Part 2 Ten years in the making -
Part 3 Erratic in the extreme -
Results and table -
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The 1913/14 season ended with Leeds
City fourth in the Second Division, a new high for the club.
The narrowness with which they missed out on promotion hinted
that they might well fulfil that aspiration in the following campaign.
Unfortunately, events over the summer months far away in Central
Europe saw to it that the term 'campaign', along with others appropriated
by the football world, such as 'victory' and 'tactics', would
now be used more readily in their original context.
The assassination of heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke
Franz Ferdinand, in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914 brought to an angry
head a collection of grumbling disputes that had cast a pall over
the continent for years. The act was the catalyst for a labyrinthine
chain of events that would lead inexorably to the Great War.
Although only third in the line of succession, Ferdinand became
heir apparent following the death of the Emperor's son, Crown
Prince Rudolf, in 1889, and in 1896 that of his own father, Archduke
Charles Louis, Emperor Franz Josef's brother.
Considered arrogant, mistrusting and unrefined by many, Ferdinand
was neither popular nor charismatic. However, the main reason
for enmity towards him was because of suspicion about his intentions
after taking power. He proposed to replace Austro-Hungarian dualism
with 'Trialism', a triple monarchy in which the Slavs would have
an equal say alongside the Austrians and the Hungarians.
Ferdinand was contemplating the idea of even more radical reform:
splitting Austria-Hungary into a number of ethnically and linguistically
dominated semi-autonomous "states" which would constitute a larger
confederation, to be known as the United States of Greater Austria.
Under this plan, separate languages and cultural identities were
encouraged, and the disproportionate balance of power would be
righted. The proposals were fundamentally opposed by the Hungarian
element of the Dual Monarchy, as they would have brought a significant
territorial loss for the Magyars.
The approach was designed to stay the disintegration of the fading
Austro-Hungarian Empire, but Ferdinand's plans set him at odds
with the ruling elite.
As Inspector General of the army, Ferdinand accepted an invitation
from General Oskar Potiorek to visit Sarajevo, the capital of
Bosnia, to inspect army manoeuvres. Bosnia and Herzegovina were
provinces that had been under Austro-Hungarian administration
since 1878. Austria annexed the provinces outright in 1908, a
controversial move which caused unrest and suspicion amongst other
European governments. There was even greater antipathy from supporters
of the idea of a Greater Serbia, who were positively outraged.
Their avowed aim was to absorb the provinces into a Serbian led
Bosnia was consequently a perilous destination and it proved
fatal for Franz Ferdinand. He was
murdered on 28 June in Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip, a representative
of the Black Hand, a Serbian nationalist secret society, in an
attempt to stall his proposed reforms.
Austria was quick to capitalise on the incident, claiming the
Serbian government was the mens rea behind the act. She seized
on the opportunity to rattle her sabres, in a concerted attempt
to crush the nationalist movement in the Balkan states and cement
her influence in the region.
Elements within the Austro-Hungarian government had been eagerly
seeking a pretext for offensive action for years, and this was
their golden opportunity. Nationalist pan-Slav agitation within
Serbia, which Austria suspected was encouraged by the Serbian
government, could only undermine the Empire's influence in the
The assassination was seen, at least in Austro-Hungarian eyes,
as legitimising what it confidently expected would be a limited
war against the manifestly weaker Serbians.
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Serbia had strong historic links with Russia, the two sharing
a common heritage that had evolved over several centuries. In
1878 Serbia was indebted to Russian diplomatic support for her
success in gaining independence. The historic alliance was cause
for some trepidation on the part of the Austro-Hungarians.
To assuage their anxieties, Austria sought assurances from her
own ally, Germany, that she would provide support should Russia
enter the dispute. The Germans were delighted to offer their aid:
a conflict outside the national borders ideally suited their own
purposes and they offered an unconditional guarantee of support
on 5 July.
Left wing parties in Germany, particularly the Social Democratic
Party, made heavy gains in the national elections of 1912. The
German Government was still dominated by the Prussian Junkers,
who feared the rise of the Left. The German historian, Fritz Fischer,
argued that they deliberately sought an external war as a distraction,
which would stoke up patriotic support for the Government.
Such dark political intrigue relied on a calculated gamble regarding
the responses of other governments. With an element of undoubted
complacency, provocative action was considered a risk well worth
Germany offered what became known as "the blank cheque" to Austria
on 6 July. The German Kaiser, Wilhelm II, promised unconditional
support for Austria regardless of whatever sanction she intended
to impose upon Serbia.
