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.

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