Category Archives: Derby County

What would you do ? (4) The Solution

Here’s the problem from last time:

And the correct solution given on page 2 of the comic is:

“The referee would rule “No goal”. The rules of the game state that the ball must be a certain weight (14-16 ounces). He would then restart the game with a bounced ball at the spot where it was last kicked. The ball would be bounced between two opposing players. “

First, a few words of explanation. 14-16 ounces is between 0.40-0.45 kilos or 340-397 grams. Nowadays a “bounce-up”, as it is popularly known, is no longer contested between two opposing players, because it was found that having two burly men face up to each other and then having a football dropped between them, tended to encourage the players to kick each other rather than the ball. With aching shins, they would then start a punch-up as they argued.

Nowadays, I suspect that the ball would be given to the player who last kicked it with no opponent involved, but I’m not totally 100% sure of that. The “burst ball” has happened a number of times in football history. You can find quite a surprising number if you just google “burst ball in cup final”.

The two most famous times for a burst ball were firstly in 1946 when Charlton reached the FA Cup Final, only to lose 4-1 to Derby County in extra time. When the Derby centre-forward, Jackie Stamps, shot for goal in the closing minutes of normal time, the ball burst en route to the back of the net. A week earlier, when the same sides had met in the League, the match ball had also burst then. Here’s the winning Derby County team, complete with directors, the most important people in any successful football team:

The odds on this bizarre event happening again must have seemed very unlikely, but the following year in 1947, in the first live televised FA Cup final, Charlton reached the Final again, this time beating Burnley by 1-0. And again the ball burst!  The theory at the time was that because of the war, the quality of the leather in the balls was not what it should have been.  Here’s Charlton, in their white and black change kit:

19 Comments

Filed under Derby County, Football, History, Humour, Literature, Personal, Writing

“Hilarity with Heraldry” (3)

Last time I was looking at old football club badges from the late 1950s. Many clubs back then were using the heraldic coats of arms of their town or city. A fair proprtion of the rest, though, were using animals. Bolton Wanderers and Dumbarton in Scotland are presumably slow and ponderous yet very powerful in their play:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Derby County have a ram because of a folk song called “The Derby Ram”:

I was going to insert a link here to let you all hear the song that we sang in our junior school classes near Derby all those tears ago, but I decided not to. If you go to YouTube and search for “Derby Ram folk song” you’ll soon see my problem.

Leicestershire County Cricket team have a fox because the county was full of very keen foxhunting men and women and, indeed, children:Preston North End make use of the Paschal Lamb. “PP” stands for “Proud Preston”, who, in the 1880s, managed by the now long forgotten William Sudell, were the greatest team in the land:

Stoke City have a strange badge which, to me, features a humpless camel. Intrigued, I looked it up and it is indeed a camel. The Stoke City camel comes from an original camel featured on the badge of the nearby town of Hanley. The Hanley camel comes from the coat of arms of John Ridgway, the first Mayor of Hanley. Ridgway had his very own camel on his shield because Stoke is the home of a huge pottery industry. Indeed, Stoke City’s nickname is “The Potters”.  Anyway, John Ridgway included the camel in honour of the land of origin of the pottery industry, Egypt. You couldn’t make it up.

A few clubs have badges with birds on them. The first is West Bromwich Albion who were nicknamed “The Throstles” years ago:

A “throstle” is a dialect word in the English Midlands for a song thrush, turdus philomelos.

Albion play in blue and white stripes so that isn’t the reason for the bird. I will quote Tony Matthews, the club’s official historian:

“The club was formed in 1878 as ‘The Albion’. In 22 years the team was based at five different grounds before settling at ‘The Hawthorns’ in 1900. The new ground brought with it a new nickname ‘The Throstles’, as the song thrush was a commonly seen bird in the hawthorn bushes from which the area took its name.”

This is the effigy of a ‘throstle’ at the current WBA ground in West Bromwich. It has been rescued after renovations and is about five or six feet high.

