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When Great Britain declared war on Germany on 4th August 1914, it had a negative effect on association football; in some countries competitions were suspended and players signed up to fight. However, the Football League continued with the 1914-15 season. Most football players were professionals and were tied to clubs through one-year renewable contracts. Players could only join the armed forces if the clubs agreed to cancel their contracts.
On 6 September 1914, author Arthur Conan Doyle made a direct appeal for footballers to volunteer for service. Many players heeded the calls, and a special Football Battalion was formed, as part of the Middlesex Regiment. The regiment was led by Frank Buckley, who later estimated that over 500 of the battalion's original 600 men had died. There were over 5,000 men playing professional football in Great Britain in 1914, and of those, 2,000 had joined the military services.
Between 1915 and 1919 competitive football was suspended in England. Many footballers signed up to fight in the war and as a result many teams were depleted, and fielded guest players instead. The Football League and FA Cup were suspended and in their place regional league competitions were set up; appearances in these tournaments do not count in players' official records. Many football players, both amateur and professional, lost their lives.
Source: Spartacus Educational
FRANK COSTELLO, WILLIAM KENNEDY, FRANK CANNON, WILLIAM KIRBY, SYDNEY HAMMOND, ARTHUR STALLARD, FREDERICK GRIFFITHS and WILLIAM JONES.
We will remember them...
West Ham's star forward, George Hilsdon, had to endure a mustard gas attack at Arras in 1917. He badly damaged his lungs and although he played briefly for Chatham Town after the war it brought an end to his professional football career. Fred Harrison was also badly gassed on the Western Front and never played football again.
Players who have guested for the Hammers during the First World War.
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EAST YORKSHIRE REGIMENT
3rd October 1917
WEST HAM PALS
At this time of year our thoughts are with the family and friends of servicemen and women who currently serve in Her Majesty’s Forces at home and around the world. We should also spare a thought for another unique group of soldiers, raised almost a century ago by the Mayor of the Borough in 1914. The 13th (Service) Battalion of the Essex Regiment bravely fought alongside hundreds of thousands of courageous men in the First World War. Many of the new infantry Battalions formed to fight in the trenches were the so called “Pals Battalions”. The ‘West Ham Pals’ were made up of West Ham United supporters who volunteered on mass with local friends and neighbours as well as men employed at the local Thames Ironworks. Brought together from the traditional areas of Hammers support, from Stepney to Silvertown, Leyton to Limehouse, Barking to Bow and everywhere in between with their battle cry “Up the Irons”. The Battalion fought in some of the worse battles of the Great War (France & Flanders Nov 1915 – Feb 1918) and suffered in total 37,404 casualties killed, wounded or missing.
Frederick Charrington, the son of the wealthy brewer who had established the Tower Hamlets Mission, attacked the West Ham United players for being effeminate and cowardly for getting paid for playing football while others were fighting on the Western Front. The famous amateur footballer and cricketer, Charles B. Fry, called for the abolition of football, demanding that all professional contracts be annulled and that no one below forty years of age be allowed to attend matches.
In October 1914, the Secretary of State, Lord Kitchener, issued a call for volunteers to replace those killed in the early battles of the First World War. At the beginning of the war the army had strict specifications about who could become soldiers. Men joining the army had to be at least 5ft 6in tall and a chest measurement of 35 inches. However, these specifications were changed in order to get more men to join the armed forces.
The Bishop of Chelmsford paid a visit in Bethnal Green where he gave a sermon on the need for professional footballers to join the armed services. The Stratford Express reported on 2nd December 1914: "The Bishop, in an address on Duty, spoke of the magnificent response that had been made to the call to duty from the King. All must play their part. They must not let their brothers go to the front and themselves remain indifferent. He felt that the cry against professional football at the present time was right. He could not understand men who had any feeling, any respect for their country, men in the prime of life, taking large salaries at a time like this for kicking a ball about. It seemed to him something incongruous and unworthy".
Under considerable pressure the Football Association eventually backed down and called for football clubs to release professional footballers who were not married, to join the armed forces. The FA also agreed to work closely with the War Office to encourage football clubs to organize recruiting drives at matches.
The Athletic News responded angrily: "The whole agitation is nothing less than an attempt by the ruling classes to stop the recreation on one day in the week of the masses ... What do they care for the poor man's sport? The poor are giving their lives for this country in thousands. In many cases they have nothing else... These should, according to a small clique of virulent snobs, be deprived of the one distraction that they have had for over thirty years."
