Sunday 16 November 2014

Bradford Pals badges

The likelihood is that Bradford City AFC will be adopting the Bradford Pals badge in 2015 (refer page 43 of 'A History of Bradford City AFC in Objects') and ahead of this bantamspast is commissioning a limited edition run of 100 enamel badges to feature the Bradford Pals / West Yorkshire regiment crests against a claret and amber background. The initiative is to help raise funds for the appeal but also to produce what we consider to be a tasteful derivation of the badge before other variants start to appear. BCAFC does not have the monopoly on Pals commemorations but the claret and amber colours of the regiment are part of a shared heritage. The bantamspast badges therefore include claret and amber but deliberately have not incorporated a BCAFC crest. A bantamspast inscription on the reverse serves to denote the association with BCAFC supporters.

The badges are designed as shown. The horse of the WY Regiment will be produced in 3D. They will be 20mm in diameter and inscribed on the back: BANTAMSPAST X OF 100 etc and are being sold in pairs.

A little number remain available. If you would like to order a pair please confim by email. Collection / despatch and payment arrangements will be confirmed later this month. The cost per pair of badges will be £15.

Please ensure that your name, mobile number and postal address are clearly stated in your email.

On Saturday 29th November Dave Pendleton is organising a special event in conjunction with supporters of Leyton Orient to raise money for the 'Honour the Pals Appeal'. It takes place from noon at Jacobs Beer House, Kent Street, Bradford. It is a free event, but donations will be welcome towards the T&A's appeal to erect a memorial to the Bradford Pals on the Somme.

Thursday 23 October 2014

Football and the Great War

The supreme sacrifice of the players of Bradford City and Leyton Orient
29 November 2014

As the world commemorates the centenary of the Great War there is a growing appreciation that the war affected all aspects of everyday life. Football was no exception. Although the 1914/15 league season was played to its conclusion – albeit against a background of mounting criticism – football and footballers increasingly played a full part in the conflict. Matches were used as occasions to boost recruiting. Indeed, at half-time during the first division Bradford derby at Park Avenue, Bradford City’s famous England international Dickie Bond wore his Bradford Pals uniform and made an appeal to spectators to join up.

Inevitably, like men in all walks of life, as the war progressed footballers were killed and injured in ever increasing numbers at the front. By the war’s end nine Bradford City and two Bradford Park Avenue players had been died. Those losses were replicated across the country. Leyton Orient, then known as Clapton Orient, lost three players killed and ten others wounded.

On Saturday 29 November Bradford City play Leyton Orient. This allows an opportunity to reflect on the losses of both clubs in the war to end all wars. Supporters of City and Orient have previously organised trips to the battlefields of France and Flanders. David Pendleton, from Bradford City’s bantamspast museum, and Steve Jenkins, vice chairman of the Leyton Orient Supporters’ Club, will speak about their trips to the Western Front and give a brief summary of the footballers who paid the ultimate price. Bradford poet Glyn Watkins will close proceedings with a reading.

The event will raise money for the ‘Honour the Pals Appeal’ being organised by the Telegraph & Argus newspaper. The appeal is seeking to erect a memorial to the Bradford Pals at Serre on the Somme where, at 7.30am on 1 July 1916, 2,000 Bradford Pals left their trenches to attack the German lines. In the space of a few hours 1,770 were killed or wounded. It was without doubt the darkest day in Bradford’s history.

The fund raising event will commence at noon over lunch at the Jacobs Ale House, Kent Street, in the city centre. The landlady of Jacobs, Christina Wagstaff, has kindly offered to donate profits from the bar food to the ‘Honour the Heroes’ appeal. At 12.30pm David Pendleton and Steve Jenkins will make their presentations. After 1pm there will be a walking tour via the Cenotaph to the Midland Hotel’s Spirit of Bradford bar where there is a display about the hotel’s links with Bradford City FA Cup winning team of 1911. Two of the cup winners who are pictured on the display, Jimmy Speirs and Robert Torrance, died in the Great War. There we will toast their memory. Those attending the match at Valley Parade will then move on towards the game.

The presentations and walk are free, but we will be asking for donations towards the ‘Honour the Pals’ appeal.

Monday 8 September 2014

Bradford City and Remembering the Great War

Across the world commemorations have begun to mark the centenary of the Great War. The next four years will witness numerous acts of remembrance. As Bradford City AFC lost nine players in the Great War it is important that we, as a club and a community, consider an appropriate manner to honour, not just the nine players, but also the thousands of Bradfordians, who died in that terrible conflict.

