Football Battalion

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17th (Service) Battalion, Middlesex Regiment
Football Battalion.jpg
Recruitment poster featuring the Football Battalion
Active 12 December 1914
Country  United Kingdom
Branch  British Army
Type Battalion
Role Infantry
Size 600 troops
Nickname(s) "The Football Battalion"
"1st Football"

The 17th (Service) Battalion, Middlesex Regiment was an infantry battalion of the Middlesex Regiment, part of the British Army, which was formed as a Pals battalion during the Great War. The core of the battalion was a group of professional footballers, which was the reason for its most commonly used name, The Football Battalion (also the footballers' or players' battalion). The 23rd (Service) Battalion, Middlesex Regiment was formed in June 1915 and became known as the 2nd Football Battalion.[1] The battalions fought in the Battle of the Somme in 1916 among others. Soldiers who fought in the 17th and 23rd Battalions included Second Lieutenant Walter Tull, who was possibly the first black infantry officer in the British Army.

History[edit]

17th (Service Battalion)[edit]

During the First World War there had been an initial push by clubs for professional football to continue, in order to keep the public's spirits up.[2] This stance was not widely agreed with and public opinion turned against professional footballers. One soldier, serving in France, wrote to a British newspaper to complain that "hundreds of thousands of able-bodied young roughs were watching hirelings playing football" while others were serving their country. The suggestion was even made that King George V should cease being a patron of The Football Association.[3] Sir Arthur Conan Doyle publicly objected and appealed for footballers to volunteer for service, saying "If a footballer has strength of limb, let them serve and march in the field of battle".[2]

William Joynson-Hicks formed the battalion on 12 December 1914 at Fulham town hall after Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener, suggested it as part of the Pals battalion scheme.[3][4] England international Frank Buckley became the first player to join,[2] out of thirty players who signed up at its formation.[3] The formation was announced to the general public on 1 January 1915.[5]

During training, the players were allowed leave on a Saturday to return to their clubs to take part in games. However, the clubs found themselves having to subsidise the train fares as the Army did not pay for them.[3]

By the following March, 122 professional footballers had signed up for the battalion, which led to press complaints as there were some 1800 eligible footballers.[4] These recruits included the whole of Clapton Orient (later to be known as Leyton Orient) – the entire Heart of Midlothian team had signed up for the 16th Royal Scots ('McCrae's Battalion') prior to the formation of the football battalion.[2] In addition to footballers, officials and referees also joined the 17th, along with football fans themselves.[3] Many football players deliberately chose to avoid the battalion by joining other regiments, causing the War Office to initially have difficulties filling the battalion.[3]

A number of decorations were issued to the soldiers with the battalion. Lyndon Sandoe, of Cardiff City, was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal with bar, and the Military Medal.[3] Northampton Town's Walter Tull became the first Black infantry officer in the British Army.[dubious ][6][better source needed] The battalion suffered heavy losses, including at the Battle of Delville Wood and the Battle of Guillemont during the Battle of the Somme.[7] During the First World War, the battalion lost more than a thousand men, including 462 in one battle alone at the Battle of Arras in 1917.[4]

23rd (Service Battalion)[edit]

A second football battalion, the 23rd (Service) Battalion was formed in June 1915.[1] Former Tottenham Hotspur and Clapton Orient footballer Alan Haig-Brown was appointed commanding officer in September 1916.[8]

Legacy[edit]

A memorial to the Football Battalion was unveiled in 2010 in Longueval, France. It was attended by members of the Football Supporters' Federation and representatives of more than 20 clubs. It had been paid for through donations received from football supporters having been promoted by former professional footballer and SAS soldier Phil Stant.[9] The ceremony was conducted by Father Owen Beament of Millwall, and a two-minute silence was started by Gareth Ainsworth.[10]

A granite memorial to the three Clapton Orient players who died in the Battle of the Somme whilst members of the battalion was unveiled in 2011, located in Northern France. Over 200 Leyton Orient supporters travelled for the unveiling, which commemorated the lives of Richard McFadden, William Jonas and George Scott.[11]

Key[edit]

  • Players listed in bold won full international caps.

