The End of the War in Europe and Church Gresley (3)

In my most recent post on this topic, I looked at the RAF team in a celebration match played in Church Gresley, the neighbouring village to the one where I grew up. The game took place on May 9th 1945 to commemorate the end of the war in Europe. We have already looked at the RAF team:

It was captained by Raich Carter, the only man to have won the FA Cup both before and after the war. The people are King George VI, the Queen and a young Raich Carter. Adolf Hitler is fooling nobody with that dyed blond hair:

The other star player was Peter Doherty of Northern Ireland:

Here is what I found out about the players of Gresley Rovers (Selected) who opposed them. A very large proportion of the information came from the superb Player Database, which is now a feature of the Gresley FC website, having appeared for many years on the Gresley Rovers website.

Most of the Gresley players were local men and worked “down pit” as miners. Being a miner was a reserved occupation so they were not involved in combat situations. It is true to say, though, that many miners did a job which was statistically much more dangerous than that of many soldiers or sailors. This is a picture of what was then a heavily industrialised area, with clay and coal mining as well as the fabrication of huge pipes for drains and sewers:

The first section shows the defence of the Gresley Rovers (Selected) team, the price of this single sheet programme and the recipients of any charity money which was raised :

I traced a great deal about the goalkeeper. John Proudman, but none of it was because John had a long and happy life.

Tragically, he was killed on September 23rd 1950 while playing in a Leicestershire Senior League game for Moira United against Quorn Methodists at Quorn, a little village in Leicestershire. During the first five minutes of the game he fell very heavily as he tried to make a save. He finished up at Harlow Wood Hospital in Mansfield, where, sadly, he died from a fractured spine on September 24th. He was only 27 years old. His first ever appearance for Rovers had been on September 9th 1943 against the RAF ‘T’ (won 5-1) and the final one of his 71 games for Rovers came on May 4th 1946 against Melton Town (lost 1-2). After that he played for Newhall United and then Moira United. John was a miner and he worked at Cadley Hill Colliery near Swadlincote.  The Gresley FC Online database has a brief account of John’s performance in this game against all the stars:

“My father worked at Cadley Hill pit with John Proudman and told me about an exhibition game that John played in for Gresley Rovers, when amongst the opposition was the legendary Raich Carter. During the game Carter hit one of his trademark powerful drives which John Proudman managed to get in the way of, the ball cannoning off his chest before he could grasp it. At work the following day he stripped off his shirt to show Raich Carter’s ‘autograph’, a round red imprint of the heavy case ball, complete with panels, in the centre of his chest.”

This is John’s photograph. To put his tragic death in context, in the whole world, only 6 men died playing football between 1919-1939, as far as we know, and only one between 1939-1959:

The right full back, Bill Halsey, who was originally going to play but did not actually appear, played 30 games for Rovers in 6 years. He made his debut against Woodville Athletic on April 8th 1944 (won 7-1) and appeared for the last time against Retford Town on May 4th 1950 (won 3-1). Here’s Bill:

I have been unable to trace anything about the WHF Wright who is written in near his name, except that it is not Billy Wright the England football captain. He was William Ambrose Wright. Here he is again:

Arthur Marston, the right half, played 130 times for Rovers making his début on April 27th 1938 against Whitwick Holy Cross (won 4-0) and taking a final bow on March 19th 1947 against Kettering Town Reserves (result unrecorded). Despite being primarily a defender, he scored 15 goals.

The centre half, Eric Rose, made 140 appearances but scored only twice. His first appearance had been against Ensor Sports on November 25th 1944 (won 10-0, King scored 7 goals, Rose, 1 goal) and his final game, like Halsey, came on May 14th 1950 at home to Retford Town. Here’s Eric:

Left half Collier made his first team debut way back on November 6th 1926 against Bromsgrove Rovers (lost 1-3). He hung up his boots twenty years later on February 22nd 1946 against Holwell Works (won 8-0). The database says that he played most frequently for the Reserves, but I would presume that the  71 appearances and 13 goals quoted in the Player Database are for the First Team. This total was fewer than 4 games per season. What a modest unassuming servant for the club! Is that why they let him play in this glamour game? Let’s hope so.

The left full back, Marshall, was a guest player to give Rovers a chance against all of the visiting superstars. He is actually Jack Marshall (1917-1998) who played for Burnley from 1936-1948. In later years, he was the manager at Rochdale, Blackburn Rovers, Sheffield Wednesday and Bury. On Boxing Day 1963, he reached, literally, the pinnacle of his career, when Blackburn Rovers occupied the top spot in Division One for just one day….

