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Banner Hammers Logo theyflysohigh Cine Film Projector 1940 action 02 1940 Handshakes War Cup Final slug

1940 Football League War Cup ...

Pints of Beer...... No Champagne  

by Roger Hillier

The table below highlights the Hammers’ cup campaign.

In the semi-final the Hammers faced west London neighbours Fulham at Stamford Bridge. Such was the popularity of the semi-final that the gates were closed ten minutes prior to kick-off as the restricted crowd capacity had been reached. The 32,799 crowd cheered the teams onto the pitch and then fell silent as the national anthem was played. As for the game, by the 65th minute the Hammers were cruising at 4-0 but The Cottagers rallied to reduce the lead to a single goal with a 74th minute penalty. Despite tiring in the hot June sun the Hammers hung on to their slender lead to win by the odd goal in seven and secure their ticket to the Wembley final a week later.

The Wembley side was a consistent XI. Five of the final side, Joe Cockroft, Dick Walker, Sam Small, George Foreman and Stan Foxall were ever-present in the nine game campaign, while Herman Conway and Charlie Walker only missed a single game, with Ted Fenton, captain Charlie Bicknell and Archie Macaulay absent from two.  


Despite this being a war time competition, which meant players would frequently be unavailable due to service calls, the Hammers only called on two guest players in the cup campaign. Left half Masson appeared in the very first game against Chelsea and the absence of Charlie Walker at left back for the Huddersfield Town replay allowed Laurie Scott, who would go on to play in Arsenal’s FA Cup winning side in 1950, to step in.

Trains wait for no man, as Ted Fenton found out on May 18 when he missed the London train to Yorkshire for the 3rd round tie against Huddersfield Town. Jim Barrett stepped into the side for one of his two appearances in the cup run.



The 3rd round tie at Huddersfield Town went to extra time but the time played had to be reduced from the usual 15 minutes each-way to 10. This was because West Ham had a train to catch and the timing of the connections meant they would not have time to play the full additional 30 minutes.



Charlie Bicknell captained the side in all but two games. A last minute injury received in the Huddersfield Town replay caused him to miss the quarter and semi-final fixtures. In his place Joe Cockroft picked up the captain’s armband.  



The Stamford Bridge semi-final against Fulham kicked-off at the unusual time of 6.40pm to enable Saturday afternoon war workers to attend the match. The venue was originally scheduled to be decided by the toss of the coin with the winners hosting the match. But both clubs preferred the option of a neutral ground.



Other West Ham players who played in some early games included goalkeeper Harry Medhurst, Jackie Wood and full back Steve Forde. Medhurst had ousted Herman Conway from the goalkeeper’s spot prior to the war but wartime service requirements meant he was only available for one game in the 1940 cup run which allowed Conway back into the side. Steve Forde played in the quarter and semi-final games as replacement for Charlie Bicknell. Forde’s 170 league appearances for West Ham straddled the war. Jackie Wood, who also made league appearances before and after the war, played a solitary war cup game.

Compared to the front page news covering Dunkirk, the 1940 Football League War Cup final was of little importance. It was, however, an opportunity for some respite for players and fans from the war effort. No champagne, and only beer to celebrate what was a small landmark occasion in the club’s history.

Can you name the first West Ham captain to have had the honour of leading his team up the 39 steps to lift silverware at Wembley?

No, it wasn’t Bobby Moore collecting the FA Cup in 1964 or Billy Bonds repeating the occasion 11 years later. Images of both winning captains collecting the most famous trophy in club football will be familiar to all West Ham United fans.


However, the very first Hammers’ captain to walk up those famous steps to the royal box and the answer to the question is Charlie Bicknell, when he skippered the side in the final of the Football League War Cup in 1940.  

June 2015 sees the 75th anniversary of Charlie Bicknell becoming the first claret and blue winning skipper at Wembley. This feature reviews the campaign that culminated in the Hammers’ first Wembley triumph. Coverage of the victory in the West Ham history books typically focuses on the June 1940 final and how several members of the team returned to east London for a few pints in the Boleyn pub, because there was no official celebration.


