March into Chester will honour First World War's Port Sunlight volunteers


Steve Cresswell

A HUNDRED years ago 700 workers for the company now known as Unilever stepped forward to fight in the First World War – the largest group of volunteers to sign up.

And on Sunday, September 7 they will be remembered as current employees of Unilever Port Sunlight in Wirral descend on Chester to take part in a march.

The event has been organised by Port Sunlight Village Trust and will coincide with the centenary commemoration of the Battle of Mons.

The 700-strong list includes Alison McGovern, MP for Wirral South, who will be travelling with the ‘Port Sunlight Volunteers’ to Chester.

She said: “I am happy to be taking part in this important event marking the commencement of the First World War that had a pronounced and significant impact on every community in our country.

“It is testament to the importance of this commemoration that so many would want to take part.”

The event organisers are still encouraging people to take part. Katherine Lynch, heritage manager for Port Sunlight Village Trust, said: “Even though the 700 volunteers have now been recruited it doesn’t mean people can’t take part, far from it. We really need people in Port Sunlight and Chester to play an active part in the event and to help us create a fitting atmosphere and send off for the 700 just as their loved ones did all those years ago.”

Spectators are being encouraged to line the route dressed in period costume, and to sing along with the 700 as they march through Chester city centre accompanied by the Port Sunlight Lyceum Brass Band and the Over by Christmas Chorus.

Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion of The Mercian Regiment, representatives from many ex-service organisations, and Army Cadets and Air Training Corps will join the volunteers for the final stages of their walk to Chester Castle.

Major Eddie Pickering, curator of the Cheshire Military Museum and organiser of the association’s annual Battle of Mons commemoration service and parade, said: “This year will be particularly special. Not only does it mark the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Mons where the 1st Battalion of The 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment stood firm before an overwhelming enemy advance and suffered massive losses, but the two parades coming together, 1,000 people strong, will be quite a spectacle and a very moving experience for all.”

Entry to the Cheshire Military Museum at Chester Castle on the day will be free, and the Tame Valley Classic Car club will stage a static display of vintage and classic cars in Port Sunlight village.

Timetable of events:

Those wishing to watch the event in either Port Sunlight or Chester are advised to visit for more information about event timings and road closures. An approximate time-line for the event is as follows:

10.30 Great Send Off parade exits Unilever Port Sunlight gates

10.45 William Hesketh Lever’s speech to the ‘Port Sunlight Volunteers’

10.50 All sing God Save the King

11.00 Great Send Off parade boards train at Port Sunlight railway station

11.30 Great Send Off parade arrives at Chester railway station

12.00 Great Send Off parade begins walk to Chester Castle via Chester Cathedral

12.30 Great Send Off parade arrives at Chester Cathedral to join up with the Battle of Mons parade

12.45 Two parades depart Chester Castle

13.00 Parade arrives at The Castle Square

13.15     General Mackinnon’s speech to the ‘Port Sunlight Volunteers’

13.30 Enlistment of the ‘Port Sunlight Volunteers’

14.00 Event close

See full story in the Chester Leader

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