Playing positions[edit]

GK Goalkeeper RB Right back RW Right winger DF Defender HB Half back IF Inside forward DM Defensive midfielder
OL Outside left LB Left back LW Left winger CB Centre back FW Forward FB Full back RM Right midfielder
W Winger MF Midfielder ST Striker WH Wing half AM Attacking midfielder CM Central midfielder LM Left midfielder
U Utility player OR Outside right SW Sweeper LH Left half RH Right half

Soldiers[edit]

Officers[edit]

Rank Name Nationality Position Club prior to enlistment Battalion(s) Wartime death date Wartime death place Decorations Notes Ref
Lt Col Alan Haig-Brown  England OR Clapton Orient 23rd 25 March 1918(1918-03-25) (aged 40) Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France DSO, MiD [nb 1] [8]
Maj Frank Buckley  England DF Bradford City 17th [nb 2] [2]
Cpt Percy Barnfather  England WH Croydon Common 17th MC [nb 3] [12]
Cpt Edward Bell  England OF South Farnborough 17th 24 March 1918(1918-03-24) (aged 31–32) Somme, France MC and Bar [nb 4] [9]
Cpt Vivian Woodward  England CF Chelsea 17th [nb 5] [13]
2nd Lt Walter Tull  England IF/HB Northampton Town 23rd, 17th 25 March 1918(1918-03-25) (aged 29) Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France MiD [nb 6] [14]

Senior non-commissioned officers[edit]

Rank Name Nationality Position Club prior to enlistment Battalion(s) Wartime death date Wartime death place Decorations Notes Ref
CSM Richard McFadden  Scotland FW Clapton Orient 17th 23 October 1916(1916-10-23) (aged 26–27) Somme, France MM [15]
CSM Joe Smith  England HB Chesterfield 17th 13 November 1916(1916-11-13) (aged 26–27) Pas-de-Calais, France MiD [16]
CSM Lyndon Sandoe  Wales FB Cardiff City 17th DCM and Bar, MM [3]
CSgt Fred Bartholomew  England OR Reading 17th [17]
CSgt Fred Parker  England FW Clapton Orient 17th [18]
Sgt William Baker  England WH Plymouth Argyle 17th 22 October 1916(1916-10-22) (aged 32–33) Somme, France MM [19]
Sgt Ernie Coquet  England FB Fulham 17th [20]
Sgt Robert Dalrymple  Scotland IF Clapton Orient 17th [21]
Sgt Nolan Evans  England LB Clapton Orient 17th [22]
Sgt Harry Gibson  England LH Clapton Orient 17th [nb 7] [23]
Sgt Fred Goodwin  England OL Exeter City 17th [nb 8] [24]
[25]
Sgt Ted Hanney  England CH Manchester City 17th [26]
Sgt Jimmy McCormick  England RH Plymouth Argyle 17th [nb 9] [27]
Sgt Joe Mercer  England CH Nottingham Forest 17th [nb 10] [28]
Sgt Sam Morris  England WH Bristol Rovers 17th [29]
Sgt Charles Stewart  England IF Croydon Common 17th [30]
Sgt Arthur Whalley  England WH Manchester United 23rd [31]
Sgt Norman Wood  England IL Stockport County 17th 28 July 1916(1916-07-28) (aged 26–27) Delville Wood, France [32]
Sgt Maurice Woodward  England HB/LB Southend United 17th [33]
Act Sgt Fred Keenor  Wales DF Cardiff City 17th [nb 11] [34]
Lce Sgt Jack Cock  England CF Huddersfield Town 17th [nb 11] [35]

Junior non-commissioned officers[edit]

