bit younger than the boys who went away. He knew a lot of the lads who never came back.
“There was a funeral notice in the paper about SW Harris. My father read it and sent a letter saying how much he admired the Leeds Pals and what they had done. Indeed, we all do.”
A letter to Gavin, signed by J Smith who may have been the widow or mother of the badge’s original owner, read: “I lost my only son in the last war and have no-one else who would value it as I think you will.”
With an average age of 20, the Leeds Pals formed at Leeds Town Hall in September 1914. Of the 750 Leeds Pals who fought on the first day of the battle on July 1, 1916, 248 were killed or fatally wounded.