theyflysohigh : Steve Marsh

Welcome to the Private memorabilia collection of 'theyflysohigh'

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Banner Hammers Logo theyflysohigh ECL Players on their Travels 07 Snippet ECL Players on their Travels 02 WILSON Ron camera 2

Eastern Counties League 1948-49 ...

Snap shots of players strolling along the promenade, throwing pebbles into the sea, posing in a group on the beach and sitting on the coach makes it look like a relaxing break! You expect to hear a rendition of Cliff Richard’s “We're all goin' on a summer holiday”. But this was not a seaside excursion. It is ex-Hammer Ron Wilson’s photographic record of West Ham in the Eastern Counties League in 1948-49.


The focus of West Ham’s history is typically on the first team but we shouldn’t forget the players waiting in the wings. Thanks to Ron Wilson, who acted as team manager of the ‘A’ team (the third XI), we have images of the ‘A’ team on tour in the late 1940s.  


by Roger Hillier

Ron Wilson

club’s unofficial photographer

Hammers join Eastern Counties League

In 1948-49 West Ham United joined the Eastern Counties League (ECL) to give the third string players competitive football. That season West Ham United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur helped to expand the ECL to 16 clubs by entering ‘A’ teams.

The ECL comprised of a mix of football league ‘A’ sides and county sides such as Bishops Stortford, Clacton Town, Gorleston, Great Yarmouth, Kings Lynn, Lowestoft Town and Newmarket Town.

First Teamers

Favourites from Ron Wilson’s collection are the informal team group on the sea front and the more formal pose with spectators looking on.



In this informal group West Ham’s second oldest surviving ex-player, Frank O’Farrell, is clearly visible standing in the middle row. Several of these and other Hammers who played in the 1948-49 ECL fixtures made their football league debut with West Ham.



Geoff Hurst’s Dad

West Ham’s ‘A’ side spent eight seasons in the Eastern Counties League until withdrawing at the end of 1955-56 season. By withdrawing from the Eastern Counties League it would enable the club to field stronger XIs to help improve their Metropolitan and Mid-Week League chances. The Metropolitan League side would benefit most as more professionals could be fielded than previously.



Considering how several of West Ham’s 1948-49 ‘A’ team players progressed to enjoy distinguished first team careers, their ECL days may be better remembered by ...

Three players strolling: Ken Tucker, Richard Dunn & Johnny McGowan

Back row: (unknown), Bill Stephens, Alfie Noakes, Ken Limehouse

Middle row: John Gregory, Frank O'Farrell, Andy Malcolm, Johnny McGowan

Front row: Tommy Southren, Fred Kearns, Richard Ballantyne, (unknown)

Ron Wilson was a fringe West Ham first team player who made three Division Two appearances in the first two post war seasons. Between 1946 and 1949 he also made 51 Reserve team appearances scoring seven goals from his wing-half position. But his biggest contribution to the club was probably in his role of team manager for the reserves and ‘A’ team in those early post war years.

During this time he also acted as the club’s unofficial photographer. In the austere post war era when rationing was part of daily life, to own a camera would have been at the forefront of technology.

His foresight in capturing the 'A' team in black and white provides an unusual and rare record of the Hammers outside the first team.


'theyflysohigh' would like to thank the big wing-half for donating the photographs shown to our memorabilia collection.


































Harwich & Parkeston A

Arsenal  A

Harwich & Parkeston A

Chelsea  A

Norwich City  A

Bishops Stortford

Ipswich Town  A

Norwich City  A

Great Yarmouth A

Lowestoft Town A

Bury Town A

Kings Lynn A

Bury Town A

Newmarket Town A

Lowestoft Town A

Gorleston A

Tottenham Hotspur A

Clacton Town A

Chelsea A

Clacton Town A

Kings Lynn A

Gorleston A

Harwich & Parkeston A

Newmarket Town A

Colchester United A

Arsenal  A

Great Yarmouth A

Chelmsford City Reserves

Colchester United A

Ipswich Town  A

Tottenham Hotspur  A

Chelmsford City Reserves

A  2-3

A  0-2

A 1-10 Cup game:

H  0-3

A  1-0

A  2-4  East Anglian Cup

H  6-2

H  4-0

A  0-4

A  3-4

A  1-3

A  1-1

A  3-4

A  4-2

A  0-1

A  2-0

A  0-6

A  1-1

A  0-6

A  1-2

A  2-4

A  3-1

A  3-2

A  3-3

H  3-0

H  4-2

A  3-4

A  0-3

A  1-2

A  2-1

H  3-3

A  2-0

ECL Players on their Travels 05 48_08_21 Harwich & Parkeston v. WHU ECL

In their first season in the ECL West Ham finished mid table. Chelmsford City Reserves topped the table followed by Tottenham Hotspur ‘A’.  

The Hammers ‘A’ side comprising of young professionals and amateurs enjoyed mixed results. (See Appendix A)



Their biggest wins were September’s 6-2 and 4-0 respective Upton Park victories over Ipswich Town ‘A’ and Norwich City ‘A’.

Unfortunately these triumphs would not have completely erased the pain of the crushing 10-1 defeat suffered in August away to Harwich & Parkeston in the ECL Cup!  

Inaugural Eastern Counties programme against Harwich and Parkeston

Harwich & Parkeston 3 - 2 West Ham United

Park Royal

Saturday August 21, 1948

48_08_28 Harwich & Parkeston v. WHU ECL Cup

Though in March 1949 they returned to Harwich to reverse the result with a 3-2 victory. Reviewing the team listing in the Harwich & Parkeston programme, it appears that West Ham sent over a very strong XI to avenge August’s calamitous result!


Eight of West Ham’s listed players had or would later make first team debuts.

Infamous 10-1 Cup defeat programme by the same Harwich and Parkeston side

Those who either had or would later progress to first team football included: Eddie Chapman, Peter Chiswick, Richard Dunn, John Gregory, Almer Hall, Fred Kearns, Andy Malcolm, Frank O’Farrell, Derek Parker, George Petchey, Tommy Southren, Bill Stephens, George Taylor, Ken Tucker and Ken Wright.

CHAPMAN Eddie 03

Eddie Chapman

49_05_07 Chelmsford City v. WHU ECL - Back 49_05_07 Chelmsford City v. WHU ECL

Another record of West Ham’s participation in the ECL are the now rare and valuable programmes. These would typically be a folded sheet with the inside devoted to the team listings surrounded by local business advertisements.


A trawl through these team listings unearths a small nugget. In the programme for the Chelmsford City Reserves away fixture in May 1949, the home team’s right half is the father of West Ham United legend, Geoff Hurst.

The future Hammer and 1966 England World Cup hero at eight and a half years old was just a slip of a lad at the time

“Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside”

ECL Players on their Travels 03 ECL Players on their Travels 06 ECL Players on their Travels 04 ECL Players on their Travels WHU at Yarmouth TUCKER Ken Tucker Dunn McGowan

West Ham United pebble throwers

Snapper Wilson takes a promenade stroll

Ken Tucker stood-up outside a cinema?

Appendix A:

Eastern Counties League Fixtures

Crossed Hammer Wilson signature Articles Citizens Crushed Train now Standing

Formal Group in kit prior to match v. Clacton Town January 22, 1949


Back row: Freddie Kearns, Dennis Howe, George Taylor, (Possible: Streat, McQuinn, Batchelor)

Front row: Gerry Gatland, George Petchey, Ken Tucker, Andy Malcolm, Ron Wilson