Rank Name Nationality Position Club prior to enlistment Battalion(s) Wartime death date Wartime death place Decorations Notes Ref
Cpl Ben Butler  England CH Queens Park Rangers 17th 13 May 1916(1916-05-13) (aged 27–28) Bruay-la-Buissière, France [36]
Cpl Jack Doran Ireland Ireland CF Coventry City 17th MM [37]
Cpl George Ford  England LB Woolwich Arsenal 17th [nb 12] [38]
Cpl David Gray  Scotland FW St Mirren 17th [29]
Cpl Jimmy Hugall  England GK Clapton Orient 17th [nb 13] [39]
Cpl George Pyke  England CF Newcastle United 17th [40]
Cpl Arthur Roe  England HB Luton Town 17th [41]
Cpl George Saunders n/a n/a Clapton Orient 17th [42]
Cpl Billy Spittle  England IF Woolwich Arsenal 17th [43]
Cpl Sandy Turnbull  Scotland IF Manchester United 23rd 3 May 1917(1917-05-03) (aged 32) Chérisy, France [nb 14] [44]
Act Cpl William Krug  England GK Chelsea 17th [45]
Lce Cpl Joe Bailey  England IF Reading 17th DSO, MC and Two Bars, MiD [nb 15]
[nb 16]
[46]
Lce Cpl Charlie Bell  Scotland FW Chesterfield 17th [47]
Lce Cpl Fred Bullock  England DF Huddersfield Town 17th [48]
Lce Cpl Charles Bunyan, Sr.  England GK Standard Liège (manager) 17th [49]
Lce Cpl Herbert Dersley  England n/a Croydon Common 17th 1 June 1916 (age unknown) Pas-de-Calais, France [50]
Lce Cpl Edward Foord  England n/a Chelsea 17th [nb 17] [48]
Lce Cpl Pat Gallacher  Scotland n/a Ton Pentre 17th, 23rd [nb 11]
[nb 18]
[51]
Lce Cpl Norman Holmes  England DF Clapton Orient 17th [nb 19] [52]
Lce Cpl Robert Houston n/a n/a Woolwich Arsenal 17th [53]
Lce Cpl Tom Pearson n/a n/a Clapton Orient 17th [nb 20] [54]
Lce Cpl Henry Pennifer  England n/a Queens Park Rangers 17th 24 March 1918 (age unknown) Somme, France [nb 11]
[nb 14]
[55]
Lce Cpl Sidney Wheelhouse  England RB Grimsby Town 17th 19 September 1916(1916-09-19) (aged 27–28) Somme, France [56]

Ranks[edit]