The feature also takes a closer look at the path to Wembley Stadium and finds some unusual anecdotes which reflect the war years and a very different age.    

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The final was held on Saturday, June 8, 1940, nine months after World War II hostilities had commenced. West Ham had performed well to reach the first final of the Football League War Cup, beating several teams along the way who at the end of the previous 1938-39 Football League season had been a division higher. Had it not been for the intervention of the war, manager Charlie Paynter reckoned West Ham had a good enough squad to win promotion to Division One. So in some respects it wasn’t a surprise that the Hammers performed so well in the 1940 cup.  


The War Cup was based on the FA Cup knockout format with the same number of rounds but with three differences. The first two rounds were both two-legged affairs and played on a regional basis, and the whole cup campaign was condensed into seven weeks.  


Before we review the early rounds we will reflect on the final.

Blackburn Rovers 0 - 1 West Ham United (HT 0-1)

Wembley Stadium

Saturday June 8, 1940

West Ham United:

Sam Small (34 mins)


Attendance: 42,339

West Ham United:

Herman Conway, Charlie Bicknell, Charlie Walker, Ted Fenton, Dick Walker, Joe Cockroft, Sam Small, Archie Macaulay, George Foreman, Len Goulden, Stan Foxall



Blackburn Rovers:

James Barron, Billy Hough, Walter Crook, Arnold Whiteside, Bob Pryde, Frank Chivers, William Rodgers, Len Butt, John Weddle, Albert Clarke, William Guest


WHU v. Blackburn Rovers Ticket Fulham v. WHU Semi-Final Ticket 40_06_08 Blackburn Rovers v. WHU

Apart from Small’s first half goal the Hammers had several scoring opportunities. George Foreman smashed a shot just wide of a post. Another effort saw Goulden square the ball for Foreman to hit the ball to the left of the Blackburn keeper who saved spectacularly. Moments later the keeper saved at full length when Stan Foxall shot first time from a clearance. Blackburn also had their chances but misses or saves by the West Ham keeper, Herman Conway, enabled the Hammers to keep a clean sheet.

The match kicked-off at the unusual time of 6.30 p.m. so as not to impede the war effort during the day. Plus fear of the Luftwaffe bombing London meant the authorities restricted the final’s attendance for safety reasons.  

The match programme provided instructions on the precautions to be taken in the event of an air raid warning. Although looking lost in the vast Wembley Stadium the 42,339 crowd was in vociferous mood as it prolonged its cheers to greet the men of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) as they took up their reserved seats. The BEF with their wounded comrades dressed in their hospital attire of blue jackets, white shirts and red ties, had recently been evacuated from Dunkirk.

1940 leading teams out

Wembley walk Len Goulden followed by

Ted Fenton

Despite the austere war-time conditions many of the traditional ceremonies were performed. The captains lead out the teams who lined-up for the French and British national anthems played by the band of the His Majesty’s Irish Guards. Then the teams were presented to the First Lord of the Admiralty, Mr.A.V.Alexander before captains Bicknell and Blackburn’s Crook met at the centre circle.  

First Lord of the Admiralty Mr.A.V.Alexander greets the Hammers.

Stan Foxall, George Foreman shaking hands, Archie Macauley and Joe Cockcroft

The Path to Wembley

1940 action 01

Match reports conflicted on the calibre of the game. One report quoted “Yesterday’s game was one of the best ever played at Wembley” while another was not so enthusiastic with a headline “West Ham Win Dour Cup Battle” and the comment “It was neither a poor game nor a great game.”  

As West Ham probably started as pre-match favourites, it was perhaps no surprise they won the final 1-0. The all-important goal arrived in the 34th minute when “a Blackburn raid was cleared and Stan Foxall seized the ball and quickly transferred to Len Goulden, whose deft touch to George Foreman left the Rovers’ defence in one bunch on the left flank. The centre forward’s first terrific shot was partially saved at full length by Barron, but the keeper was unable to stop the inrushing Sam Small from shooting into the top of the net.” Another contemporary match report described the goal as “The favourites West Ham United won the Football League war-time trophy last night with one of the finest goals ever seen at Wembley.”

