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Last Updated: Monday, 11 June 2007, 13:57 GMT 14:57 UK
Memorial 'Pals' church to close
British troops at the Battle of the Somme
The regiment lost almost 600 men on the first day of the battle
A church which houses a chapel in memory of the Accrington Pals regiment is to close.

St John's Church, a 143-year-old building, is to shut permanently due to costly repairs, the Blackburn Diocese has announced.

The closure will mean finding a new home for the Pals' chapel.

Some 584 men from the 11th Battalion East Lancashire Regiment, better known as the Accrington Pals, died on the first day of the Somme in 1916.

The battalion was raised in response to Kitchener's call for a volunteer army, which saw friends from all walks of life go to war together.

The chapel at St John's was dedicated in 1992, and is the venue for a memorial service for the Pals every year.

The future of the Pals' chapel will be central to our thoughts and prayers in planning for the future
Rev Ian Robertson

Now work is under way to prepare a new home for the Pals' memorabilia.

Church members voted for the closure, which has been enforced by electrical problems.

St John's has no financial reserves to pay for the work, and this led to a temporary closure in April.

Rev Ian Robertson, vicar of St John's and St Augustine, Huncoat, said: "This has been a difficult decision to make, but I am most impressed and encouraged by the way many members of the church council have begun to cope with the need for a new vision for the Church in Accrington.

"The future of the Pals' chapel will be central to our thoughts and prayers in our planning for the future."

Options for St John's include joining with other church of England congregations, developing a new worship centre or sharing premises with a Methodist church.

At least 20,000 British soldiers died and a further 40,000 were injured on 1 July 1916 - the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

It remains the single largest such loss in British military history.


SEE ALSO
Residents remember Somme 'pals'
01 Jul 06 |  Lancashire

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