Three members of the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee visited Upton Park during half-time to call for volunteers. Joe Webster, the West Ham United goalkeeper, was one of those who joined the Football Battalion as a result of this appeal. Jack Tresadern joined the Royal Garrison Artillery, an intelligent man, he quickly reached the rank of lieutenant.
Frederick Costello also known as Frank was born in Birmingham 1882, Costello is listed as playing for West Bromwich Albion and Halesowen before joining Southampton in 1907. The inside-left signed for West Ham United on 1 March 1909 in an exchange deal that saw Jack Foster join the south coast club. His stay in east London didn't last long, playing just 12 Southern League games in which he scored 3 goals. he quickly moved on to Bolton Wanderers in June 1909.
By 1914 Costello was living back in Southampton and joined his hometown regiment the Royal Warwickshire. A member of the 2nd Battalion which were one of the first Regiments to see action in Northern France at the Battle of Le Cateau. Moving south and east towards Belgium they also saw action in the Battles of Marne and Aisne and for Frank finally to Messines, not far from Ypres in Belgium.
Sometime on the December 19, 1914, 30 year old Frank was killed, sadly he has no grave but is remembered on the Ploegsteert memorial to the Missing, in Hainaut Belgium, between Lille and Ypres to its North. To give you a sense of scale, the memorial lists 11,386 men who have no grave.
Born in Woolwich, London on 21 June 1882, Hammond joined the club as an amateur in 1904. His claret and blue career spanned 4 years in which he only managed 32 League and 2 FA Cup appearances for the club. Worked as a commercial Clerk and lived in Twickenham Road, Leytonstone and enlisted into the Royal Field Artillery in Romford.
When he died on October 18, 1917 Hammond was recorded as being in C Battery 242nd Brigade who at the time were fighting in the Passchendaele region.
Sydney Hammond is buried in La Clytte Cemetery, Belgium
Born September 1892 in Hackney, by 1901 he was living with his family At 526 Barking Road E13, which is now occupied by a chemist shop, located just past the old Castle public house at the Greengate junction. Stallard joined West Ham from Chatham in 1913 and played for the Hammers in two Southern League campaigns making 13 appearances and scoring 8 goals before hostilities stopped competitive competitions. Stallard competed in the War time London Combination for the Hammers until the end of the 1916/17 season in which he played 37 games scoring 25 goals with his last appearance being a 2-0 loss to Millwall in April 1917.
By late 1917 he was in the London Regiment (London Scottish) 14th Battalion. During the battle of Cambrai (north east France) which was an assault that lasted 17 Days, (20th November - 7th December) The British made early gains but the Germans launched an offensive on the November 28th, on the 30th the Germans are believed to have exploded 16,000 shells over allied lines. And it was on that fateful day that Arthur Stallard is listed as dying. He has no Grave but is commemorated on the Cambrai Memorial.
Born in Grays 1890 William Kennedy was a school teacher who played for West Ham United between 1910-1912 and was living in Cromwell Street, Gray's at the time he played for the club. A knee injury sustained in a third round FA Cup replay with Middlesbrough, effectively ended his first-class football career. Although not considered fit enough for the rigours of professional football, he was, however, given the all-clear to participate in the greatest conflict ever known to man - World War One.
His parents were Scottish and so it was he joined the London Scottish 14th Brigade, it is believed he died on October 13, 1915.
Like so many others he has no grave but is listed on the Loos Memorial, Loos-en-Gohelle in France which commemorates over 20,000 dead that have no grave. The panel that bears William's name, can also be found that of his brother John who died aged 29.
Born 1876 in Presteigne in the county of Powys mid Wales, a Welsh international keeper who played 52 times for West Ham United between 1902 and 1904. Served Stalybridge, Millwall, Preston North End and Tottenham Hotspur before joining the Hammers. Moved on to New Brompton the forerunner of Gillingham in the close season 1904.
Worked as a coalminer in the Midlands before enlisting in the Notts and Derbyshire (Sherwood Forest) Regiment. His battalion found themselves just across the Belgium Border south and east of Dunkirk; a diary entry from October 30, 1917 reads:
“30: 4am: Very heavy artillery fire on ground immediately behind our front line.
6am: Our snipers hit several enemy seen running about in the wood east of Marechal House. Our casualties today 1 officer and 4 OR killed, 1 officer and 14 OR wounded.”