The Great War broke out on 4 August 1914 just as the 1914/15 football season was about to get underway. As one of the top five sides in the country, Bradford City approached the new season with an expectation of success in both the league and cup competitions. Bradford (Park Avenue) had joined their neighbours in the top flight giving the city of Bradford two first division teams. At first it was not expected that the outbreak of war would have too much impact on the football season. This was a reflection of the popular sentiment that ‘it would be all over by Christmas’. Both Bradford clubs admitted soldiers free of charge to their matches and made substantial donations from gate money to the War Relief Fund. 

As the war ground to a stalemate it was realised that a large army would be required to achieve victory. To boost recruiting local battalions were formed so that men could serve alongside their friends, these became known as the ‘Pals battalions’. The appeal to local patriotism was obvious and the Pals battalions adopted the name of their respective towns. Those recruited in September 1914 became known as the Bradford Pals. Each new recruit was given a metal badge displaying the city of Bradford coat of arms as its centre-piece.  The Bradford Pals were based at the Valley Parade Barracks which was just behind City’s Main Stand. In October 1914 almost the entire Pals battalion of 1,069 men were among a 25,0000 crowd that saw City thrash Aston Villa 3-0. Fittingly Oscar Fox, who was to later serve with the Pals, scored a second half hat-trick. 

Although the continuation of the Football League fixtures attracted some criticism, there was little doubt that the game aided fund raising and recruiting. At several matches the Bradford Church Lads’ Brigade collected money for the Lord Mayor’s War Fund and cigarettes for the soldiers. Even the highly anticipated first ever Football League meeting between Bradford City and Bradford (Park Avenue) was overshadowed by the war. While the majority of the 29,802 crowd would have enjoyed the City’s thrilling 3-2 victory, there was no escaping the conflict. At half-time the former president of Bradford City, Alfred Ayrton, made a short, but rousing, speech, which was followed by showers of money and cigarettes onto the pitch. By December 1914 it was reported that ten thousand Bradford men were in military service. Arguably, the last echo of Bradford City’s golden pre-war era came on Boxing Day 1914 when 35,000 spectators crammed into Valley Parade for the visit of Everton. Many were in uniform and apparently there was a strange atmosphere in the ground. Perhaps it was recognised as the last great gathering before many would leave for the front and the possibility that some would never see Bradford again. 

As 1915 dawned the fact that of 1,800 professional footballers only 122 had enlisted in the armed forces was used to criticise the game. It was a little unfair as most footballers had signed one year contracts before the war had broken out. Given the ‘it’ll be all over by Christmas’ sentiment it is understandable that there was not a flood of footballers to the recruiting offices in 1914. However, during 1915 that situation would change dramatically. Of course, some were already at the front. Frank Buckley, who had cost City a considerable transfer fee in the summer of 1914, had been released from his contract and was serving with the Footballers’ Battalion. Bradford City’s former centre half Gerald Kirk and the Bradford (Park Avenue) amateurs Donald Bell and Kirby had also enlisted. Two City players, Dickie Bond and Harry Walden, both of whom had previously served in the army, joined the Bradford Pals in April 1915. In time several City players would also join the ranks of the Bradford Pals: the Scottish international goal keeper Jock Ewart, Cleckheaton born Irvine Boocock, Joe Linford,  and, as previously mentioned, Oscar Fox. 

The final game of the 1914/15 season was the derby match at Bradford Park Avenue on Wednesday 28 April 1915. The Bradford Daily Argus carried full length portraits of Bond and Walden in their army uniforms. On the same page the sad news of the death of former City player Gerald Kirk was announced. He died of wounds sustained whilst leading his company into action in Belgium. The kick off was moved back to 6pm to allow thousands of workers in overalls to attend the match straight from their factories. At half-time the 25,000 crowd watched Captain Burton of the Bradford Pals hold up the front page of the Bradford Daily Argus that featured the photographs of Bond and Walden. Dickie Bond donned his corporal’s jacket to join his captain in appealing for new recruits. Avenue’s 3-0 victory should have been a moment to savour for the Avenueites, but instead it was the last Football League match for both clubs for four long years. 

On the morning of 1 July 1916 the 2,000 men of the Bradford Pals left their trenches to make an attack the German lines during the Battle of the Somme. In little more than an hour 1,770 had been killed or wounded. It was one of the darkest days in the history of the city of Bradford.

