WITH the 100th anniversary of the opening of the battle of the Somme on July 1, 1916, which would mark the start of the most bloody battle in British history, writers Peter Doyle and Chris Foster have produced a book, Kitchener's Mob, which traces the development of the Pals regiments which played such a big part in the battle.

PROUDLY bearing their Kitchener's Men arm bands and almost to a man be-sporting flat caps above smiling faces are a bunch of recruits crammed on to Grassington station ready to start a journey which would eventually take them to the horrors of the Western Front.

They are Upper Wharfedale chaps - Tunstill's Men - leaving their home village on September 21, 1914, on their way to boost the troops of the regular army which had embarked for France on August 4 and, massively outnumbered but with their murderous rapid riffle fire, were attempting to hold off the hoardes of German soldiers sweeping across Flanders and northern France.

These volunteers - civilian soldiers - had responded to the call to arms by magnificently moustached Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War, who stared stony faced, his finger pointing spear-like directly from a poster declaring "Your Country Needs You" which would later become an iconic image.

The story of these man has been brought magnificently alive by Peter Doyle and Chris Foster, who lives in Hebden, in their superbly written and wonderfully illustrated tome Kitchener's Mob. The dust cover shows our Grassington lads up for the fight.

Indeed the book's subtitle, The New Army to the Somme, sums it up. Many of these man were on their way to the bloodiest battle the British army would fight between 1914 and 1918.

Almost their initial baptism of fire would be on July 1, 1916, the first day of the battle of the Somme, when they would go over the top into a withering storm of bullets mowing them down at the ankles and finishing them off in the head and body as they lay on the ground.

The battle continued until November 18. The dead of that first day has been put at 19,420, the missing and prisoners of war at 2,737 and wounded at 35,493. And the total number of deaths on the Somme, from all British and Commonwealth divisions, was 108,724.

These figures would cruelly bring home the realisation that the philosophy of recruiting men into local "Pals" regiments - essentially all coming from the same community - was a tragic mistake when these communities were devastated by the loss of their young men - fathers and sons, brothers and cousins.

One of those Kitchener's Army lads to perish was Charlie Branston, a 10th Battalion Duke of Wellington's Regiment soldier who had been among the first to respond to the call to join Tunstill's Men.

Doyle and Foster describe how Tunstill's Men was a company sized unit set up by 33-year-old Harry Gilbert Tunstill, a land agent and county councillor from Settle, aware of Kitchener's call to arms and who took responsibility for raising men for the New Army.

They write: "He took it upon himself to raise 100 men, a tenth of a battalion for service in Kitchener's army. A number of meetings ensued and following the recruitment drive of late August, there was no shortage of men who were available to attest to the colours.

"These men paraded on 19 September, distinguished only by their civilian clothes and distinctive armband or brassard that identified each one as a Kitchener's Man. It was a if there was a personal bond made between each Dalesman and the nation's hero and war leader.

"Arriving at the station, local people made sure the new recruits would not leave empty handed. They received comforts clothing and fruits. Leaving with great pomp and circumstance, accompanied by a brass band and the sounding of fog signals they boarded a train on 19 September bound for Halifax and ultimately for their training camp near Aldershot,"

Back to our "pal" Charlie Branston. He would eventually be wounded by shell fire in the trenches at Contalmaison on July 10, 1916. Recovering he was later posted to the 2nd Battalion and was killed in action on October 12, 1916, near Lesboefs.

He has no known grave and his name is one of thousands marked on the immense memorial to the missing of the Somme at Thiepval. A photograph shows him in his kharki uniform and cap, his sombre brown eyes gazing out from his youthful face.

Kitchener's Mob is published by the History Press at £25. It is packed with colour and black and white photographs, original documents and coloured divisional maps of the battle fields.

Chris Foster is an artist, photographer and author and was involved in creating Craven's Part in the Great War - cpgw.org.uk -which is dedicated to the service men and women who lost their lives in the First World War.