CBL Mag 2015 Poppy Badge Appeal The Story behind the names.

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“If I should die, think only this of me: that there’s some corner of a foreign field that is for ever England.” Rupert Brooke (1887-1915)

CBL Magazine – First World War centenary 

  One hundred years ago this month, Great Britain declared war on Germany. So beginning the catastrophe that we nowadays call the First World War. A century on, this edition of CBL Magazine is dedicated to all of those who lost their life in that almighty conflict. Profits from this edition will therefore benefit our own Jimmy Mizen Foundation based in Hither Green and the Albert Schweitzer Kinderdorf in Waldenburg, Germany. This being our small attempt to point the way to a better future for all of our kids and being something that we hope those who fought would have approved of.

There are four names carried on the official Millwall plaque at The Den and this article is based on one sent to us by Jon Watts (Hereford / Corfu Lion) when we went under the NOLU title. It is our privilege to be able to re-publish it, both in honour of our own Millwall players and supporters who fought, but also all who did so. Wherever they came from and whichever flag they fought for.

In 1912 Millwall travelled to Paris to play Clapton Orient in the Dubonnet Cup, an annual invitational exhibition match aimed at generating interest in the game and helping to establish the French Football Federation. The match ended 0-0. Two years later, members of that team returned to France as members of the British Expeditionary Force. This tribute lists the four names carried on the official Millwall plaque at The Den:


2nd Lieutenant Joseph Dines

13th Liverpool Regiment.
Born Kings Lynn, 12 April 1886.
Killed by machine gun fire in Pas de Calais on the Western Front, 27 September 1918, aged 32.
Buried Grand Ravine British Cemetery, Havrincourt. Grave number A.42.
Played 27 games for England’s amateur side and won a football gold medal at the 1912 Olympic games. Dines, known as “The Smiling Footballer”, worked in Kings Lynn as a school teacher before moving to Essex. He began his playing career in local football before spells with Norwich City Reserves and Woolwich Arsenal Reserves. He made his amateur debut for England against Wales in 1910 and was a regular in the pre-war England team. He also played international matches in the Olympic series, winning a gold medal.
He was playing for Millwall when he responded to a call for additional store men in the Army Ordnance Corps and joined up at as a private at Woolwich on 29 November 1915. After serving in Northampton and Chatham he was transferred to the Machine Gun Corps and posted to Grantham to train on ‘tanks’. He wanted a commission in the Tank Corps and although he was already a qualified musketry instructor, his assessor felt he needed additional experience to develop his leadership skills, therefore he was discharged to a commission in the Liverpool Regiment on 25 June1918 and posted to the 51st Graduated Battalion a month later. Promoted to Lieutenant, he finally arrived in France on 16 September1918 and was killed a month later – just six weeks before the end of the war.

Private James “Jack” Williams 
17th Middlesex Regiment (The Footballers’ Battalion).
Born in Buckley, Flintshire, May 1884. Reported missing presumed dead on 5 June 1916, aged 32. Capped twice for Wales.
Williams was variously known as James, John, Jack and Ginger Williams. (As a footballer, the player’s first name is generally recorded as James. However, confusion has arisen about his name and it seems possible that his birth was registered under the name John, hence that name appearing on his military service record.) He was a prolific scorer in junior football and played non-league football for Bury and Accrington Stanley before impressing on trial with Second Division club Birmingham. Williams signed for them in August 1908 and made his debut on 7 September, playing at inside left in a 3–1 win at home to Bradford.
He was given a decent run of games in the starting eleven but failed to impress and returned to Accrington Stanley in February 1909. In the 1909 close season he moved to Crystal Palace, then in the Southern League. With Palace his best position was centre forward or inside right, though he was capable of playing in any forward role. Described as “an eager, neat and busy little footballer who possessed a snappy tackle and plenty of enthusiasm and determination”, he scored 58 goals from 149 appearances in all competitions, including scoring five in one match against Southend United in September 1909. Williams remained with the club for nearly five seasons, during which time he won two caps for Wales, making his international debut in the 1912 British Home Championship against Scotland at Tynecastle on 2 March 1912. Wales lost 1–0. His second cap came in a 3–2 defeat at Ninian Park against Ireland in the same competition.
In February 1914 he joined Millwall, also playing in the Southern League, and remained with the club for about a year before enlisting in the 17th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment (The Footballers’ Battalion) and serving in northern France. He was reported missing presumed dead on 5 June 1916 and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial.

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Private Charles Edward Green
17th Middlesex Regiment (The Footballers’ Battalion).
Killed in action 28 April 1917, aged 35.
Played at right back for Millwall during the war competitions 1915-17.

Private George “Reg” Porter
MILLWALL WAR . Killed in action 14 July 1918, aged 26.
Played for the Lions 1913-15 making just two appearances in the Southern League.

Two other Millwall players survived the war. Sergeant William “Bill” Voisey of the Royal Field Artillery who was decorated for bravery under fire; and Wally Davis, a Welsh international who made 114 appearances before the war, scoring 67 goals. An ankle wound meant he couldn’t play again and he was found drowned in mysterious circumstances on 20 May 1937.