Rank Name Nationality Position Club prior to enlistment Battalion(s) Wartime death date Wartime death place Decorations Notes Ref
Pte Charles Abbs n/a n/a Norwich City 17th [nb 10] [57]
Pte Tommy Barber  England HB/IL Aston Villa 17th [58]
Pte Jasper Batey  England LH Brighton & Hove Albion 17th 23 October 1916(1916-10-23) (aged 25) Pas-de-Calais, France [nb 14] [59]
Pte George Beech  England LB Brighton & Hove Albion 17th [60]
Pte Billy Booth  England CH Brighton & Hove Albion 17th [61]
Pte Jack Borthwick  Scotland CH Millwall Athletic 17th [62]
Pte George Bowler  England RH Tottenham Hotspur 17th, 23rd [63]
Pte James Bowler  England DF Crystal Palace 17th [64]
Pte David Chalmers  Scotland CF Grimsby Town 17th [65]
Pte Tommy Codd  England OL Leicester Fosse 17th [nb 21] [66]
Pte Tim Coleman  England FW Nottingham Forest 17th [67]
Pte George Crowther  England FW Hurst 17th [68]
Pte William Daley  England n/a Chelsea 17th 8 August 1916(1916-08-08) (aged 30–31) Guillemont, France [69]
Pte Sam Davis  England RB Plymouth Argyle 17th MM [nb 22] [70]
Pte Charles Dexter  England FB Brighton & Hove Albion 17th 27 June 1917(1917-06-27) (aged 26–27) Derby, England [nb 23] [71]
Pte John Dunn  England IR Luton Town 17th [nb 24] [72]
Pte Jack Dodds  England FW Oldham Athletic 17th [48]
Pte Jack Durston  England GK Queens Park Rangers 17th [73]
Pte Joe Fidler  England FB Port Vale 17th [74]
Pte Allen Foster  England IF Reading 17th 8 August 1916(1916-08-08) (aged 28–29) Corbie, France [75]
Pte Robert Frith  England HB Luton Town 17th [nb 24] [76]
Pte Hugh Gallacher  Scotland CF Bristol Rovers 17th [29]
Pte Billy Gerrish  England IF Unattached 17th 8 August 1916(1916-08-08) (aged 31) Delville Wood, France [77]
n/a David Girdwood n/a n/a Chelsea 17th [48]
Pte Charles Green n/a n/a Millwall Athletic 17th 28 April 1917 (aged 35) Oppy Wood, France [78]
Pte Alf Gregson  England FW Grimsby Town 17th [79]
Pte Albert Holmes  England OL Coventry City 17th [80]
Pte Henry Hogarth n/a HB Burnley 17th [29]
Pte Percy Humphreys  England IR FC Basel (manager) 17th [nb 24] [81]
Pte Hunter n/a FW Gainsborough Trinity 17th [82]
Pte Harry Iremonger  England GK Nottingham Forest 17th [83]
Pte William Jonas  England FW Clapton Orient 17th 27 July 1916(1916-07-27) (aged 25) Delville Wood, France [42]
Pte Billy Jones  England CF Brighton & Hove Albion 17th [60]
Pte David Kenny  Scotland CH Grimsby Town 17th [79]
Pte John Lamb  England HB The Wednesday 17th [74]
Pte Frank Lindley  England OR Luton Town 17th [84]
Pte Oscar Linkson  England FB Shelbourne 17th 8 August 1916(1916-08-08) (aged 28) Somme, France [85]
Pte Tommy Lonsdale  England GK West Ham United 17th [86]
Pte Frank Martin  England DF Grimsby Town 17th [79]
Pte Tom McKenna Ireland Ireland FB Grimsby Town 17th [65]
Pte Joe McLauchlan  Scotland CF Watford 17th [87]
Pte Billy Middleton  England FW Crystal Palace 17th [88]
Pte Arthur Mounteney  England IF Hinckley Athletic 17th [66]
Pte Archie Needham  England U Brighton & Hove Albion 17th [89]
Pte Thomas Newton  England GK Croydon Common 17th [nb 25] [90]
Pte Wilf Nixon  England GK Fulham 17th [nb 26] [91]
Pte John Nuttall  England n/a Millwall Athletic 17th [92]
Pte William Oliver  England OL Tottenham Hotspur 17th [nb 27] [93]
Pte Joseph Orme  England GK Millwall Athletic 17th [94]
Pte Alonzo Poulton  England IR West Bromwich Albion 17th [95]
Pte Thomas Ratcliff n/a n/a Woolwich Arsenal (trainer) 17th [48]
Pte Joseph Raw n/a FB Clapton Orient 17th [96]
Pte Harry Reason  England n/a Clapton Orient 17th [97]
Pte William Reed  England CF Brighton & Hove Albion 17th [98]
Pte Stan Ripley  England HB Stoke City 17th 10 March 1917(1917-03-10) (aged 23–24) Sunderland, England [nb 14] [29]
Pte Hugh Roberts  Wales OR Luton Town 17th [99]
Pte George Robertson  Scotland LH/IL Birmingham 17th [29]
Pte Harry Robotham  England RH Retired 23rd 12 September 1916(1916-09-12) (aged 37) Somme, France [100]
Pte Fred Robson  England FB Southend United 17th [101]
Pte Peter Roney  Scotland GK Bristol Rovers 17th [102]
Pte Ralph Routledge  England n/a Brighton & Hove Albion 17th [nb 28] [48]
Pte Ernest Russ n/a n/a Chelsea 17th [103]
Pte George Scott  England CH Clapton Orient 17th 16 August 1916(1916-08-16) (aged 30) Nord, France [nb 10] [104]