It was clear that Germany was prepared for a limited conflict
with France and Russia; she hoped to avoid war with Britain, gambling
that the British would shy away from war in an attempt to retain
On 23 July, Austria presented Serbia with an ultimatum demanding
that the assassins be brought to justice.
A reply was demanded within 48 hours, in the full expectation
that the terms would be rejected, thereby providing the pretext
British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Gray commented that he had
"never before seen one state address to another independent state
a document of so formidable a character", though the government
sought to mediate throughout July, attempting desperately to remain
The Serbian Prime Minister, Nikola Pasic, appealed to Russia
for help. On 25 July, while waiting for assurance of support,
Pasic agreed to all Austro-Hungarian demands bar one: he was unable
to hand over the three men who had engineered the assassination
as it "would be a violation of Serbia's Constitution and criminal
in law". The Austrians were caught off guard by the compliance
of the response, so disconcerted that they concealed the communication
for two days from the Germans. The Kaiser commented that the reply
was "a great moral victory for Vienna, but with it every reason
for war disappears".
Nevertheless claiming they were not satisfied with Serbia's response
to their ultimatum, Austria declared war on 28 July. Russia immediately
announced mobilisation of her army in defence of Serbia. On 31
July the Germans demanded that Russia halt her mobilisation within
12 hours; they also demanded that France should remain neutral
and hand over border fortresses as a guarantee. The Germans knew
these were unacceptable terms and the inevitable rejection allowed
them to declare war on Russia on 1 August. Two days later, Germany
declared war on France and invaded Belgium so as to reach Paris
by the shortest possible route.
A Triple Entente between Russia, France and Britain had long
been in place; in addition Britain had a commitment, dating back
to 1839, to defend Belgian neutrality. The British government,
led by Prime Minister Hebert Asquith, felt that they had to draw
a line in the sand and gave Germany an ultimatum to get out of
Belgium by midnight, 3 August.
It is thought that Germany would have backed away from war had
Britain given a prompter hint of her resolve. Believing that the
British would stay out of the coming conflict and limit themselves
to diplomatic protests, Germany proceeded under the belief that
war would be fought solely with France and Russia.
The British Government, in the person of Foreign Secretary, Sir
Edward Gray, attempted to mediate throughout July, reserving at
all times its right to remain aloof from the dispute. It was only
as the War began that the British position solidified into support
Asquith had a simple choice: he could turn a blind eye to a war
in mainland Europe that might have little impact on Britain if
she stood as a neutral, or he could mark himself with the British
public as a man of principle who held firm against the perceived
bullying of Germany. Future Prime Minister Winston Churchill described
the scene in London in the hours that led to the declaration of
"It was eleven o'clock at night - twelve by German time - when
the ultimatum expired. The windows of the Admiralty were thrown
wide open in the warm night air. Under the roof from which Nelson
had received his orders were gathered a small group of admirals
and captains and a cluster of clerks, pencils in hand, waiting.
Along the Mall from the direction of the Palace the sound of an
immense concourse singing 'God save the King' floated in. On this
deep wave there broke the chimes of Big Ben; and, as the first
stroke of the hour
boomed out, a rustle of movement swept across the room. The war
telegram, which meant, 'Commence hostilities against Germany,'
was flashed to the ships and establishments under the White Ensign
all over the world. I walked across the Horse Guards Parade to
the Cabinet room and reported to the Prime Minister and the Ministers
who were assembled there that the deed was done."
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Asquith addressed a packed House of Commons, saying, "We have
made a request to the German Government that we shall have a satisfactory
assurance as to the Belgium neutrality before midnight tonight.
The German reply to our request was unsatisfactory."
Asquith explained that he had received a telegram from the German
Ambassador in London who, in turn, had received one from the German
Foreign Secretary. Officials in Berlin wanted the point pressed
home that German forces went through Belgium to avoid the French
doing so in an attack on Germany. Berlin had "absolutely unimpeachable
information" that the French planned to attack the German Army
Asquith stated that the Government could not "regard this in
any sense a satisfactory communication… We have, in reply to it,
repeated the request we made last week to the German Government
that they should give us the same assurance with regard to Belgium
neutrality as was given to us and to Belgium by France last week.
