Leeds Pals Battalion Recruitment Tram

Leeds City Tramways, Pals Battalion Recruitment Tram

The year 2014 was a remembrance of the centenary of the outbreak on 4th August 1914 of World War I (WWI), the Great War. Our main postcard and the smaller end view below were produced by the same unknown local photographer in September 1914. The tram was car 222 and was decorated and illuminated to advertise for army recruitment and the Leeds Pals Battalion. It was used again in 1915.

Following Lord Kitchener's call to arms, it was General Sir Henry Rawlinson who first had the idea that men would be more inclined to enlist if they knew they would serve alongside their friends and workmates. By the end of August he had raised the "Stockbrokers' Battalion" from the City of London. Soon after that Lord Derby was able to recruit several battalions in Liverpool, and is credited with coining the name "Pals Battalions". It was more the northern towns and businesses that produced the most units. As well as cities and towns some companies formed battalions, such as Glasgow Tramways and the North Eastern Railway Company.

End View In September 1914 the Leeds Pals Battalion (15th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment) had enlisted some 1,275 men, rising later to around 2,000. The policy was highly successful, but it had its downside. Most units saw their first major offensive at the Battle of the Somme on 1st July 1916, where the losses were staggering. On the first day there were 60,000 casualties, of which 20,000 were dead. Of the 900 men of the Leeds Pals who took part, 750 were lost. Over the next four months there the British suffered around 420,000 casualties, the French 195,000 and the Germans around 650,000. Because of the make-up of Pals Battalions, the losses were disproportionate, with some communities being devastated as a result. After the Somme the policy of "Pals" recruitment was not continued.

The Leeds recruitment tram had posters in its lower deck windows. On the side nearest the camera they say on the left "Your King Needs You - Respond to the call now", in the centre "Pro Rege et Lege - Leeds City Battalion for Business men - Headquarters Town Hall", and on the right "Recruitment Offices - Leeds City Battalion, Town Hall - Army, Tramway depot Swinegate - Territorials, Carlton Barracks & Harewood Barracks". On the other side of the tram they say on the left "Kitchener requires 500,000 men - GO NOW", in the centre "Wanted at once, 5000 recruits from Leeds - British Bulldogs, Airedale or Yorkshire Terriers", and on the right in Yorkshire dialect "Nah then John Willie - ger agate lad - join t'army". The destination on the tram indicates "Berlin".

Leeds City Tramways, operated by the Corporation, ran electric trams in the city from 11th November 1891 until 7th November 1959. The recruitment tram was one of the batch of cars numbered 182-282 built as open top double-deckers in 1901/2 by the Electric Tramway & Railway Carriage Works Ltd. of Preston and seating 22 inside and 36 on top. They were on Brill 21E 4-wheel trucks with two Dick Kerr 35A 37 horsepower motors, and had DE1 Form A controllers, soon to be replaced by DB1 form K3. The trams were all given open balcony top covers between 1905 and 1909. The livery at the time of WWI was chocolate brown, primrose yellow and white.

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