Pte Angus Seed  England RB Leicester Fosse 17th MM [66]
Pte Jackie Sheldon  England OR Liverpool 17th [105]
Pte Ernie Simms  England CF Luton Town 17th, 23rd [106]
Pte Cyril Smith  Wales IL Croydon Common 17th, 23rd [107]
Pte Frank Spencer n/a FB Brighton & Hove Albion 17th [48]
Pte John Stephenson n/a GK Cardiff City 17th [82]
Pte William Stephenson  England RB Wingate Albion 17th [108]
Pte Alexander Stewart  Scotland FB Watford 17th [nb 29] [109]
Pte Percy Summers  England GK Grimsby Town 17th [65]
Pte Frank Taylor n/a n/a Northampton Town 17th [110]
Pte Arthur Tilley  England OR Clapton Orient 17th, 23rd [nb 24] [111]
Pte Albert Tomkins  England HB/IF Croydon Common 17th [nb 30] [112]
Pte Alfred Tyler  England OL Brighton & Hove Albion 17th [113]
Pte Dick Upex  England IL Croydon Common 17th [114]
Pte Joe Webster  England GK West Ham United 17th [115]
Pte Alf West  England FB Notts County 17th [116]
Pte Bob Whiting  England GK Brighton & Hove Albion 17th 28 April 1917(1917-04-28) (aged 34) Oppy Wood, France [nb 31] [78]
Pte Fred Whittaker  England FW Millwall Athletic 17th [25]
Pte George Whitworth  England CF Northampton Town 17th [117]
Pte Arthur Wileman  England IR Luton Town 17th 28 April 1918(1918-04-28) (aged 31–32) West Flanders, Belgium MM [nb 14]
[nb 16]
[118]
Pte James Williams  Wales FW Millwall Athletic 17th 5 June 1916(1916-06-05) (aged 32) Pas-de-Calais, France [3]
n/a Skilly Williams  England GK Watford 17th [119]
Pte Ernest Williamson  England GK Croydon Common 17th [nb 24] [120]
Pte T.T. Wilson n/a HB Luton Town 17th [121]
Pte Jack Woodhouse  England HB Brighton & Hove Albion 17th [78]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Appointed commanding officer of the 23rd Battalion on 16 September 1916.
  2. ^ Transferred in from the King's Regiment (Liverpool).
  3. ^ Commissioned on 31 October 1916.
  4. ^ Also served as the battalion's adjutant.
  5. ^ Previously served in the London Regiment prior to being commissioned into the Middlesex Regiment on 29 December 1914.
  6. ^ Served in the 17th Battalion prior to being commissioned into the 23rd Battalion on 4 August 1917.
  7. ^ Served in the 17th Battalion prior to being commissioned into the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry on 24 August 1918.
  8. ^ Also served as a bomb-throwing instructor.
  9. ^ Taken prisoner of war.
  10. ^ a b c Taken prisoner of war on 27 April 1917.
  11. ^ a b c d Appointment, not rank.
  12. ^ Medically discharged on 10 October 1917.
  13. ^ Served in the 17th Battalion prior to being commissioned into the Durham Light Infantry on 24 July 1916.
  14. ^ a b c d e Died while serving with another unit.
  15. ^ Served in the 17th Battalion prior to being commissioned into the Royal Norfolk Regiment on 28 August 1917.
  16. ^ a b Decorations were won while serving with another unit.
  17. ^ Appointment, not rank. Medically discharged on 16 October 1918.
  18. ^ Served as trainer of the battalion football team in June 1917.
  19. ^ Served in the 17th Battalion prior to being commissioned into the 21st Battalion on 25 June 1918.
  20. ^ Served in the 17th Battalion prior to being commissioned into the Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) on 28 August 1917.
  21. ^ Later transferred to the Royal Army Service Corps and was medically discharged on 26 June 1918.
  22. ^ Served in the 17th Battalion prior to being commissioned into the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry on 31 October 1917.
  23. ^ Medically discharged on 10 April 1916 and later died of septic poisoning.
  24. ^ a b c d e Was released/discharged from the army before seeing active service.
  25. ^ Taken prisoner of war on 13 November 1916.
  26. ^ Taken prisoner of war on 28 April 1917.
  27. ^ Medically discharged on 15 September 1916.
  28. ^ Discharged on 18 August 1916.
  29. ^ Medically discharged on 29 December 1916.
  30. ^ Transferred to the Labour Corps in August 1918.
  31. ^ Whiting attained the rank of lance sergeant prior to being demoted to private in December 1916 after a court-martial. He was serving as a private at the time of his death.

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