We have asked that a reply to that request and a satisfactory
answer to the telegram of this morning should be given before
Nothing of the sort was received and the Foreign Office released
"Owing to the summary rejection by the German Government of the
request made by His Majesty's Government for assurances that the
neutrality of Belgium would be respected, His Majesty's Ambassador
in Berlin has received his passport, and His Majesty's Government
has declared to the German Government that a state of war exists
between Great Britain and Germany as from 11pm on August 4th."
Britain's declaration of war against Germany brought the support
of British Commonwealth countries like Australia, Canada, India
and New Zealand, alongside Japan, who had a military agreement
Thus, what had commenced as a little local difficulty escalated
rapidly into global conflict. The expansionist leanings of Otto
von Bismarck, first Prime Minister of Prussia and then Chancellor
of the German Empire, and Kaiser Wilhelm II had rendered such
an outcome inevitable.
On the outbreak of war, Britain had just under 250,000 regular
troops. It was clear that many thousands more would be needed
to defeat the Germans and on 7 August, Lord Kitchener, the War
Minister, launched a recruitment campaign, calling for men aged
between 19 and 30 to sign up. This was very successful, with an
average of 33,000 men joining every day. Three weeks later the
upper limit for recruiting was raised to 35 and by the middle
of September over 500,000 men had volunteered. At the beginning
of the War the
army had strict regulations about who could become soldiers. Men
joining the army had to be at least 5ft 6in tall with a chest
measurement of 35 inches. However, these specifications were loosened
up in order to get more men to join the armed forces.
British forces were sent to help stop the German advance across
France, and few thought that they would not return before Christmas.
But by 1915 the opposing sides had dug themselves into a system
of trenches that zigzagged along the Western Front, a battlefield
extending some 450 miles across Belgium and North-Eastern France
to the border of Switzerland. They remained deadlocked in this
trench warfare until 1918.
Stephen Studd in Herbert
Chapman: Football Emperor: "Britain was the only country
entering the War without compulsory military service. As the football
season approached, the question arose whether the League competition
should be suspended so that players and officials could be free
to volunteer for the war effort. It was a situation organised
football had never had to face before, and there was no precedent
on which to base a decision. Flying in the face of public opinion
and patriotic fervour, the authorities decided to go ahead with
games as planned.
"The reaction was one of violent denunciation. Newspapers said
they would not report matches and carried a barrage of irate letters.
A Yorkshire Post reader suggested that the King should resign
as patron of the Football Association. At the same time the FA
'urged players and spectators who are physically fit and otherwise
able to join the Army', and several players did so, but the Football
League insisted that 'in the interests of the people of this country,
football ought to be continued'.
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"The League's attitude reflected the traditional belief that
the ordinary citizen need not be affected by war. Wars had been
fought before by the regular Army, and this one, it was supposed,
would be the same: it would be over in a few months, if not weeks.
So League teams kicked off in the usual way, while the guns blazed
across the Channel. After a few weeks newspapers lifted their
ban on match reports, and, while the War was waged on the front
page, the struggle for League points gathered pace on the back."
The announcement by the football authorities that the football
programme was to continue provoked a fierce backlash. Criticism
was vociferous and clubs were accused of selfishness and conspiring
with the enemy; the Dean of Lincoln wrote to the FA of "onlookers
who, while so many of their fellow men are giving themselves in
their country's peril, still go gazing at football".
Many senior players quit their clubs to volunteer for the armed
forces, but the League decided to carry on with their programme.
The football authorities contributed to war charities, and assisted
in the recruitment of volunteers.
As most League players were professionals and thus tied contractually
to their clubs, they could only join the forces if the clubs agreed
to cancel their contracts. If they refused, the men could be sued
by their clubs for breach of contract. Some newspapers suggested
that those who did not join up were "contributing to a German
victory," piling moral pressure on players.
Under considerable pressure, the Football Association eventually
backed down and called for football clubs to release all unmarried
professional footballers to join the armed forces. The FA also
agreed to work closely with the War Office to encourage football
clubs to organise recruiting drives at matches.
At Elland Road, Leeds City's management invited Lord Mayor Edward
Brotherton and local MPs
to address spectators at the end of the season's opening game
in the hope of getting them to sign up. The club's official Receiver,
Tom Coombs, came up with the
idea and got support from Captain Kelly, the local head of army
recruitment. Coombs undertook to provide the necessary support
staff and resources to administer the exercise.
The Athletic News responded angrily to the general criticism
of football: "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."
