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Everton at War?

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Apologies to any who think I may be straying too far away here from current matters Everton but bear with me.

Largely brought up by my Grandparents, I was aware he had fought in the 1st World War and was in one of the "Liverpool Pals" regiments. Briefly, these guys all joined up in 1915 on the back of a recruiting drive by Lord Derby and, as you would expect from the name, they were encouraged to join up with their mates from work, clubs etc... and join they did in their thousands.

My Grandfather, for instance, played football for St Saviour's Everton, and family history has it the team joined up together, with sadly not too many coming back when it was all over. Graham Maddocks has written a brilliant history of The Liverpool Pals if anyone is interested. In the slaughter of the first day of the Somme, they were the only part of the British offensive that took their objective, attacking from the village of Maricourt up a hill to capture Montaubin in a textbook operation. (Actually it wasn't just Scousers,they did have the Manchester Pals alongside them.)

I took Maddock's book to France in 1997 and followed their route as best I could, and standing in Maricourt looking up that hill brought one hell of a lump into my throat, I can tell you. Things went pear-shaped after the success at Montaubin in that, a month later, on the 30th July, they attacked their next objective, Guillemont. This attack failed and was one of the blackest days in Liverpool's history in that 500 Liverpool lads were killed in one day.

All-in-all, by 1919, The City Battalions had lost 2,800 men. They were the first Pals Regiment to be formed, and the last to be stood down at the end of the war.

Today I was listening to an interview with a representative of Leyton Orient FC who was saying what a close knit "family club" they have always been. This even stretched to them maintaining a memorial to players lost in the Great War ? and that was what prompted me to write this piece.

So here is the crux of this little history lesson (sorry if I've bored you, but I truly hope I haven't): Does anyone know what happened to the Everton team that existed at the start of WW1? Did they join up as part of a Pals regiment or any other? How many of them survived the slaughter I wonder?

I'd be interested if anyone has any information. Maybe The David France Everton Collection might shed some light I suppose.
Howard Don, Ormskirk     Posted 21/02/2011 at 19:42:47

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Eugene Ruane
1   Posted 22/02/2011 at 03:57:08

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A very interesting piece Howard, I'd also love to know what happened to them.
Gavin Ramejkis
2   Posted 22/02/2011 at 07:53:22

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I would have thought the club themselves would have had some form of scroll of honour from the time in Goodison Park itself. Back then being in the armed forces wasn't frowned upon and returning troops certainly weren't allowed to be castigated by minority groups the way they are today. David France would be a great starting point as the man is the leading fountain of knowledge on all things Everton.
Dick Fearon
3   Posted 22/02/2011 at 09:51:15

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In a similar vein to Howard's tale, at the outbreak of World War 1, every player plus the entire committee of Perth club Bassendean Caledonians FC volunteered. At war's end, only the club secretary made it back to Perth West Australia.
Loss of life in that war and the next one was horrific. The Caledonians club survives to this day and is one of the oldest clubs in Australia.

On a different and happier note, Rolf Harris comes from the same area and is known locally as the boy from Bassendean.
Peter Webster
4   Posted 22/02/2011 at 10:24:22

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Thanks, Howard, a great article. I've been trying to learn about my grandad's part in WW1. He was a machine gun sergeant and took part in various trench raids armed with medieval clubs and stillettos for hand-to-hand fighting. Makes me shudder. He was such a quiet man and in later life had a printer's shop in Mercer Rd in Garston.
Liam Reilly
5   Posted 22/02/2011 at 10:23:38

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I don't know what happened to them but I'll bet Bill Kenwright had something to do with it.

Seriously though, stories like this really bring home the futility of war.
Gavin Ramejkis
6   Posted 22/02/2011 at 11:01:30

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Peter #4, one of my uncles is researching the family tree and got a lot of details on his grandad back from the MoD archives, apparently he survived Gallipoli W beach landings and battles only to be killed later in action elsewhere. It's amazing Boy's Own stuff when you find out the details.
Tom Hughes
7   Posted 22/02/2011 at 11:51:00

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This site might be of some interest:

I read a few pages of it recently and remembered a few mentions of ex-players pre-WW1..... I think a scan of all surnames may produce more. With at least 2 under "G" if I remember rightly.
Peter Anthony
8   Posted 22/02/2011 at 11:57:57

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Thank you Howard, a very interesting piece.

Huge thankyou to your Grandfather too and all the countless other soldiers for the great service they gave (and those today who continue to give).

I too would be interested to know more.

Charles King
9   Posted 22/02/2011 at 12:52:08

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Thanks Howard, whenever I read about this and subsequent eras leading up to the 60s it's easy to see how the magical bond evolved between football clubs and their local support. People who lived through unimaginable hardship proud of local lads who were part of a shared experience.

