A Good Man doesn’t Stand By (2)

In the late spring of 1934, just as Hitler was consolidating his Nazi hold on the German state, Derby County toured Nazi Germany for a series of friendly matches.  At the time, two years before the Berlin Olympics, many Britons were still blissfully unaware of the political turmoil unfolding in central Europe, and the frightening rise of the Nazi Party and their shamelessly racist attitudes.
The Derby contingent took a train to Dover and then a cross-Channel steamer to Ostend. They dutifully practiced their Seig Heiling and their Heil Hitlering on the boat:

derby practice

They eventually reached the German border to find the swastika emblem flying everywhere they looked:


The Germans, to a man, worshipped Adolf Hitler. He couldn’t even go out for a football paper on a Saturday night without bringing the place to a complete standstill:


The four matches which Derby played were all against teams designated as a “German XI”. The Rams lost their first match by 5-2 in Frankfurt but then drew 1-1 in Dortmund. Here are Derby running out at the start of the game. Some of those Hitler salutes could take your eye out if you weren’t ready for them:

running out

Here is a scene thought to be from that game:

derby at playxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Derby lost by 5-0 in Cologne. We have a picture of the team going for a run to warm up before the match:


After two defeats at the hands of the Master Race, Derby triumphed in their last game in Dusseldorf by 1-0.

Here is the start of that game:

start of gameccccccccccccccccccccccccccc

On the advice of the Foreign Office, to please Adolf Hitler, all the Derby players had been instructed to give the Nazi salute, with right arms outstretched, just before the start of every single game.

Before his death, at the age of 83 in 1989, Rams full-back George Collin, who was the captain of the Derby County team for the second half of the tour, when full back Tommy Cooper left the party to play for England, recalled how:

“We told the manager, George Jobey, that we didn’t want to do it. He spoke with the directors, but they said that the British ambassador insisted we must.

“He said that the Foreign Office were afraid of causing an international incident if we refused. It would be a snub to Hitler at a time when international relations were so delicate.

“So we did as we were told. All except our goalkeeper, Jack Kirby, that is.”


Jack Kirby was from old South Derbyshire mining stock and he was adamant that when the players were asked to perform the Nazi salute, he, quite simply, would not do it:

“When the time came, he just kept his arm down and almost turned his back on the dignitaries. At the time nobody really noticed and nothing was said. It was only years later, with hindsight, that we can see what he is doing on the photograph. He is a lot better known for it now.”

There is, in actual fact, a famous photograph taken just before one of the matches which proves this very point. Jack Kirby, looks down the Derby County line up with utter disdain. His hands are firmly by his sides, and he looks rather embarrassed. He clearly does not know where to put himself, as he waits for the imminent start of the match. His ten white shirted colleagues all duly salute the Führer.

So Hitler went unheiled by at least one Englishman. And at least one Seig would remain equally unheiled:

enlarge thisxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

And here is Jack the Hero anti-Nazi Fighter in close up:

derby nazi closer

Jack Kirby may have been a rather lackadaisical character to be the goalkeeper of a top First Division team, but he was not slow to stand out from the rest. He was not slow to make sure that he would not be the good man who did nothing and let evil prosper. He refused adamantly to kowtow to the Fascist bully-boys:

Jack Kirby left Derby County in August 1938 he became player-manager of Folkestone Town, a position he held until August 1939. And then war broke out.

And million upon million of innocent people were slaughtered. Many of them children. How different it might have been if one or two people with real power had done something when they had the chance and not just stood idly by, giving evil the chance to prosper.

Never again.



Filed under Criminology, Derby County, Football, History, Politics

34 responses to “A Good Man doesn’t Stand By (2)

  1. Jack Kirby really was a hero. I am certain that had the rest of the players (and coaching staff/manager who instructed them to salute) had realised the horrors that were to come, they would have followed Jack Kirby’s example.

    • Yes, they would. And a few years later, they were all asked to risk their lives to fight back against the Germans and they did it without hesitation. . It’s just that I enjoyed the contrast between Jack’s lack of real focus in his ordinary life and then this sudden political gesture in what were actually quite dangerous surroundings.

  2. The man stuck to his guns [in a manner of speaking].

    • They all did eventually! What a pity that when Hitler took his armies into the demilitarised Rhineland, the French did not stamp all over him. By his own later admission, he was amazed that they did not. The problem was that for France and Britain, they did not want another war. The British still had 15%-20% of their GDP paying for the war, especially invalids, one in 20 adult men killed and the French were even worse off. Areas of southern France are still depopulated because of WW1.