On 31 August, the Consultative Committee of the Football Association
issued the following statement: "The Football Association earnestly
appeals to the patriotism of all who are interested in the game
to help in all possible ways in support of the nation in the present
serious crisis, and particularly to those able to render personal
service in the Army and Navy which are so gallantly upholding
our national honour.
"To those unable to render personal service the Association would
appeal for their generous support of funds for the relief and
assistance of dependents of those who are engaged in serving their
"The Football Association will contribute £1,000 to the Prince
of Wales' War Fund and £250 to the Belgian Relief Fund.
"It was stated that of about a million players only 7,000 were
professionals and of those only 2,500 were exclusively engaged
for football. The opinion of the War Office was in favour of continuing
football. It was resolved that clubs should give every facility
for the temporary release of players who desired to join the colours."
President John McKenna reported on the views of the League Management
Committee: "Any national sport which can minimise the grief, help
the nation to bear the sorrows, relieve the oppression of continuous
strain, and save the people at home from panic
and undue depression is a great national asset which can render
lasting service to the people.
"Just as we look hour after hour for the latest news from the
theatres of war, our vast armies in the field will week by week
look for papers from home, and insofar as their mind may be temporarily
distracted from the horrors of war and the intense strain of days
and weeks of almost unrestricted fighting, much will be done to
give them fresh heart, fresh hopes and a renewed vitality for
the work before them.
"At home our clubs were in a helpless position, as their contracts,
entered into with all the formality of legal contracts, must be
performed as far as possible. We feel that the advice offered
by politicians, the Press, and commercial authorities that business
should be carried on as usual is sound, well considered and well
reasoned advice. We therefore, without the slightest reservation,
appeal to the clubs, the Press and the public that our great winter
game should pursue its usual course.
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"Every club should do all in its power to assist the war funds.
Every player should specially train to be of national service
at least in national defence. Whilst we unreservedly authorise
the due fulfilment of the League programme, we must all accept
to the full every obligation that we can individually and collectively
discharge for our beloved country and our comrades in arms who
in this fight for righteousness and justice, at the risk of their
lives, have answered to duty's call."
In the first week of September, FA secretary Fred Wall (later
Sir Frederick) wrote to the War Office stating that the FA was
prepared to request all their members to stop the playing of matches
if the War Office was of the opinion that such a course would
assist them in their duties.
The War Office expressed gratitude to the FA for their assistance
in obtaining recruits for the army and in placing football grounds
at their disposal, but went on: "The question whether the playing
of matches should be entirely stopped is more a matter for the
discretion of the Association, but the Council realise the difficulties
involved in taking such an extreme step, and they would deprecate
anything being done which does not appear to be called for by
the present situation.
"Should your Association decide to continue the playing of matches,
the Council trust that arrangements will be made so as not to
interfere with the facilities at present afforded to the recruiting
authorities. The Council also suggest that the Association might
take all steps in their power to press the need of the country
for recruits upon spectators who are eligible for enlistment,
and they would further venture to suggest that some portion of
the gate money might be set aside for the charitable relief of
the families and dependents of all soldiers and sailors who are
serving in the present war."
The public of Leeds played their full part in the war effort.
The leeds-pals.com website carries the tale of the Leeds Pals,
The 15th (service) Battalion (1st Leeds) The Prince of Wales'
Own (West Yorkshire Regiment).
"The general idea of a Pals' Battalion was that the volunteers
would join and serve with friends, relatives, workmates and colleagues,
giving a feeling of comradeship that had never been seen before.
"Most major towns and cities … raised Pals' Battalions. To be
accepted to these elite units, the recruits were to pass certain
requirements. Education and intelligence were considered paramount
to being accepted in the majority of cases.
It was not only businessmen and local dignitaries however, that
were recruited; Great Britain supplied its finest and for Leeds
this meant several famous sports men also. Evelyn
Lintott (later to be commissioned), a Leeds City and international
half-back footballer, along with Morris Flemming, another footballer,
were considered a bonus to the Battalion. Yorkshire cricketers
featured among the recruits who included Major Booth, Arthur Dolphin
and Roy Kilner. Team sports did not offer the only possibilities
but also athletes such as Albert Gutteridge and George Colcroft
were eager to be a part of something so patriotic and unique that
it may never be seen again.
"By the 8th of September 1914 the Battalion had enlisted some
1,275 men after rejecting many on medical grounds. This number
at the time was considered to be complete although the final number
of Leeds Pals eventually rose to approximately 2,000.