I worry that it is no longer the case and the next generation of supporters will wonder what relevance today's players have to their lives. This model of football is on thin ice.
Tom Hughes
10   Posted 22/02/2011 at 13:04:16

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Just opened David France's book: "Dr Everton's Magnificent obsession" at page181. Apparently we had an amateur keeper pre WW1 who's name was Leigh Richmond Roose, he died on the Somme after winning a military medal for bravery.
Sean Callaghan
11   Posted 22/02/2011 at 13:20:17

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Hi Howard. That spurred my interest and I've spent all morning looking into it how many Everton players died in the First War. From what I can make out, the answer is thankfully not that many, if any at all.

I had a look on the official site for players from the 1913-14 and 1914-15 seasons (in each season we used 22 and 27 players, respectively). The OS gives quite a bit of info as to where players went post-Everton, so that narrowed things down somewhat ? all but less than half a dozen of the 1913-15 players went on to have post-war careers.

Cross-referencing those remaining players (of whom nothing ? in a footballing sense ? is known) with information on the Commonwealth War Graves website, as well as various local War memorials, leads me to the following potential fallen Evertonians.

William Stevenson (01/01/1886, Accrington) (Last game 25/04/1914)

?STEVENSON, Pte. William, 6865 (1st Bn., East Lancs. Regt.); lived at 7 South Street, Huncoat; k.i.a. 1st July 1916; bd. Redan Ridge Cem. No. 2, Beaumont Hamel.?

Leslie Johnston (01/01/1890, Liverpool) (Last game 25/12/1913)
The war graves' commission lists a number of Leslie Johnstons - I can't categoriacally say, however, whether or not anyone of these Leslie Johnstons was the Evertonian.

Likewise William Hodge ? many William Hodges are listed, many of whom would be of around the right sort of age. 'Our' William Hodge was born in Kilwinning, Ayreshire, though and is not listed on that particular town's war memorial.

I haven't researched those players that left the club during the 1914 season ? quite a few got transferred. I'll do that another time (I'd better get back to doing the job I'm paid to do!)

One thing that strikes me, btw, is how few Merseysiders there were in the team back then... like you, Howard, I had vision of the players joning the Pals battalions. The majority of the EFC players at that time weren't particularly local though, and had been bought in from Scotland, Ireland and beyond.

Alex Barker
12   Posted 22/02/2011 at 13:57:32

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I have been doing some research recently after having discovered that the Football Association dedicated a memorial to all the footballers who died or were injured in the First World War. My grandfather was seriously injured and his name is on the memorial along with a quotation.

My grandfather, Jack Borthwick, came to play for Everton around 1908, he had transferred to Millwall when war broke out, and joined the Footballers Battalion 17th Middlesex Regiment. He sustained a serious injury in 1916 and returned to Liverpool where he was the publican at the Winslow for many years.

There is a book well worth reading by Andrew Riddoch, "When the Whistle Blows" which details the role of the footballers who fought in the war. Andrew is also leading a day trip to the battlefields of the First World War in July this year specifically looking at the footballers' involvement.

I was interested to read the posts and would welcome any more information.
Larry Boner
13   Posted 22/02/2011 at 16:31:58

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I would be as interested in the people who supported Everton, who gave their lives, as much as the people who played for Everton.

My grandad, Lou Boner, lost his right arm in the Great War, a first generation Italian, son of Marco Boni, he went on to be a boxing promoter in Liverpool, a friend of Dixie Dean, putting on shows at the stadium etc.

Footballers are not gods, often the people who follow football are more interesting than the players; but nowadays... well, with a lot of people, their lives and actions are front page news. We will never see the New Zealand quake rescuers as heroes, but as temporary page fillers.

Howard Don
14   Posted 22/02/2011 at 17:17:03

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Thanks for all your comments and leads, all very interesting stuff.

Peter (4), as Gavin mentions you can write to the MOD for info. Unfortunately many WW1 records were destroyed in the WW2 bombing raids. This was the case with my Grandfather, they do warn you of this before you pay your fee. Thanks Tom for your leads I'll follow them up.

Sean (11) interesting stuff, it just shows football was a very mobile profession even in those days.

Alex (12), I'll set my wife looking for Riddoch's book, she's a fanatic on WW1 stuff, and it will be one more book on the shelf!

Good point Larry (13) of course we shouldn't forget the supporters, I wonder how many were lost. Bet they spent many an hour in the trenches talking about games/players etc but probably not potential billionaire owners!

What I should have mentioned was when Graham Maadocks first published his Pals history he promised to use some of the proceeds to erect a memorial to the Guys from the Regiment in the village of Montaubin. I can vouch for the fact he was as good as his word, it's been in place for many years now.

Tom Hughes
15   Posted 22/02/2011 at 18:34:05

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In terms of fans, as regards my family: My great Grandfather (a Boer War veteran), his brother, Grandfather and several Great Uncles all fought in the First World War. All except one were in the Kings Liverpool Regt, 8th Battn (Irish).

