Having just come back from Belgium, and realising the lives that were lost by soldiers on all sides during 2 World Wars, this Remembrance Day is particularly poignant. Seeing so many place names on signs in Belgium where you know thousands died in the 2 World Wars makes one think about the sacrifices made.
WHY REMEMBRANCE DAY?
It is remembered on 11th November to mark the signing of the Armistice Agreement to end the First World War on 11th November 1918. It is a time to reflect on all those who gave their lives for their countries.The day was specifically dedicated by King George V on 7 November 1919 as a day of remembrance for members of the armed forces who were killed during World War I.
Remembrance Day is not about nationalism or jingoistic behaviour. It is a time to reflect on all those who died.In particular it is a non political occasion. In London each year the leaders of all the main political parties lay wreathes at the Cenotaph in the same ceremony.
Football has in recent years marked Remembrance Day by holding a minute’s silence on the games immediately preceding Remembrance Sunday. These silences are usually impeccably marked.
During World War One professional sport, particularly football, was very much frowned upon. So the FA and the War Office decided to get the public on their side by forming a ‘Footballers’ Battalion. One of the many ‘Pal’s Battalions’ formed at the time, it would eventually become officially known as the 17th Middlesex Regiment.
Clapton Orient Chairman, Captain Henry Wells-Holland, who had wanted since the outbreak of WW1 to form a platoon made up entirely of Clapton Orient footballers and staff, assisted the FA with their plans. A meeting was held at Fulham Town Hall on December 16, 1914 for all footballers interested – and ten Clapton Orient players signed up. In the weeks and months which followed, more and more players enlisted into the 17th Middlesex.
So the O’s were the first Football League Club to enlist en masse, and some forty one players and staff from Clapton Orient saw active service during World War One.
Three lost their lives – Company Sergeant Major Richard McFadden MM F/162 October 23 1916 (68 goals in 142 O’s games, Private William Jonas (July 27, 1916) 23 Goals in 74 O’s games and Private George Scott ( August 16, 1916), 34 Goals in 213 O’s games.
Sergeant Major McFadden was something of a hero. Before he joined up, he’d already saved the lives of both a man trapped in a burning building, and a small boy who was drowning in the river Lea. Whilst on the front line in France, McFadden frequently went out into no-mans land to bring back wounded colleagues, and was awarded the Military Medal for his bravery.
History was made in northern France when almost two hundred O’s Supporters travelled over to the village of Flers to witness the unveiling of the O’s Somme Memorial in July 2011.
This was undoubtedly the highlight of the three day trip organised by Steve Jenkins, Deputy Chairman of Leyton Orient Supporters Club and Les Bailey, the standard bearer of the Leyton Branch of the Royal British Legion.
Clapton Orient, as the club was known at the time, were the first English football club to enlist en mass to serve King and Country. As well as the entire playing staff, club officials and supporters all enlisted into the 17th Battalion Middlesex Regiment – more commonly known as the ‘The Footballers’ Battalion.’ Clapton Orient did indeed ‘take the lead’ and the club’s patriotic example was to earn plaudits from the very highest level – including royalty.
During this historic trip on the 8th, 9th and 10th July, official wreath laying ceremonies and memorial services were held at the resting places in northern France of the three Clapton Orient players who made the ultimate sacrifice during the Battle of the Somme in 1916 – William Jonas, George Scott and Richard McFadden, as well as the grave of Sid Wheelhouse, the former captain of Grimsby Town who played for the O’s whilst waiting to ‘join up’ with his fellow footballers.
A wreath and short service was also held at the Football League memorial in Longueval which is no more than a few kilometres down the road from Flers and in walking distance of Delville Wood where William Jonas gave up his life.
The O’s Somme Memorial is over two metres high and is made of solid granite. It looks very impressive and imposing as it stands near to the main through road in Flers in the grounds of St Martin’s church. The two main features of the memorial are a contemporary football – the same as used by the Royal East Surrey Regiment as they kicked off towards the German lines in 1916, along with a pair of early 20th century football boots. It is the brainchild of Steve Jenkins who insisted that a memorial be erected on the Somme and that it would be extremely apt that the O’s be the very first English football club to have such a tribute in place.
The O’s Somme Memorial Fund was set up in August 2009 with fellow O’s fan, Theresa Burns and former O’s player Peter Kitchen ‘joining’ up with Steve to ensure that the dream of a memorial on the Somme became a reality.
The people of Flers made everyone very welcome and it was great to see everyone having a great time but also ensuring that the day’s events were held with full respect for the fallen on the Somme and in particularly the O’s boys of 1916.
Today at Leyton Orient a parade & minute’s silence was held in memory of those who died. The crowd remained in their places at half time as they paid tribute to those who died. Even the players warming up for the second half stood in respect of those who died.
DISRESPECT BY SOME
Sadly, despite foreign players of all nationalities today wearing their clubs specifically designed shirts with a poppy embroided onto them, one player refused to wear the shirt and insisted on wearing a shirt without a poppy on it? A German player perhaps? No, Podolski and other German player wore the poppy shirt with pride. The person in question was S*nderland’s James McLean. This idiot chose to exercise his right to choose whether to respect those who died in 2 World Wars by trying to make a political point about a matter that is by its very nature non political. Interestingly McLean was born in Northern Ireland and was happy to represent Northern Ireland at various age groups levels. He then switched to represent the Republic of Ireland at senior level. Well he did represent the Republic of Ireland until he was not selected for one game by the Republic manager. His response was to make numerous abusive tweets about the Republic’s manager. How to win a place back in the team – NOT!
S*nderland AFC have behaved in a rather weasily manner over the issue. They claim to fully support the poppy appeal but also appear to support their player.
The club are the employer and it is they who decide what kit is to be worn. McLean should have been instructed to wear the kit the club chose. I wonder what S*nderland would do if McLean refused to wear a shirt with the sponsors “Invest in Africa” logo on it. I doubt they would allow him to wear a shirt without this logo. This hardly suggests that S*nderland are actually fully committed to the Poppy appeal despite their claims.
In contrast to McLean, another S*nderland player Connor Wickham chose today to tweet in support of Remembrance Day & the Poppy Appeal.
Sadly some equally biggoted journalist Brian McNally has spent the night trying to justify the unjustifiable and claiming that anyone suggesting McLean should have worn the kit he was told to is acting like a North Korean dictator. Sadly people like McNally seem to forget that with rights come responsibility.