"France was expected to be the Pals' first destination but this
was not so. Early December 1915 saw the first group of Pals set
sail for Suez. Inevitably France was to be for many of the Pals
their final destination.
"On March 1st 1916 the Pals set sail for Marseilles as the Battle
of the Somme became imminent. The battle was to prove tragic for
the Leeds Pals. Twenty-four Pals' officers went over the top with
their men on that fateful day, 1st July 1916. Lieutenant Major
Booth, the famous cricketer, and Evelyn Lintott, the footballer,
were just two of the many that were killed in action. Approximately
750 out of 900 involved in the Somme died.
"The patriotism shown by the people of Leeds at the outbreak
of war with Germany was reflected in the City Council's approach
to, and involvement in, the raising of the 1st Leeds Battalion.
Quite a few family members of the raising committee were already
serving or would later serve as officers with the Pals. Its first
Colonel was Walter Stead, a prominent local solicitor and Council
member, who had made the original application to Lord Kitchener
for permission to raise the Leeds Battalion. This had been seconded
in a telegram sent to Kitchener by Edward Brotherton, the Lord
Mayor of Leeds, who personally bore the cost of raising and outfitting
the Battalion. He also placed his personal fortune in the hands
of the Council as a guarantee against the costs Leeds might incur
in the War.
"Alderman Charles Wilson JP became the Quartermaster. Alderman
and Solicitor Arthur Willey's son Tom and James Wardle's son James
were commissioned into the Pals as Lieutenants, along with Maurice
Bickersteth, son of the Vicar of Leeds. The zeal and patriotism
of the Council was then applied to finding a site large enough
to accommodate upwards of a thousand men, at a pace unheard of
today, land at Breary Banks in Colsterdale owned by the waterworks
department and being used for the building of a new reservoir
was placed … at the battalion's disposal.
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"The time spent at Colsterdale was for most, the best time of
their lives. Carefree days with good food, good accommodation
and good company, their civilian skills were soon being put to
military use. When material started arriving for the construction
of more solid accommodation, recruits with the necessary backgrounds
were employed on hut building, men with country backgrounds were
soon catching the rabbits that were so abundant around Colsterdale,
enabling the battalion cooks to serve up regular meals of rabbit
stew, so regular that one Pal, Walter Astle, on returning home
after the War, refused to eat rabbit for the rest of his life."
The country's professional footballers were pilloried for what
was regarded as their unpatriotic reluctance to enlist for the
war effort. Spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk: "On 6 September 1914, Arthur
Conan Doyle (the creator of Sherlock Holmes and himself a goalkeeper
with the amateur side, Portsmouth AFC), 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 cricketer 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.'
"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.
"William Joynson Hicks established the 17th Service (Football)
Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment on 12th December, 1914. This
group became known as the Football Battalion. According to Frederick
Wall, the secretary of the Football Association, the England international
centre-half, Frank Buckley,
was the first person to join the Football Battalion. At first,
because of the problems with contracts, only amateur players like
Vivian Woodward and Evelyn Lintott were able to sign up.
"As Frank Buckley had previous experience in the British Army
he was given the rank of Lieutenant. He eventually was promoted
to the rank of Major. Within a few weeks the 17th Battalion had
its full complement of 600 men. However, few of these men were
footballers. Most of the recruits were local men who wanted to
be in the same battalion as their football heroes. For example,
large number who joined were supporters of Chelsea and Queens
Park Rangers who wanted to serve with Vivian Woodward and Evelyn
"At the beginning of the 1914/15 football season, Hearts was
Scotland's most successful team, winning eight games in succession.
On 26th November 1914, every member of the team joined the British
Army. This event had a major impact on the public and inspired
footballers and their fans to enlist. Seven members of the Hearts
team never returned to Scotland. Three of the men, Harry Wattie,
Duncan Currie and Ernie Ellis, were killed on the first day of
the Somme offensive. Another member of the team, 22-year-old Paddy
Crossan, was so badly injured that his right leg was labelled
for amputation. He pleaded with the German surgeon not to operate.