Sheffield Wednesday came from a district of the city called “Owlerton” and played when it was half day closing on Wednesdays, rather like the Welsh team, Abergavenny Thursday. Norwich, nicknamed “The Canaries”, play in green and yellow, the latter colour always strongly denied as merely representative of the city’s main employer, Colman’s Mustard. An image search might persuade you otherwise, though:

Other teams have particular birds on their shields because of the colour of their shirts. Cardiff City are the Bluebirds, Swansea City are the Swans, Bristol City are the Robins, and both Notts County and Newcastle United, in black and white are the Magpies:

And here’s one of Notts County’s many different badges, In this case, it’s the Ladies’ Team:

Flowers are often used as badges but hardly ever in football. In rugby this is the emblem of the Blackheath Club. It shows a piece of black heather, as a kind of pun:

In Heraldry such rib ticklers are called “canting arms”. Here are the shields of families called Shelley, Wellwood and Keyes:

This is a Spanish effort representing ‘Castile and Léon’ or ‘Castle and Lion’.

The arms of the city of Oxford seems to have been heavily influenced by student drug use in the 1960s:

London Irish uses the Irish national plant and the two cricket clubs, Glamorgan and Lancashire, use the daffodil and the red rose respectively:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Next time, badges with a story behind them.

 

15 Comments

Filed under Derby County, Football, History, Humour, Personal, Wildlife and Nature

Eagle Comic (3)

Last time we were trying very hard to get the Ovaltineys song out of our heads. I was trying to make the point that Dan Dare was not the only character in the comic:

Eagle had sporting personalities. I have even written myself about the first one ever to appear:

There was cricket coaching, and, thirty years before its time, and in a largely all white society, it was presented by a black man, Leary Constantine, a cricketer who achieved more in his life than most of  us do:

There were features about how to make models:

There were two written serials with solid text rather than just pictures. “Plot against the World” was the first ever to appear:

There was a half page about road safety. It was presented by Billy Steel, the famous Derby County footballer of the day:

During the 1950s lots and lots of children would be killed on the roads, because the drivers in England knew very little about how to drive safely and the children of England, accustomed to just a couple of cars a day going past, had very little road sense. Around 1963, a little boy in our class called Nigel Sparrow was killed by a car as he cycled along country lanes looking for bluebells for his mother. He was in hospital for two weeks or so before he passed away. We prayed for him every day in our school assembly but it was all in vain. He succumbed to his injuries and died. That was the first time I ever had any serious doubts about the religion I had been given. I think about Nigel regularly, poor little boy.

Billy Steel offered a lot of very good advice:

He offered advice a lot better than he played football for Derby County.

Years ago, I actually wrote about him, but only in the context of my Dad, Fred, who thought he was “a right twerp”:

“As regards football players, in the late 1940s, Fred was always less than impressed by Derby’s then record signing, a young man they bought as they attempted to stop their slow but inexorable slide out of the First Division. This was a handsome young forward called Billy Steel, whose dark tousled hair was, for Fred, his best, and probably only, positive feature. Fred was just unable to stomach how Steel would miss an easy chance to score a goal, and then merely laugh about it as if it were nothing important.”

Next time, the other features that made Eagle the best selling comic in English history:

16 Comments

Filed under Aviation, Derby County, Film & TV, Football, History, Literature, Personal, Science, Writing

Fred joins the RAF (2)

By 1941, inspired no doubt in part by the exploits of “The Few” in the previous year’s Battle of Britain, Fred had made up his mind to join the RAF. To do this, he had to walk to the recruiting office in Derby, a journey he had made so many times before with his father to see Derby County play football at the Baseball Ground:

It was a lot less built up and a lot quieter in 1941 than it is now:

Fred duly arrived at a two storey building in the middle of  Derby, where all three of the services were busily enrolling volunteers.

As he walked in, Fred was immediately offered a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Sherwood Foresters, but he refused this generous opportunity and continued on up the stairs to the RAF. Here, he was asked to spell two words correctly, and he had passed their entrance examination. The words were “horizon” and “bicycle”. Fred was now a proud member of the RAF, an organisation which most of the population believed were “the cream of the nation”. He would wear this for the best part of five years:

When Fred returned home, he told his parents what he had done. His father congratulated him on his bravery, but his frightened mother slapped his face, and said “You wicked boy!”