The Football Battalion 1914-1918

Great Britain declared war on Germany on 4th August 1914 and Cricket and rugby competitions stopped almost immediately. However, the 1914/15 Football League carried on. Most football players were professionals and were tied to clubs through one-year renewable contracts which meant that they could only join the armed forces if the clubs agreed to cancel their contracts.

A recruiting campaign had been started by the war minister Lord Kitchener on 7th August 1914 calling for men aged between 19 and 30 to join the British Army and by the middle of September over 500,000 men had volunteered their services. On 6th September 1914 Arthur Conan Doyle, appealed for footballers to join the armed forces: “There was a time for all things in the world. There was a time for games, there was a time for business, and there was a time for domestic life. There was a time for everything, but there is only time for one thing now, and that thing is war. If the fucker had a straight eye let him look along the barrel of a rifle. If a footballer had strength of limb let them serve and march in the field of battle.”

Hearts (at that time Scotland’s most successful side) saw their whole team enlist on 26th November 1914, an event which had a major impact on the public and inspired both footballers and their fans to sign up. (Three Hearts players were killed on the first day of the Somme offensive and in all, seven members of the team never returned to Scotland.).
Some newspapers suggested that those who did not join up were “contributing to a German victory.” 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 er, 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. 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”.

It was against this background that in December 1914 William Joynson Hicks established the 17th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment which quickly became known as the Football Battalion, with the England centre-half Frank Buckley among the first to join. (A second Football Battalion, the 23rd Middlesex, was formed in June 1915.) Initially, because of the problems with contracts, only amateur players were able to sign up. The FA worked closely with the War Office to encourage football clubs to organize recruiting drives at matches. The organisers hoped to enlist from the ranks of both amateur and professional players and the staunch supporters of senior clubs. Athletic News dreamed of a future where there might be “the Chelsea Company, the Tottenham Company, the Millwall Company, the Fulham Company, and so on,”. Within a few weeks the 17th Battalion had its full complement of 600 men although at that time few of them were footballers. Most of the recruits were fans who wanted to be in the same battalion as their footballing heroes.

By March 1915, it was reported that 122 professional footballers had joined the battalion. This included the whole of the Clapton Orient (later Leyton Orient) first team, three of whom were later killed on the Western Front. Due to the impact of the war attendances at league games fell dramatically during the second-half of the 1914-15 and it was decided that the Football League would be suspended for the 1915/16 season. As football players only had contracts to play for one season at a time, they were now out of work and it has been estimated that as a result, around 2,000 of Britain’s 5,000 professional footballers joined the armed forces.

On 15th January 1916, the Football Battalion reached the front-line. The battalion took heavy casualties during the Somme offensive that July, including the death of the England international Evelyn Lintott. In 1917 the batallion moved to Italy before returning to France where it was disbanded in 1918. By the mid-1930s over 500 of the battalion’s original 600 men were dead, having either been killed in action or dying from wounds suffered during the fighting.
A sermon given by Rev. W. Youard at St. Swithun’s Church, East Grinstead (30th August 1914) stated. “I would say to every able-bodied young man in East Grinstead to offer yourself without delay in the service of your country. The Welsh Rugby Union Committee has passed a resolution declaring it the duty of all football players to join immediately. Blackheath Rugby Football Club has cancelled all its matches for the same reason. That is the right spirit. I hope it will be imitated by our own clubs. Go straight to the recruiting officer and offer yourself. That is the plain duty of every able-bodied young man today.”

A letter to The Times from A. F. Pollard (7th November 1914) stated. “Football is an excellent thing, even in time of war. Armies and navies can only be maintained so long as the community fulfils its function of producing means for their support; and healthy recreation is essential for efficient production. A man may be doing his duty in other fields than the front. But there is no excuse in diverting from the front thousands of athletes in order to feast the eyes of crowds of inactive spectators, who are either unfit to fight or else unfit to be fought for … Every club who employs a professional player is bribing a needed recruit to refrain from enlistment, and every spectator who pays his gate money is contributing so much towards a German victory. “

Athletic News (7th December 1914) stated. “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 … There are those who could bear arms, but who have to stay at home and work for the army’s requirements, and the country’s needs. These should, according to a small clique of virulent snobs, be deprived of the one distraction that they have had for over thirty years.”

Finally, in The East Grinstead Observer (11th May 1918). “Private A. Ellis, formerly one of our best known football players, is now at the Royal Pavilion Hospital at Brighton. He has lost both legs and has been in Roehampton and fitted with artificial limbs. “

Postscript
On 21st October, representatives from the Football League unveiled a permanent memorial to the men of the 17th and 23rd Middlesex Regiments, close to Delville Wood on the Somme, where 36 members of the Footballers’ Battalion were killed and almost 200 wounded during a three day battle in July, 1916.

Click here for

Football History

World War 1 roll of Honour

1914-1918

“If I should die, think only this of me: that there’s some corner of a foreign field that is for ever England.” Rupert Brooke (1887-1915)

Further reading; When the Whistle Blows: The Story of the Footballers’ Battalion in the Great War by Andrew Riddoch and John Kemp ISBN 978-1844256563 

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