Throughout the period 2014 to 2018 Bradford City AFC will be commemorating the loss of the nine players who died via a series of articles in the match day programme. Clearly, given the close ties with the Bradford Pals, and the recruiting drive during 1914 and 1915, that period in our history should be remembered. One suggestion is that the club should adopt the badge of the Bradford Pals for the 2015/16 season. It would be a visual reminder of those who went before us and endured so much. The club invited the publication of this article in order to open a debate as to how to commemorate the Bradford Pals at Valley Parade. 

Saturday 9 August 2014

Coming Soon - A History of Bradford City in Objects

You can pre-order your copy by completing the form you can download from here.

Monday 2 June 2014

France-Belgium 2014

And so the fourth annual bantamspast trip to the battlefields of the Great War is over. A party of twenty-six travelled around northern France in glorious sunshine, paying another pilgrimage to recognise the sacrifice and tragedy of those lost fighting in what should have been the war to end all wars.

The poignancy of locations such as Vimy Ridge, now a Canadian national historic site, where 3,598 Canadians lost their lives taking the strategic ridge, or France’s Notre Dame de Lorette Cemetery where 22,970 French soldiers have found their final resting place, is impossible for even the most casual visitor to ignore. However, equally effecting are places such as the tiny British cemetery at the village of Ors where Wilfred Owen, one of the greatest war poets, is buried, or the Le Trou Aid Post Cemetery, the beautiful last resting place of three Bradford Pals.

At many of the locations we visited research by members of the group ensured that we were able to pay our respects to Bradfordians buried so far from home. Their surnames and the streets where they lived were familiar to us. From Exeter Street to Leeds Road; Manningham Lane to Toller Lane, we stood and remembered our fellow townsmen. The one Bradford City link came at Bethune where we visited to grave of John Ayrton, the son of Bradford City’s first ever chairman Alfred Ayrton. We were asked by his niece (Alfred’s granddaughter who still lives in Manningham) to lay flowers at his grave. We were delighted to do it and remember a man whose father helped found our football club and even came up with the name ‘Bradford City’.

Next year we begin to enter the period where the centenaries of the deaths of the nine Bradford City players killed in the Great War begin. The first will be Gerald Kirk, who died on 24 April 1915. We hope to be at his graveside in Belgium one hundred years to the day after his untimely death.

Tuesday 20 May 2014

bantamspast Re-opens in a Book

A History of Bradford City AFC in Objects

A 330+ page, all colour book; planned publication at the end of September/early October, 2014.

The book records the changing match day experience at Valley Parade and the acceleration of change in the last thirty years, coincidentally since the fire disaster. The content of the book promises to be unique in comparison to histories previously written about football clubs in Britain, let alone Bradford City AFC. This is not a statistical record about players or games, it is literally an illustrated history of the club in objects but not limited to the popular '100 objects only' formula.

A History of Bradford City AFC In Objects has been written and compiled by John Dewhirst who has one of the largest and most comprehensive private collections of BCAFC memorabilia. The book will include items from his collection supplemented with that provided by other collectors and supporters as well as material previously featured in the bantamspast museum. Most of the content has never previously been displayed or included in earlier publications.

John was co-founder of The City Gent in 1984. He previously compiled City Memories in 1997 and has assisted with a number of books about the club including Of Boars and Bantams in 1988, Along The Midland Road in 1996, Glorious 1911 in 2010 and Paraders: The 125 Year History of Valley Parade in 2011. John has also been involved with a number of projects celebrating the history of the club and in April, 2011 he organised the sell-out dinner at the Midland Hotel to commemorate the centenary of the FA Cup triumph.

Profits from the sale of the book will go to Bradford City AFC. Proceeds of badge and book sales will fund historic displays in Valley Parade to keep the club’s history alive and accessible.

Subscriber copies can be ordered until 31 August, 2014. Subscriber copies will have a different cover to those which go on general sale in the autumn.

Ordered copies can be collected from Valley Parade either at a launch event (tba) in the 1911 Club or from reception. Copies can be posted to those unable to collect in person.

We are also promoting a number of limited edition badges. These are strictly limited to one each per person. The badges will be posted separately to the books.

If you wish to collect the badges in person before a forthcoming game at Valley Parade then please notify by email to

glorious1911 at

Payment can be made by paypal through prior arrangement. Otherwise please make cheques payable to bantamspast.

Sunday 11 May 2014

11 May 1985


As the Town Hall bells boomed out eleven o'clock, the sky began to cry gently onto the crowd gathered around the memorial to the Valley Parade fire. 

The light spots of rain were almost a physical expression of the pain still felt twenty-nine years on from the afternoon when fifty-six people did not come home from a football match. The rain drops also reflected the quiet dignity that has marked the public way that Bradford has long dealt with the aftermath of the terrible tragedy that befell us on that sunny May afternoon. 

