Eccles RFC Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award Expedition to follow in footsteps of Salford Pals

In July, 2017, 19 young people will undertake a 5 day and 4 night expedition to Northern France following in the footsteps of the WW1 Salford Pals.

This will be the culmination of 12 months sustained effort from a dedicated team of young people undertaking their Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award with Eccles RFC starting on 1st July 2016 at the Somme Centenary event at Salford City Hall.

This expedition represents a far greater opportunity and ambition than an European camping trip nor is it solely about achieving the DofE Gold Award, which proves that you have the determination and mentality to succeed.  The participants will undoubtedly learn new skills and form enduring bonds as pals and team mates.  They will have the opportunity to pay tribute to the history of Eccles RFC and proudly represent our city in an official capacity overseas.

In addition, with the support of Heritage Lottery Funding, the group’s aim is to research and uncover the forgotten stories of the players from Eccles Rugby Football Club, who volunteered to fight in World War I, many of whom did not return from foreign fields to play again.  The group intend to commemorate this sacrifice by retracing the same route taken by the Lancashire Fusiliers Regiment on their way to the Battle of The Somme, where hundreds of young men from the ‘Salford Pals’ battalions lost their lives a century ago.

The expedition group will research, write, plan and record their journey and discoveries with an engaging documentary film.  The film will aim to tell the poignant personal stories of the Eccles players and forgotten soldiers of the ‘Salford Pals’ battalions and other regiments who fought in France in WWI.  In this way, we hope to reconnect the club and community with its heritage, preserving and making it accessible to the wider world.

The film will not only receive a public screening at the club house on completion, but will live on, online and in museums, as a permanent memorial to the Eccles WWI volunteers.

The group has already made contact with local historians, the England Rugby Football Union, the RFU museum and RFU monuments curator, Salford City council, the Lancashire Fusiliers Museum and the British War Graves Commission, all of whom wish to support the project and use the film.  It is also hoped to mark the conclusion of our expedition to the Somme Valley with a ‘friendly’ commemorative match against a local rugby union U18s team.

The Expedition Needs YOU

The group needs pictures, stories, family ties, etc to WW1 and Eccles RFC in this period, to help with researching and telling the story.  They can be contacted at dofeecclesrfc@gmail.com or come along in person to the Presentation Evening, on the 29th June 2016 at 7pm at Eccles Rugby Club, Gorton St, Eccles, M30 7LZ, for our Silver and Bronze Groups, who have recently completed their awards. The evening will include a presentation about the plans for the next 12 months and an opportunity to meet the young people and the leaders.

Eccles RFC were the first rugby club in England to start the DofE award scheme, it is self-funding and which is all run by volunteers.

Mark Baines
Chair of Eccles RFC, DofE Group