      • I recall so little about WWI from my history lessons. I really should correct that when I finish this blog. Thank you for taking the time to educate me further.

  3. It is a pity that Jack Kirby wasn’t Prime Minister instead of Chamberlain!

    • Chamberlain was a typical product of his class system. Like Haig, he was promoted way beyond his real capabilities and when faced with wily determined working class people like the Nazis, he was lost. It’s interesting how people keep trying to be nice…”He bought us time….he genuinely thought he was doing well” and so on. The only positive in the late 1930s was the fact that somebody in the RAF had the sense to start building monoplane fighters like the Spitfire and Hurricane. The Army was dreadful and the Navy not far behind.

  4. What a brave man! It’s a shame there aren’t more like him especially those in power! Some of the others in the photo do look a little sheepish, perhaps they were against the idea but succumbed to the pressure from those above to conform – sadly.

    • A retiring teacher once said in his farewell speech that he had learnt one thing in life, “You can always find a reason for not doing something”. And that is the rest of the Derby team for me. They could all find a reason for not doing the decent thing and refusing to salute Hitler. Everyone except Jack Kirby, who just refused to take the orders of his supposed betters, and, even though he was a man who knew a lot more about beer and cigarettes than politics, he still managed to reach the right decision.

  5. I think I’ll remember that name from now on – Jack Kirby. Thank you for the story.

  6. Pingback: Silence! | johnsstorybook

  7. After World War I I don’t blame anybody for appeasement but in the end it didn’t avoid war. Sad. Did Kirby serve?

    • He was born in 1910 so he was not too old. Privacy laws over here mean that only the person himself or his next of kin can look up military records, so I don’t know to be honest. He was manager of a non-league team called Folkestone until he left in August 1939 so my guess is that he did join up. In England top sportsmen usually did one of two things….PT instructor or going round playing in exhibition games to keep up morale and prevent boredom. I know he was American, but my Dad, when he was in the RAF, saw Joe Louis boxing with local boxers, something he never ever forgot. There were one or two top British sportsmen who saw action, and were killed, but they were very much in the minority.

      • Don Bradman had a similar path here. He joined up but was older and ended up with a few medical issues but doing PT and morale raising was the intent at one point. I don’t care what you do, if you join up that’s significant to me. For example people are forgetting Ronald Reagan served stateside making training videos due to his eyesight as if somehow that means he’d have no concept of military service. I get he new nothing of combat or the hardships of just being posted to the Pacific but that’s going a bit far. Word on the street is that Joe Louis did a lot for segregated troops during his touring which is why the Uncle Tom comments stung so much later on.

      • Thank you to your Dad for his service John.

      • Seeing Joe Louis box would’ve been something special.

  8. Thank you. I somehow got the feeling that my Dad didn’t enjoy it as much as he thought he was going to when he joined up at 18!

  9. Wow, John, this story really moved me. Jack Kirby is a hero in my eyes and I’m sure he really took a chance by not saluting. What a shame politics have to poison football, or any sport for that matter. Great post and I thank you for again educating me. 🌺🌸💖

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it. I think we all educate each other with our blog posts. I would never normally converse with an Indian or an American or an Australian, but I can with these blog posts. They are one of the plus points about the Internet which tend to get forgotten in all the election rigging and bank account hacking that supposedly occurs.

  10. I’m from Folkestone and a supporter of Folkestone Invicta (season ticket holder for my sins). Great post! In a world of Trumps, IS and many other fascist and would be fascist states, maybe we should take a leaf out of Kirby’s book and stand up for our own beliefs and what we think is right.

    • I think the very fact that you support Folkestone Invicta shows that you are standing up for what you think is right. That’s the level of football where it is still the original game, not the Stock Exchange with a football.

  11. Dan Bishop

    As the current joint-manager of Newhall United and a historian of local history, especially sporting, I must say this article was very interesting and well-written.

    • Thank you very much for those kind words. I used to live in Woodville and I was a supporter of Gresley Rovers until they went bankrupt. I can remember games against Newhall United in the late 1960s, with the opposition in an all blue kit.
      And finally, whatever the future holds for Newhall United, I wish you all the success in the world. Football at your level is the lifeblood of the game.

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