With West Ham tiring late in the game “they defended grimly in the closing stages to hold on to their slender advantage. For nearly half an hour their defence battled against determined opponents who threw everything into attack... In this struggle two Hammers, named Walker, one Richard and the other Charles, played a great part for their side and the former, at centre half was the outstanding defender of the match.”


Other players singled out for praise included “Archie Macaulay and Len Goulden described as the chief strategists” who were supported by “two grand attacking wing halves in Ted Fenton and Joe Cockroft, with their clever short passing..”

After the final whistle the two teams stepped up to the royal box for the presentation of the cup and the medals by Mr. Alexander. And so Charlie Bicknell became the first Hammer to collect a winning trophy and medal at Wembley. In a time of great modesty the victorious West Ham team paraded the cup around Wembley without any stops for camera shots. And as many of the winning team had to rush off back to their service units there was no opportunity for the winning XI to get together for a formal photograph with the trophy.  

Sam Small's 34th minute goal

Walker & Fenton in action

1940 action 03 War Cup Final slug 2

As subsequent Football League War Cup tournaments had their own trophy the 1940 Football League War Cup remains in West Ham’s trophy cabinet.  

Charlie Bicknell receives the cup

Table 1 Table 2

In the first two rounds the Hammers successfully overcame Chelsea and Leicester City with 5-2 and 4-1 aggregate scores respectively.

CHELSEA : Round 1

40_04_20 WHU v. Chelsea FLC1 40_04_27 Chelsea v. WHU 01

The 2nd round home leg against Leicester City was notable for West Ham taking the lead after about 40 seconds. Eddie Chapman, who had been drafted into the side after scoring a hat-trick against Luton Town reserves a week earlier, received a pass from Joe Cockroft to speed down the left wing to make a perfect centre for George Foreman to head the ball home. Chapman, West Ham’s future secretary, was just 17 at the time.

In the Stamford Bridge second leg tie against Chelsea the Hammers won 2-0 despite being reduced to 10 men for the second half when Edward Fenton received a kick to the head just before half time and was taken to hospital for observation.

War Cup Final slug 2


40_05_04 Leicester City v. WHU 40_05_11 WHU v. Leicester City FLC2 01 War Cup Final slug 2


40_05_18 Huddersfield Town v. WHU 40_05_22 WHU v. Huddersfield Town FLC3R

The third round away tie against Huddersfield Town was a much tougher hurdle. At the end of the 1930s the Terriers were a formidable force and would have been favourites to go through especially at half time as they had a comfortable 2-0 lead.


However, West Ham’s fighting spirit bought them back into the game and goals from Archie Macaulay, George Foreman and Stan Foxall ensured the tie went to extra time and with no change in the score, earned a replay back to Upton Park. This, despite being reduced to 10 men for the last few minutes due to Charlie Bicknell suffering an injury.


Four days later in front of 20,000 the Hammers again scored three but restricted Huddersfield Town to a solitary reply. West Ham’s goals were scored by the same trio who had scored at Leeds Road.

War Cup Final slug 2


40_05_25 WHU v. Birmingham 40_06_01 Fulham v. WHU FL War Cup Semi

Three days later and it was back to Upton Park for the quarter-final against Birmingham. It was plain Birmingham in those days as the Midland side didn’t add "City" to their title until three years later in 1943. A slightly smaller attendance witnessed West Ham’s 4-2 victory. The Blues, who had beaten Arsenal in the previous round, gave the Hammers a scare by taking the lead after 18 minutes. West Ham's goals were scored by George Foreman, Len Goulden, Archie Macaulay and Sam Small

FULHAM : Semi-Final

War Cup Final slug 2

Sam Smith will always be remembered for being the first player to score at Wembley in a claret and blue shirt, but he was not the club’s top goalscorer in the 1940 cup campaign. The two top scorers were George Foreman and Archie Macaulay with six and five respectively. Stan Foxall and Small followed up with four each. Surprisingly Len Goulden only netted once in his six cup appearances.