They think it’s all over….well, not yet it isn’t!





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

14 responses to “The End of the War in Europe and Church Gresley (3)

  1. What a terrible accident that was, John Proudman’s death must be unique, I’ve never heard of anyone suffering in that way in a game before.

    • There have been just isolated incidents over history with none now for quite a few years because of better standards of general health. The most famous one was John Thomson of Celtic in 1931 .You can read the story at,_born_1909)

      • Good grief that’s one heck of a story and in many ways not surprising. Goalkeepers’ heads are often close to feet, arms or legs and collisions are quite common when jumping or diving for the ball. The list of deaths is surprising however, especially how many players were struck by lightning, even two at the same time! The early deaths are mainly blood related or infections, whilst the later ones are head injuries or heart related. There a definite pattern here as you say improvements in health and health care.

  2. Impressive research, John. Such a shame about John Proudman. A member of my cricket club in the ’60s died, aged 26, of a heart attack whilst playing football

    • Thank you, Derrick. It just isn’t something that anybody would even think about, although there was the Tottenham player who collapsed and was treated on the pitch. He was very lucky that there was a cardiac specialist in the crowd. If he’d been at a lower league club I think he would have succumbed.

  3. We had Phil Hughes (Test Cricketer) die from being hit on the side of the neck in a cricket match and you guys in England lost Richard Beaumont from a heart attack in 2012. It is so sad when any sportsman dies while playing.

    • Yes it is. It can also be terribly traumatic for anybody involved in the incident. The story of the Celtic goalkeeper reveals the dreadful effects it had on the man with whom he collided. The story is here,_born_1909)
      It’s in the paragraph called “Tributes” and reads:
      “Sam English was cleared of any blame in the incident but he was jeered by Scottish fans afterwards and moved south a year later to play with Liverpool. However, he quit the sport altogether in May 1938, he told a friend that since the accident that killed John Thomson he had “seven years of joyless sport”.

  4. Such a shame that John died so young. Strange how some lives evolve and others are cut short.
    Are there a lot of different events going on in the UK, in your area, with the RAF 100th?

  5. I think it must boil down to that old services belief that “If your number is up, it’s up”, but it is very strange. After teaching for nearly 40 years it’s amazing how many of the boys I knew have already passed away. Sadly, most are down to disease, car crash or suicide which tragically, is one of the foremost causes of death among young males in England.
    I haven’t heard of anything special around Nottingham to celebrate the RAF’s birthday, but we are, by English standards, quite a way from the nearest RAF base which will be in Lincolnshire somewhere. I would think that in the USA they would probably count as next door neighbours!

  6. Great research as ever. Reminded me of the Bert Trautmann story and playing on in an F.A. cup final with a broken neck!

    Lincolnshire seems to have reinvented itself as ‘Bomber County’ and there is soon to be a massive Lancaster memorial alongside the A46 I think.

    This weekend I took my grandchildren to Sherwood Forest and we drove through Clipston. I was amazed to see the derelict pit head still there. My granddaughter was in awe and I told her what it was and how men went underground to dig coal, I think it was the first time she had been told such a story. When I first moved to West Hallam in Derbyshire the old winding gear was still there on the edge of the village but it is long gone now, on the way home I showed her where it used to be.

    • Thank you! I don’t know if the situation is any better nowadays, but the closure of the mines caused enormous misery in lots of places, with small towns like Ollerton and Worksop suddenly developing huge drug problems, for example. I would love to see the total cost of the end of mining in terms of unemployment benefit, housing benefit and all the other benefits available, plus the cost of policing places where the devil makes work for idle hands. Even dismantling the mines themselves must have cost money!
      At the moment it is known that just off the north east coast there are literally trillions of tons of coal. I wish thought could be given to using that as a fuel, possibly converting it to aviation fuel as the Germans did in WW2.
      I suppose overall, I don’t really understand how fossil fuels can be completely eliminated. I’m sure we could make radical improvements rather than just abandoning them completely.

  7. Again another well researched article, John. Beautiful job! I’ve seen your version of football and it is a very violent game. How shocking that someone actually died while playing the game. I’ve also read books about miners and their lives and how they suffered terrible lung diseases. I wish mining could be eliminated permanently.

    • Thanks very much Amy. Here in England, economic conditions have eliminated coal mining completely and all the mines have now closed down. The only thing we still have are people who mine for copper, tungsten and small quantities of gold, but that too will depend on world prices and it is very small scale.

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