Not everybody saw it in such a negative way. In October 1941, Fred was still working in Swadlincote at the office of Bert Orgill, a local business man, when Colonel Guy German from nearby Ashby-de-la-Zouch called round, and asked about him, perhaps even seeing Fred as a likely recruit for his own regiment.

Mr Orgill said that Fred had recently volunteered for the RAF, and Colonel German generously gave him a five pound note for having done so. Eventually, Fred would look like this:

At this time, as was briefly mentioned above, the RAF was considered to be the élite force of the three, a fact which was strongly emphasized in the personal letter sent to every man who joined the RAF by Archibald Sinclair, the Secretary of State for War. He said that

“The RAF demands a high standard of physical fitness and alertness, and I congratulate you on passing the stringent tests”.

They were also told they had a “great task to perform” and that

“The honour of the RAF is in your hands. Our country’s safety and the final overthrow of the powers of evil now arrayed against us depend on you and your comrades.”

They were encouraged to “keep fit, work hard, live temperately”. Well, two out of three isn’t bad.

Perhaps as a direct result of this generous praise, there were so many volunteers for the RAF that young men were often sent away for up to a year or more, until a place on a suitable training course became available. This may possibly have been what happened to Fred, although, at this late stage, we have absolutely no way of ever knowing the truth, as his RAF records are far from exhaustive, shall we say!

Nobody of Fred’s social class had ever done any flying. Few had ever been inside an aircraft. Hardly any could even drive a car. To have volunteered for the RAF, and to have been accepted, no matter how low he said their standards of spelling may have been, must have suffused him with immense pride. In this, of course, he was not alone. Thousands of young men across the entire nation had read books and magazines about aviation throughout the 1930s and now, as they reached their early twenties, they were only too willing to join the youngest service:

We do know that when Fred volunteered, he was within just a couple of months of his nineteenth birthday. At the age of eighteen, he still had the right to choose which service he entered. Had he waited those last two months, until he was nineteen years old, the government would then have had the right to conscript him, and he would have lost the right to decide in which arm of the services he was to serve.

It is, however, actually possible to disprove one apparently neat theory, namely that Fred, as a keen cinema goer, might well have been inspired to join the RAF by seeing a famous documentary film, which he would talk about ceaselessly in later years. It was entitled “Target for Tonight”.

“Target for Tonight” was a Crown Film Unit propaganda film, using real RAF personnel throughout and chronicling a night raid on Germany by the Vickers Wellingtons of 149 Squadron of Bomber Command, with, coincidentally, “F for Freddie” as the main aircraft. It is a nice idea that Fred was inspired to join the RAF by seeing this film but it cannot be true, as the film was not released until at least October 1941, almost a full month after Fred volunteered.  He still spent the rest of his life as an enormous fan of  Charles Pickard, the hero of the film:

One thing that Fred was always to joke about, however, was the immediate impact that his joining the Allied Forces was to have on the conflict. Montgomery’s victory over Rommel at El Alamein followed his enlistment reasonably quickly, and not long afterwards, the Soviets were to win the Battle of Stalingrad.

You can watch “Target for Tonight” here:

16 Comments

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

The End of the War in Europe and Church Gresley (5)

A few days after I finished writing this blog post, I was wandering across the Internet when I came across an auction webpage called “The Saleroom” which featured a copy of my programme but in much, much, better condition:

The programme had no autographs but did have some team changes written on it, in pencil, of course:

The first one revealed that the RAF goalkeeper may not have been Corporal Timms but “Hardwick England”

I have taken this to refer to Ken Hardwick who played for Rossington Colliery, Doncaster Rovers (308 appearances), Scunthorpe United (96 appearances) and Barrow (12 appearances). He never played for England but he did suffer one of the cruellest and shameful things ever experienced by a footballer. It occurred in a letter which he received out of the blue about an England appearance. In 1955, he was invited by the FA to play for England, but it was for the Under 23 team and George was, by then, 30 years old. Well, done the Football Association, always with their eye on the ball! Here’s Ken, in his younger days:

Alternatively, the best fit for “Hardwick England” might conceivably be George Hardwick of Middlesbrough and Oldham. He had 13 England caps, some as captain, but he was a left full back, rather than a goalkeeper. Here he is, on a cigarette card which he has autographed in later life:

It’s difficult to imagine, though, that Griffiths of Manchester City would not have changed position to accommodate somebody as important as George Hardwick, ex-Captain of England. Having said that, most professional outfield players would be able to play as goalkeeper in a charity game without too many problems. Perhaps George was just amused by the idea, so he had a go in the atmosphere of universal happiness that must have been in the air for all of that First Day of Peace in Europe.

In actual fact, George Hardwick was considered Middlesbrough’s greatest ever player and they have a statue of him outside their stadium:

Near “Thompson” something has been written and it appears to me to be “Hall Spurs”:

This may be Albert E B. Hall, an outside right, who, between 1935-1947, had appeared 81 times for Tottenham Hotspur, or Spurs, as they are better known by their fans, scoring 22 goals.

It may be Fred W. Hall who appeared 23 times  between 1944-1946.

It may be G Willie Hall, an inside right who managed 376 appearances, with 45 goals scored, between 1932-1944. He was actually a fairly local man, born in Newark in Nottinghamshire.

It may have been Jack Hall. This is the least likely because all of Jack’s 67 appearances between 1936-1946 came as a goalkeeper.

Overall though, this is a singular lesson in the value of including an initial!

Near ‘Chapman’ there is something written. If this programme was ever owned by a little boy, the little boyish handwriting says “lost 4-7” but this is far from definite in my mind. Other figures are written in near both Carter and Doherty but I really don’t know what they are:

What I need, of course, is a newspaper report, but that’s easier said than done!

10 Comments

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

The End of the War in Europe and Church Gresley (4)

Last time I talked about an old football programme. It was for a match played one day after the war ended in Europe, 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.  Here is the RAF team:

And here is the Gresley defence:

The next section shows the Gresley forwards, the ones below the black spot of the centre circle:

J Illsley, the outside right, signed for the club in October 1941 and made his first team debut on October 4th 1941 against Quorn Methodists (won 6-2). He scored a phenomenal 24 goals in 28 appearances, his last game, like Collier, coming against Holwell Works on February 22nd 1946 (won 2-1).
“Bradbury” the inside right, could be one of two different players, who, rather helpfully for the statistically minded, played together in the same team on many occasions. Ken Bradbury was signed in 1944 and made his début against Swadlincote Colts on October 7th 1944 (won 4-2, Bradbury 2 goals). He then went on to score 19 goals in 21 games before bowing out on April 6th 1946 against Morris Sports in the League Cup Semi Final (Rovers won this game 7-0 but lost the Final 1-7 to Kettering Town).

Tom Bradbury was even more of a goalscoring sensation in the Rovers’ team than Ken Bradbury. His first game was on August 28th 1937 against Loughborough Brush Sports (won 4-2, Bradbury 3 goals) and according to the club’s player database, he finished his spell at Gresley on May 9th 1944 in the League Cup Final against Swadlincote Colts (won 5-1). Overall Tom scored 94 goals in 50 appearances, with his best two seasons coming in 1941-1942 with 23 in the League and 8 in the Cup. In the following season of 1942-1943 he managed 28 in the League with no surviving record of his Cup goals.

In September 1937, he had signed for Derby County for £200 and he played 4 games, possibly for Derby’s reserves. If he played for the First Team, then I have been unable to find any details of that in the Derby statistics I have seen. In 1939, he signed for Wrexham. When war broke out, he went to work in a munitions factory. He returned to Gresley where he played whenever that was possible. Tom finally had a spell with Rovers as player-manager. Presumably, that is why he was playing on May 9th 1945…he picked the team!

Three or four years later, Tom was one of the founder members of neighbouring Burton Albion.

He later became a director and then chairman of the club which now plays in League One,  England’s third tier of football. In less happy times, when Burton Albion was going bankrupt, Tom mortgaged his family home to save the club. His wife wasn’t best pleased when she found out what he’d done.