He told him: 'I need my legs - I'm a footballer.' He agreed to
his request and managed to save his leg. Crossan survived the
War but later died as a result of his lungs being destroyed by
"By March 1915, it was reported that 122 professional footballers
had joined the battalion. This included the whole of the Clapton
Orient first team. Three of them were later killed on the Western
Front. At the end of the year Walter Tull, who had played for
Tottenham Hotspur, Northampton Town and Glasgow Rangers, joined
the battalion. Major Frank Buckley soon recognised Tull's leadership
qualities and he was quickly promoted to the rank of Sergeant.
"On 15th January 1916, the Football Battalion reached the front
line. During a two-week period in the trenches, four members of
the battalion were killed and 33 were wounded. This included Vivian
Woodward who was hit in the leg with a hand grenade. The injury
to his right thigh was so serious that he was sent back to England
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"Woodward did not return to the Western Front until August 1916.
The Football Battalion had taken heavy casualties during the Somme
offensive in July. This included the death of England international
footballer, Evelyn Lintott. The battle was still going on when
Woodward arrived but the fighting was less intense. However, on
18th September a German attack involving poison gas killed
14 members of the battalion.
"Major Frank Buckley was also seriously injured during this offensive
when metal shrapnel had hit him in the chest and had punctured
his lungs. George Pyke, who played for Newcastle United, later
wrote: 'A stretcher party was passing the trench at the time.
They asked if we had a passenger to go back. They took Major Buckley
but he seemed so badly hit, you would not think he would last
out as far as the Casualty Clearing Station.' Buckley was sent
to a military hospital in Kent and after operating on him, surgeons
were able to remove the shrapnel from his body. However, his lungs
were badly damaged and he was never able to play football again.
"William Angus played for Glasgow Celtic before joining the 8th
Battalion, Highland Light Infantry. On 11th June, Lieutenant James
Martin led a covert bombing raid on an embankment in front of
the German trenches. The party was spotted and the enemy detonated
a large mine hidden in the earth. Martin was one of the causalities
of the explosion. At first, he was thought to be dead, but he
was seen to move as he pleaded for water from the Germans. The
soldiers responded by throwing a grenade over the parapet.
"As soon as he heard what had happened, William Angus volunteered
to attempt a rescue of the man who also came from Carluke. At
first this was vetoed by senior officers who considered it a suicidal
mission. Angus replied that it did not matter much whether death
came now or later. Eventually, Brigadier General Lawford gave
permission for Angus to try and save Martin.
"A rope was tied around William Angus so that he could be dragged
back if killed or seriously wounded. Angus managed to reach Martin
by crawling through No Man's Land without being detected. He gave
him a drink of brandy before attaching the rope to Martin. Angus
then tried to carry Martin back to the safety of the British trench
70 yards away. However, once upright, Angus was soon seen by the
Germans and he came under heavy fire. Angus was hit and he fell
to the ground. For the next few minutes he sheltered Martin with
his own body. Angus then signalled to the British troops to pull
Martin to safety. He then set off at right angles to the trench,
drawing the enemy fire away from Martin. Despite being hit several
times, he managed to drag himself back to the trenches. His injuries
resulted in him losing his left eye and part of his right foot.
"His commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Gemmill later wrote
that, 'No braver deed was ever done in the history of the British
Army.' For this act of bravery William Angus became the first
professional footballer to be awarded the Victoria Cross. Angus'
citation read: 'For most conspicuous gallantry and devotion to
duty at Givenchy, on 12th June 1915, in voluntarily leaving his
trench under very heavy fire and rescuing an officer who was lying
within a few yards of the enemy position. Lance Corporal Angus
had no chance of escaping the enemy's fire when undertaking this
very gallant action, and in effecting the rescue he sustained
about forty wounds from bombs,
some of them being very serious.'
"It has been argued that Donald Bell, a defender with Bradford
City, was the first professional footballer to join the British
Army after the outbreak of the War. He enlisted as a Private but
by June, 1915 he had a commission in the Yorkshire Regiment. Two
days after his marriage in November 1915, he was sent to France.
"Second Lieutenant Bell took part in the Somme offensive. On
5th July he stuffed his pockets with grenades and attacked an
enemy machine gun post. When he attempted to repeat this feat
five days later he was killed. He was awarded a posthumous Victoria
Cross for his action."
Such acts of bravery and selflessness are legion in the history
of the Great War and it seems more fitting to remember them than
the accusations of cowardice and self-preservation which were
laid at the doors of those who were considered, even then, pampered
and overpaid dilettantes.
Part 2 Ten years in the making
- Part 3 Erratic in the extreme
- Results and table
- printer friendly version
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