One of those killed that day was Frederick Griffiths who is buried in Dozinghem Military Cemetery in Belgium
Born Hitchin, Hertfordshire November 8, 1884 Frank Cannon was signed in 1909 from Queens Park Rangers after scoring an impressive hat-trick against the Hammers in 1908. However Cannon only played 4 games for the Irons' scoring a solitary goal against Norwich City in a 5-0 win. On leaving the Boleyn Ground he signed for New Brompton the forerunner of Gillingham before moving on to Halifax Town.
Rose to Colour Sergeant Major in the 11th Essex Regiment where he fought mainly around Ypres and the battlefields of Passhendale. He died on the February 15, 1916 of shrapnel wounds. After his death the following appeared in his local newspaper written by QM Sergeant L.P Martin,
“The 13th Essex had been in the trenches for sixteen days and were just about to be relieved, ‘He was just ready to leave the trench when several shrapnel shells burst over him, wounding him and several others. Although his wound was rather serious – he was wounded in the back – it was quite thought he would get to England and recover, but I am sorry to say he died on his way to the dressing station about an hour after he was hit."
On the day of his death the Germans fired over 16,000 shells. A commemorative plaque to the 13th Essex Regiment (The West Ham Pals) was unveiled outside the West Stand club shop at the Boleyn Ground in 2009.
2014 marked the 100th anniversary since the start of the First World War. Nigel Kahn West Ham genealogist highlights the plight of eight players associated with the Hammers who gave their lives while serving their country.
ROYAL FIELD ARTILLERY
18th October 1917
(La Clytte Cemetery, Belgium)
ROYAL WARWICKSHIRE REGIMENT
19th December 1914
(Ploegsteert, Hainaut, Belgium )
30th November 1917
LONDON SCOTTISH 14th BRIGADE
13th October 1915
(Loos Memorial, Loos-en-Gohelle, France)
COLOUR SERGENT MAJOR
11th ESSEX REGIMENT
15th February 1916
Born Preston, Lancashire June 21,1882. William Kirby started his football career with Swindon Town before making a scoring debut in his Southern League for the Hammers in the 2-4 away fixture at Millwall 5th September 1903. Nicknamed "Sunny Jim" by colleagues and fans alike, William return to Swindon Town for 1904-05 and then commenced a seven year stay at Portsmouth. His wanderings were far from over, however, the 1912-13 season seeing him with his home club, Preston North End. He then had spells with Merthyr Tydfil and Exeter City up to the outbreak of WW1.
The records show that William was originally in the Royal Engineers but was invalid out of the war and worked at the Arsenal in Woolwich. He re-enlisted again at Woolwich and fought with the East Yorkshire Regiment 6th Battalion and by late September 1917 was fighting at the Battle of Polygon Woods around Ypres which formed part of the bigger Battle of Passchendaele and this is where he died whilst serving his country 3rd October 1917. William Kirby is buried in Bard Cottage Cemetery.
Dozinghem Military Cemetery, Belgium
Born Penrhiweiber, Wales in 1876. William Jones became the first West Ham United player to be capped for his country when he played for Wales v. England in 1902. Moved from Aberdare to Kettering Town in September 1901. Unable to settle with the aptly named Poppies, he was involved in a straight swap for West Ham's Peter Kyle in December 1901. Jones made his West Ham debut in the 2-1 victory over Swindon Town at the Memorial Grounds on the 14th December 1901, William went onto record another 14 Southern League appearances at centre-half before returning to the valleys at the season's end to join Aberamen whom he helped steer to the final of the Welsh Cup in 1903. He left Aberamen to join a club named Rogerstone in 1904 and stayed until 1906.
William joined the Royal Welsh Fusiliers 11th Battalion in the Balkans and was killed on the May 6, 1918 by Lake Doiran, Greece.
An extract from a War diary for 7th May 1918 records:
"Patrol lead by Lt J. Tinniswood and 12 OR,s proceeded to within a short distance of PILL BOX and found two bodies which they were unable to bring in owing to bombs being thrown and rifle fire opened and wounding two men seriously."
William Jones has no grave but is listed on the Doiran Memorial at the Doiran Military Cemetry in Greece.
NOTTS and DERBYSHIRE REGIMENT
30th October 1917
(Dozinghem Military Cemetery, Belgium)
ROYAL WELSH FUSILIERS
6th May 1918
(Doiran Memorial, Greece)
Players who have guested for the Hammers during the Second World War.
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