The centre forward was W Evans of Liverpool and Wales. I have found out nothing about him so far, except that it was definitely not Roy Evans, the ex-Liverpool manager:

It may be that W Evans played in wartime games which are more difficult to access, although according to “Soccer at War 1939-1945” by Jack Rollin, nobody of that name appeared for either Liverpool or Wales between 1939-1946. Neither does “Wales, the Complete Who’s Who” provide any clues. Perhaps that centre forward at Gresley was the last German spy, making just one last appearance. He was probably doing research about how English players took penalties.

The inside left is most likely George W. Chapman (1920 –1998). He was born in Linton, a village close to Church Gresley, and he signed for West Bromwich Albion although he did not ever play for them except during wartime fixtures (13 appearances, 2 goals).

In 1946–1948 he played for Brighton & Hove Albion scoring 12 goals in 43 appearances. He was the club’s top scorer in the 1946–47 season with 10 goals. After that, he moved to Tonbridge Angels, a club which had been formed as recently as October 1947. Here’s their badge, presumably based on the coat of arms of the town:

Harrison is perhaps Cyril Harrison who made his début against Marston’s on November 7th 1942 (won 14-1, Harrison 3 goals) and scored 21 goals in 27 appearances. He played his last game on April 26th 1950 against British Ropes (won 4-2, Harrison 1 goal). Alternatively, it might have been Mick Harrison who made his début against RAF ‘H’ on September 23rd 1943 (won 4-2, Harrison 1 goal) and went on to score 58 goals in 87 appearances. He played for the last time on April 26th 1950 against British Ropes on April 26th 1950 (won 4-2, Harrison 1 goal…but which Harrison, Mick or Cyril, Cyril or Mick ?). Here’s the British Ropes factory. I couldn’t find a picture of their team:

If you have read any of my previous posts about non-league teams around Nottingham, you will know how fascinated I am with the names of these smaller clubs.

Let’s just look at who Rovers played against nearly 80 years ago.

An Army XI in a friendly match  to raise money for the Spitfire Fund, Briggs & Co, British Ropes, Broadway Youth Club,  Central Ordinance Corps, Cyclops, Cyclops Sports, Derby Corinthians, H R Mansfield Sports, Ibstock Penistone Rovers, John Knowles A, Leicester Nomads Reserves, Loughborough Brush,  Marstons, Measham Imperial, Midland Woodworkers, Morris Sports, Newbold Vernon, Old Dalby, Quorn,  Methodists,  Parkhouse Colliery, RAF, RAF ‘F’, RAF ‘H’, RAF ‘L’, RAF ‘M’, RAF ‘T’, RAF XI, Rolls Royce, Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers, Stanton Ironworks, Whitwick Holy Cross, Whitwick Parish Church, Whitwick White Cross and the catchiest of all for those supporters’ songs, “351 Burton Squadron ATC”.

None as good though, as the first ever opponents in a home game of which records have survived, played at the Moat Ground on September 5th 1891…..Hugglescote Robin Hoods. Here is Rovers’ ground which has not changed much since that late summer day:

 

 

 

16 Comments

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

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!

 

 

14 Comments

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

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 Durnie of the RAF cannot be the same Jim Durnie who was loaned to Annbank United Junior Football Club by Glasgow Rangers, because his son, Jim Durnie jnr, has kindly informed me that his father’s year of birth was 1935. I won’t be taking down this magnificent old picture of Ibrox Park, though. Record attendance there was 118,567 for a League game against Celtic on January 2nd 1939:

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!

12 Comments

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

The End of the War in Europe and Church Gresley (1)

Near to the clay mining village of Woodville where I spent my childhood there is a very similar coal mining village called Church Gresley. From 1882-2009, Church Gresley was the home of a football team called Gresley Rovers.

