The Story Of ‘The Dirty Five’
I found this photograph of my Great-Grandfather, Jim Marshall (top left), with four of his friends a few months ago. He sent this photograph back from Red Car camp, where he, like many other young men, received training before being deployed to the front lines of the First World War.
If you look closely around the edges of the photograph/click on the photo, you can see where Jim wrote in pencil ‘Yours Sincerely The Dirty Five’. When I read this I knew I had to write something about them.
I started to do some research. After training, all five lads entered the ranks of the Barnsley Pal’s Battalion. They fought alongside each other right through to 1916 where they would do their bit in one of the most horrific battles in military history, The Battle of The Somme.
Jim Marshall was born on June 10th 1894, I was born on July 6th 1994. Yet it only struck me several months ago that we are almost exactly one hundred years apart. As I write this at the age of 22, it still amazes me to think that at the same age, Jim and his friends were in the thick of trench warfare.
These would be their last days together. I found an account from Jim relating that, after being ordered to fall back from the front line, he and his four friends were hit by a German mortar strike. One lad was killed instantly, two were never found.
I wanted to write a song which spoke about the fun they shared together as well as the horrors they faced in war. A song about five young working class Barnsley lads who stuck together, keeping each other’s spirits up with their jokes and jaunty songs right until the end. The story of ‘The Dirty Five’.
The Royal British Legion published a great piece about the song and the story behind it here:
It’s a real honour to have the story published by an organisation who’ve done so much to help ex-servicemen for nearly a century.