The End of the War in Europe and Church Gresley (2)

Last time I talked about an old single sheet football programme. It was for a match played literally one day after the war ended in Europe, on May 9th 1945. The programme was for “Gresley Rovers (Selected) v RAF”.  The top two stars in the RAF team were Raich Carter and Peter Doherty, both highly rated international players of the era, the equivalents, perhaps, of a younger Steven Gerrard and an older Kevin de Bruyne:


Here are Sergeant Carter and Flight Sergeant Doherty on the programme which is quite tatty, but does contain a large number of autographs in pencil. This is what pushed the price up at auction. Here is the RAF attack, if I can use that phrase:

I have been unable to trace either Sergeant Wilder of Tranmere Rovers or Sergeant Thompson of Bolton Wanderers. Sergeant Jim Durnie may be the Jim Durnie who moved from Annbank United Junior Football Club to Glasgow Rangers but I have not been able to find any dates for this, so I am not totally certain.  Glasgow Rangers were a huge team at the time. Here is their massive stadium, Ibrox:

On this second picture, of the RAF defence, there are autographs for Messrs Griffiths, Horner and McDowell, but not for the rest:

Flight Sergeant Griffiths’ club has been altered to Manchester United and there is another autograph in a blueish colour reading diagonally towards the top right corner. I think it begins with George and the surname may be Hardemer or Vardemer or something very vaguely like it. It may even be George Hardwick. Of him, more later.

All in all, I have had very little luck with my detective work for this section. I have been unable to find anything for either Downing, Horner or McDowell.

Flight Sergeant Griffiths is the Jack Griffiths who played for Wolverhampton Wanderers, Bolton Wanderers, and Manchester United during the 1930s. His football career came to an end because of the Second World War, but he played 58 times for United during the war and also guested for Derby County, Notts County, Port Vale, Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion. After the RAF he became player-coach of Hyde United. Here he is, frozen in time on an old cigarette card:

Sergeant Wright is unlikely to be Billy Wright, the England captain, because he was in the Army at the time, but it cannot be completely excluded if the team were short of RAF players. Here he is, practicing for his meeting with Puskás in seven years’ time:

Timms, the goalkeeper, I could not trace beyond the guess that he may be the W Timms who played only five times for Gresley Rovers, making his début against Bolsover Colliery in the Derbyshire Divisional Cup Final on April 8th 1939 (lost 0-5). His fifth and final game came, amazingly, just 14 days later against Quorn Methodists on the 22nd (won 5-0). “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away”, as you might say!

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11 Comments

Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, Derby County, Football, History, Personal

11 responses to “The End of the War in Europe and Church Gresley (2)

  1. Nice research, good post!

    • Thanks very much. There’s more results of my researches to come, especially about the Gresley team where, much to my surprise, I discovered that one player had a history almost unique in world football.

  2. The more I learn, the more i realize just how big a role sports plays in the military. I recently acquired “Soldiers First” about football at West Point and i have done articles on sport involvement. This research is fantastic, John.

  3. Thank you very much. In England, I think it was during initial training for the First World War that it was realised that team games were extremely useful. They kept men fit in an interesting and pleasant way, and they also fostered team spirit and group loyalty although teams had to be changed every now and then, and “Officers v Other Ranks” was not really a very good idea.

  4. It just goes to show how both rewarding and frustrating research can be! Great post as always!

    • Thanks very much. I have some of those books such as “Arsenal: a Complete Record” which detail every match played back to a club’s foundation. Because they came out largely in the 1990s they don’t include the Premier League, hence you can pick them up for a penny plus postage on Amazon if it’s a big team such as Manchester United or City. Books full of hundreds of forgotten men who have done just as much as the players nowadays, except for the money!

  5. Again, John, your research is par excellent! You are incredible! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

    • Thank you very much, Amy, you are very kind. A lot of people have said that I’m incredible but you are hopefully one of the very few who meant it in a positive way. Usually, it is said because I have yet again been pushing back the frontiers of stupid things to do, especially in the kitchen.

  6. brenda marston

    Hi John, I have an identical programme, with several autographs, as my Dad was Arthur Marston. He has written Captain under his name, and I guess he was very excited to have played with them all. Family story has it that Arthur was about to sign for Liverpool, when the war broke out, so his career was cut short,
    all the best, Brenda

    • Thanks very much for your contribution. It must have been quite a day in Church Gresley. It is actually mentioned in Raich Carter’s autobiography so it must have made quite an impression on him. More to come on this match in the future, so keep reading!!

  7. brenda marston

    Just noticed it has 5 written after each team name, so maybe it was a draw. Also, Spurs written underneath Thompson,
    Yes, it must have been quite a day.

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