Here is a small scale map of where I am talking about. The orange arrow points to Church Gresley:

Rovers managed more than 125 years of inoffensive existence until, in our new and wonderful world of money, money, money, they found they hadn’t got any money, money, money, and immediately went bankrupt.  Rovers went into receivership and disappeared for ever. Shortly afterwards they re-emerged as Gresley FC. I’m afraid I stopped bothering with them at that point. I used to go to see “Rovers” as a lad, not “Gresley FC”.

Rovers had a ground called the Moat Ground which dates back over a century:

Here is a larger scale map of the village with the orange arrow pointing to the stadium, if that is the right word:


The club played quite a big part in the life of my family. Before the First World War, my Grandad, Will, played a few games for the reserves and before the Second World War, my Dad, Fred, managed a few games for the same team. When I was still a toddler in a pushchair, my Dad used to take me up to the Moat Ground to watch Rovers play. This would have been in the 1950s. My Dad used to teach in the school in Hastings Road, only half a mile from the ground. You can find Hastings Road on the map in the top right corner. He taught many of the players and supporters over the years. The team manager and coach was the school caretaker (or janitor).

Unfortunately, or fortunately, the school isn’t there any more. Because of mining subsidence, it has had to be pulled down.

The last football match I ever attended with my Dad was the Final of the F.A.Vase. It was between Gresley Rovers and Guiseley, a team from near Leeds in Yorkshire:

The game took place at Wembley Stadium, and I left it to Fred to buy the tickets and arrange the transport down to London.  We left in one of the many, many coaches full of happy Rovers supporters which streamed out of the village on that hot, sunny Saturday 26 years ago.
Another big day in the club’s history came on May 9th 1945, when Rovers played a match to celebrate the end of the Second World War. I don’t know if they realised it at the time, but the supporters had the privilege of seeing some of the greatest players of the era. It was billed as “Gresley Rovers (Selected) v RAF”.  Last year I bought the single sheet programme for the game on ebay.

I paid far too much by the standards of people who don’t need their heads examining. In the auction I was extremely cunning. I bid “a very large sum of money I have never told my wife about” plus a penny. I won the auction by a penny.
Rovers’ opposition that joyful day were the RAF. Captain of the RAF team I believe was Raich Carter, the only man to win the FA Cup both before and after the Second World War:

He played top class football for 21 years, appearing in midfield for Sunderland (245 appearances, 118 goals), Derby County (63 appearances, 34 goals), Hull City (136 appearances, 57 goals) and Cork Athletic (9 appearances, 3 goals). He played for England in 13 matches and scored 7 times. He then became a manager with Hull City, Cork Athletic, Leeds United, Mansfield Town and Middlesbrough. He also played first class cricket for Derbyshire and Minor Counties cricket for Durham.

Carter mentions the Gresley game in his autobiography:

“One vivid memory from this period was of a team put together by Carter and Doherty which played charity matches against local sides. One such match was played at a packed Church Gresley on a May evening in 1945. The result was not important.”

What was important was the fact that the war was over, Hitler was defeated, and within weeks, all of Britain would move forward into a Golden Age.
The other great star in the RAF team was Peter Doherty who partnered Raich Carter in midfield at Derby County.

On April 27th 1946, the two of them would help Derby to beat Charlton Athletic in the FA Cup Final at Wembley.
Peter Doherty, from Northern Ireland, played for several clubs, including two Irish teams, Coleraine and Glentoran, and then Blackpool (82 appearances, 28 goals), Manchester City (119 appearances, 74 goals), Derby County (15 appearances, 7 goals),  Huddersfield Town (83 appearances, 33 goals) and Doncaster Rovers (103 appearances, 55 goals), giving a total of 200 goals in 402 appearances. He played 16 times for Northern Ireland and scored 3 goals. When he moved into management, he managed Doncaster Rovers, Northern Ireland and Bristol City. All this and he still smoked a pipe.
As Len Shackleton said:

“the genius among geniuses… the most baffling body swerve in football… all the tricks with the ball… a shot like the kick of a mule… enough football skill to stroll through a game smoking his pipe…”

We’ll look at the programme next time…

21 Comments

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

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:

LandmesserIreneBaby

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:

hitler

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:

waltstadionframnforut

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.”

jfk0072208206

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:

sa
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.

34 Comments

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