My Great Grandfather's brother, Christopher Donovan, was the only one in the Royal Irish Regt.... he never came home. One of my Great Grandfather's sons, Thomas Donovan, was previously announced missing in action, but turned up in a hospital months later, after which he was medically discharged (his uncle Chris had only joined up to avenge his nephew's supposed death).

Thomas Donovan himself died only a couple of years after the war due to complications arising from his injuries. He left a wife and two kids.... his wife almost lived to be 100, and was a widow for over 70 years. All were avid Evertonians. My Great Grandad had watched the blues from their Anfield days upto the begining of the 2nd World war, and only gave pocket money to his many grand kids if Everton won.

Tony Wainwright
16   Posted 22/02/2011 at 20:37:16

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A great article. I also have a passion for Everton and the Great War. I am currently researching the Liverpool Pals you referred to in your post. There is a new group set up to honour the memory of the men of the Liverpool Pals and they are having a public launch at Liverpool Town Hall on 23/03 at 14:30 - 17:00. Their aim is to raise funds to have a public memorial put in place.

A lot of the Pals will have been Evertonians and will have witnessed our 1906 FA Cup win and also our Championship Team of 1914-15, we were reigning champions when football ceased at the end of the 14-15 season, funnily enough we were champions at the outbreak of WW2 as well. No wonder the world held its breadth for WW3 when the cuban crisis blew because we had a great side then!!!!

On the WW1 front I have so far discovered Leigh rouse as our only playing casualty. He was a Welsh international Goalkeeper who played 18 games for us in 1904-05 when we finished runners up in the league and lost in the semi final of the FA cup. His details are available in the excellent book Everton Football Club 1878-1946 by John K Rowlands. Another player had a son who was killed and he was a Liverpool Pal, his name was Ellis Molyneux, his father George played for us. The most fascinating link I have found is to CD Everton of Chile, our opponents in the friendly in August. One of their founder members was a man named Frank Boundy who was an ex pat living in Valparaiso at the outbreak of war. He returned home, joined the Pals and was unfortunately Killed in Action on the 30/07/1916 at Guillemont.

I hope this is of use to you and I haven't bored everyone else in the process. Anybody who wishes to come to the meeting on 23/03 is more than welcome.
Howard Don
17   Posted 23/02/2011 at 06:51:57

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Tony (16) thanks for that. I'd certainly like to be there on 23/03 if I can get a way from work that day. Do you just walk up or do I need to notify anybody?.
Derek Thomas
18   Posted 23/02/2011 at 07:44:15

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Lions lead by donkeys... a bit like us really.

What a waste, during my days at Old Cathinians we used to train in the School grounds at St Edwards Collegeproir to being allowed on the council piches at Yewtree, just past the Bulldog.

In the cloakrooms/toilets is a plaque to Honour an Old Boy whose name now escapes me. He was killed around 9.00am on 11th of November.

' We' had to keep on until the very end to show the Boche that we meant business and they were the ones that would be doing the actual surrendering.

I think Patrick Moore summed it up when asked if he thought there was intellegent life on other worlds stated...I'm not even sure there is intellegent life on this one.
Alex Barker
19   Posted 23/02/2011 at 13:49:41

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This might be of interest
David Price
20   Posted 23/02/2011 at 14:08:27

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My great grandfather survived the Somme, Harry Farrington... I'm guessing he would've been in the Liverpool Pals that joined up. My Uncle tells me when he was little, Harry would show him the wound from a shrapnel burst that tore into his back. He said "i remember being able to put my fist inside the dented skin".

Harry was an Evertonian and the big freeze in 62-63 gave him pneumonia, walking to the match in the arctic conditions. The day before he died, he told his wife that he was feeling a lot better and was going to Goodison the next day. He never made it.


Tony Wainwright
21   Posted 23/02/2011 at 16:38:01

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Howard, (17)

You should be able to just walk up. The council chamber holds about 220. There will be a few speakers including Steve Binns who is the council historian and a massive Blue. Hopefully a good day for anyone with an interest in the Pals.
Dennis Stevens
22   Posted 01/03/2011 at 00:28:33

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Re Leigh Richmond Roose, I've just been reading his biography, "Lost In France: The Remarkable Life and Death of Leigh Richmond Roose, Football's First Play Boy" & heartily recommend it, even though the Everton element is quite a small part of his life.

The season he played for Everton we should have been Champions, but for a bizzarre turn of events whereby a match Everton seemed to be winning comfortably against Woolwich Arsenal was abandoned towards the end of the game by the Referee, despite protest from players on both sides. Unfortunately this match was then rescheduled to be played at the end of the season, resulting in a ridiculous series of matches in the space of a few days & the title slipping from out grasp & into the paws of Newcastle United.

Leigh Richmond Roose let William Cuff know his opinion of the fixture rescheduling in no uncertain terms & never played for the club again. Nonetheless, the man probably invented a more modern style of goalkeeping & should really be remembered as a great pioneering player.

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