In the year that the world begins to remember the centenary of the Great War, it is perhaps appropriate to reflect on the fact that how the Bradford fire is remembered will inevitably change. 

Personal communications have been transformed in recent years. Today we have instant communication. In the aftermath of the fire people queued to use telephone boxes to let relatives know that they were OK. I was standing in the Paddock that fateful day and until I walked into the house my family had no idea if I was alive or dead. 

Today we can hand out praise or condemnation in an instant. Those opinions will be read by thousands, potentially millions, in the blink of an eye in all parts of the globe. Our brilliant ideas, and our very worst, are there for all to witness. We can judge and be judged in an instant. 

The Bradford fire used to be publicly remembered once a year at 11am in Centenary Square. Today it can be remembered by websites and social media and shared by millions on their laptops and mobile phones. How the fire is remembered can be compared to how others remember similar tragedies. 

Hillsborough seems to be the benchmark. A small number of fans appear to be outraged if the fire fails to receive a one minute silence at other clubs matches or saturation media coverage. There were even unsubstantiated reports of fans being berated for not joining in the applause in the 56th minute of last season's League Cup Final. 

That aspect saddens me. We are not in some kind of grief competition with Liverpool or any other club. The events, and more importantly aftermath, of Hillsborough were completely different to what occurred at Valley Parade. There are very good reasons why Hillsborough has received such a high media profile. That tragedy has been kept in the public spotlight because it had unresolved issues and ones that had to be campaigned hard for. I have long been a supporter of the Justice campaign and I can only admire the tenacity of the victims families who have had to not only deal with their personal grief, but also have had to fight institutionalised attempts to smear the victims and avoid the truth of Hillsborough. I sincerely hope that they finally find the closure (such as it can be) they richly deserve. 

As the rain fell gently upon us, and Phil Parkinson became the first City manager to make a reading at the memorial service, I was reminded that we have been lucky to have been able to deal with the fire in our own way. Sheltered from the mass media, Bradford quietly did its own thing. 

Future generations will remember 11 May 1985 differently, that is inevitable. The fact that they wish to remember must be a good thing. We who were there on that terrible afternoon should not preach to them, but gently remind them of how, and why, we have chose to remember it. 

Saturday 19 April 2014

bantamspast Annual Dinner

Tickets are selling fast for the bantamspast museum’s annual 1911 dinner which takes place on Saturday at Bradford City AFC’s 1911 Club.
The organisers of the bantamspast museum host an annual dinner on 26 April, the anniversary of Bradford City’s famous FA Cup triumph of 1911. That feat is all the more poignant given that 2014 marks the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War, a conflict in which two of the cup winners, Jimmy Speirs and Robert Torrance, were killed.
This year the anniversary falls on a Saturday and so it is appropriate that the dinner will taker place in Bradford City’s 1911 Club overlooking the Valley Parade pitch on which the likes of Speirs and Torrance played during the club’s golden era in the years before the Great War. Diners will enjoy a three-course carvery dinner and then listen to the stories of the nine City players killed in the Great War and proposals of how the club, and its supporters, could mark the centenary of the conflict.
The dinner takes place on Saturday 26 April, 7.30pm for 8pm at the 1911 Club, Valley Parade. There are less than twenty places remaining and the event is expected to sell out. Tickets are available by telephone from the 1911 reception on 0871 978 200.

Friday 7 February 2014

The 1911 Annual Memorial Dinner

26 April 2014
1911 Club, Valley Parade
Ever since the success of the dinner that commemorated the centenary of Bradford City’s FA Cup triumph, the organisers of the bantamspast museum have arranged an annual dinner on 26 April, the date when Jimmy Speirs' headed goal won the famous trophy for the Bantams. This year the 103rd anniversary falls on a Saturday, so it is appropriate that the host venue will be Bradford City’s own 1911 Club. 

The evening will comprise a three course carvery dinner and an after dinner speaker. The cost is, perhaps appropriately, £19.11. As we approach the centenary of the Great War, the bantamspast museum’s David Pendleton will speak about the impact of the conflict on the football club and will reveal plans in place to commemorate the centenary. Nine City players died in the war, including the captain and goal scorer in the FA Cup final Jimmy Speirs and the man-of-the-match Robert Torrance.

The dinner takes place on Saturday 26 April, 7.30pm for 8pm at the 1911 Club, Valley Parade. There are only sixty places available, so the event is expected to sell out. Tickets are available from the 1911 Reception.

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