The cup campaign appearance table lists the 19 players who contributed to the cup success.

1940 FL War Cup Final Cup Parade 1940 FL War Cup Final Cup Parade 02

Norman Corbett (Army uniform), Ted Fenton, Charlie Bicknell, Archie Macaulay and George Foreman

Charlie Bicknell on his greatest day in soccer carrying the War Cup trophy. Supported by goalkeeper Herman Conway and Archie Macaulay.

(other Hammer's left to right) Joe Cockroft (towel around his neck), Stan Foxall, Ted Fenton, Charlie Walker and George Foreman

BICKNELL reunited with the War Cup

Charlie Bicknell reunited with the cup shortly before he died in 1994 aged 88

Foreman and Macaulay – Campaign’s Top Goalscorers

War Cup Final slug 2

Anecdotes from the 1940 Cup Campaign

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The war conditions resulted in several unusual stories and facts including the following.  

In the Blackburn Rovers line up that evening was an Ex-Hammer. William Guest their left winger joined West Ham in March 1936 from Birmingham and stayed for a couple of seasons before transferring to Blackburn Rovers.  

During his two year spell at the Boleyn Ground he made three league appearances in season 1936-37. In his second game at home to Doncaster Rovers on October 31 he scored the game’s only goal. Unfortunately the results of his two other Division Two matches which straddled the home win were both heavy away defeats (Coventry City 4-0 and Fulham 5-0). After World War II ceased William continued his league career with Blackburn Rovers and finally with Walsall.

Did you know...

1940 FL War Cup Final Cup Parade 03

(L to R): Charlie Bicknell, Norman Corbett (drinking from cup), Ted Fenton, Archie Macaulay, George Foreman & Stan Foxall.

1940 FL War Cup Final Cartoon

Evening Standard Cup Final cartoon

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Norman Corbett who played in a couple of early matches but missed many more as he was unable to take leave from his army duties. Though he was 12th man for the Wembley final and is seen wearing his army uniform in the images of the team parading the cup at Wembley. It is reported that Charlie Paynter arranged for Norman Corbett and Harry Medhurst to receive medals for their contribution to the cup run.



A collection was made at the Wembley final on behalf of a Football Association Fund with the proceeds used to buy gifts for servicemen. A similar gesture at an Everton game earlier that season collected 120,000 cigarettes for distribution to serving footballers.



In the event of the Wembley final finishing all square at the end of 90 minutes, contrary to the match programme stating that an extra 30 minutes would be played, only an extra 20 minutes would be allowed. If at the end of extra time the two teams remained on level terms play would have continued until a goal was scored. No consideration for a penalty shoot-out.

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Support material courtesy of Nigel Turner, Stuart Allen, John Northcutt, British Pathe and West Ham United Football Club

Articles Anfield Double ECWC 50th Anniversary Goalscorers



Walker C.


Walker R.







Upton Park

May 25, 1940

Att: 18,500

Foreman, Goulden, Macaulay, Small



Walker C.


Walker R.







Stamford Bridge

June 1, 1940

Att: 32,799

Foxall, Goulden, Small, Brown (og)

Conway, Bicknell, Walker C., Barrett, Walker R., Cockroft, Small, Macaulay, Foreman, Goulden, Foxall

Leeds Road

May 18, 1940

Att: 7,550

Foreman, Foxall, Macaulay

Conway, Bicknell, Scott, Fenton, Walker R., Cockroft, Small, Macaulay, Foreman, Goulden, Foxall


Upton Park : Replay

May 22, 1940

Att: 20,000

Foreman, Foxall, Macaulay


West Ham goalscorers


Captain's at the centre circle

Men of the BEF

Decending the 39 steps

Parading the Cup

1940 War Cup

theyflysohigh trophy cabinet