by Steve Jenkins
Having supported the O’s for over thirty years and being very keen on local history, the story of Clapton Orient’s involvement in the First World War has been of particular interest.
I have spent nearly three years researching the background to the O’s ‘War Effort’ and I am extremely proud to be able to share this story with you.
Season 1914-15 was the last prior to the Football league being suspended due to the First World War. Clapton Orient had finished in 9th position with Richard Mcfadden top scorer with 21 league goals.
People realised things were getting serious when an anti-aircraft gun was positioned on top of the ‘Spion Kop’ at the O’s Millfields Road ground, the local population then knew the threat of an arial attack was for real.
The male population of the country was being urged to ‘Join Up’ and Clapton Orient took the lead with no less than 40 members of staff volunteering their services, the first two players to sign on the dotted line being the O’s Captain Fred Parker and their Goal keeper Jimmy Hugall, all served in The Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex Regiment) 17th (Service) Battalion (1st Football).
A crowd of over 20,000 attended the O’s final League match of that season on 24th April 1915 verses Leicester Fosse, they witnessed not only a fine 2-0 victory for the Orient but also a final farewell Parade of all the Clapton Orient players and staff around the Millfields Road pitch.
The anticipation and euphoria of the early days of the war soon changed when the vast majority of British and allied forces found themselves in the Somme Region of Northern France having not only to contend with fighting a fierce German Army but also having to put up with at times terrible conditions with mile after mile of decimated country side from the incessant shelling by both sides and then having to live in and amongst mud, bodies and total desolation.
One can only guess at the extreme hell Soldiers went through in this conflict.
It was during the Battle of the Somme in the summer of 1916 that Clapton Orient lost three of its finest players: Company Serjeant Major Richard McFadden MM F/162, Private William Jonas F/32 and Private George Scott 1583.
The following article appeared in an O’s programme in November 1916.
The Club received a letter from Richard McFadden, which read:
“I, Richard McFadden sadly report the death of my friend and O’s colleague William Jonas on the morning of Thursday 27th July, aged 26.
Both Willie and I were trapped in a trench near the front in Somme, France.
Willie turned to me and said ” Goodbye Mac”, Best of luck, special love to my sweetheart Mary Jane and best regards to the lads at Orient. Before I could reply to him, he was up and over. No sooner had he jumped up out of the trench, my best friend of nearly twenty years was killed before my eyes. Words cannot express my feelings at this time.
Company Serjeant Major Richard McFadden.”
Richard McFadden died on the 23rd October 1916 from wounds received in the same conflict whilst George Scott was killed on the 16th August 1916.
Many references to their passing were published in the local press and regional football newspapers.
The following articles relating to the death of the late Richard McFadden show how highly he was thought of:
From the O’s Captain, Fred Parker:
“The first thing I heard on getting back was that poor old Mac had died of wounds. It is a terrible blow to all the boys who are left.
I could not believe it at first, but it is too true. He was wounded on the 22nd died on the 23rd and was buried in a cemetery on the 25th.
Mac feared nothing. All the boys are going to visit his grave as soon as they get a chance.
We have had a splendid cross made for him with a football at the top of it; but that will not bring him back. No one will miss him like I do out here – we were always together.”
From The Athletic News:
“McFadden was one of the spirited Orient lads who followed their captain, F Parker, when the call for men was made. It was just what anyone would have expected from his record, for he had saved life on two occasions at his own peril.
He has bequeathed to his family and to his companions a splendid name for valour, cheerfulness, and doing the duty which was nearest to him&Clapton Orient has a great roll of honour.”
The Arsenal Official Programme:
“They (Clapton Orient) have our deepest sympathy in the loss they sustained by the death of that grand little player, Serjeant McFadden& McFadden died like the little hero he was, and his name will be writ largely in the records of the all-sacrificing deeds of the men who have played the Greatest Game to the very last.”
From the Manchester Football Chronicle:
“Two things distinguished Richard McFadden throughout his career as a footballer – his heroism and his goal-scoring proclivities. In civil life he was a hero, and he proved himself a hero on the battlefield&
One of the noble band of Clapton Orient players& A brave man he will be mourned by all who knew him.”
From the Manchester Football News:
“He was one of the first to join the Footballers’ Battalion, and last September he was awarded the Military Medal.”
Richard McFadden’s football career details:
Skilful striker Richard McFadden stood only 5ft 8ins tall, yet he was a brillient player and one of only a handful of truly prolific goal scorers’ to have played for the O’s since their entry into the Football League in 1905.
Born in Cambuslang, Lanarkshire, Scotland in 1889. He moved to Blyth as a boy to become best friends of William Jonas, later they teamed up together at Millfields Road. McFadden started with Blyth in the Northern League and then was with Wallsend Park Villa before joining the O’s during May 1911.
He made his Football league debut and scored against Derby County on 2nd November.
McFadden broke Bill Martin’s O’s goal scoring record of 17 goals, when bagging 19 goals in 1911-12, a record he himself surpassed in 1914-15 with 21 goals.
He represented a Southern Xl versus England at Craven Cottage in November 1914 obtaining rave notices from the National Press and scored the only goal of the game.
The Football Editor of the Daily Express Newspaper wrote:
“A magnificent goal was scored by Dick McFadden of Clapton Orient. He took the ball as it came over to him and swung it into the net.
He was the outstanding player on the field. I have heard about this inside left but never seen him before.
He is rather short for a forward, yet sturdily built and he certainly knows how to make the best of his weight, a very tricky player who always troubled the England defence. I hope we see a lot more of him especially in an England shirt.”
It was during the same week that Middlesbrough offered over £2000 for his services, however after consulting the player both he and the Club declined the offer, to the delight of all O’s fans.
McFadden told the O’s Chairman Captain Henry Wells-Holland that he did not want to leave Orient. So he met with his fellow Directors and they declined Boro’s very large offer, a rare occurrence indeed.
McFadden was top scorer for the four seasons he played for the O’s, yet his only hat trick came during the O’s first overseas tour to Denmark, when they beat a Copenhagen Xl 4-0 in May 1912.
Had he survived the First World War he surely would have topped 100 Football League goals for the Club.
He was very popular with the fans and even more so when it was reported that he saved the life of a small boy in the River Lea, who he saw floundering, jumping in the water to pull the boy out for which he received a medal of bravery from the Mayor of Hackney.
A rare player of quality who will be long remembered for his efforts both on and off the field of play for the O’s.
William Jonas’ football career details:
22-year-old William Jonas joined Clapton Orient in 1912 after the Club had received a personal recommendation form his friend and O’s brilliant forward Richard McFadden, having both grown up together in Blyth.
Jonas proved to be a great capture and played his part as the O’s rose to be one of the top teams in Division Two over the following years leading up to the First World War.
Born in Blyth, Northumberland in 1892, he started his career with Jarrow Croft FC scoring two goals for them in the Gateshead Charity Cup Final, he turned down an offer of a trial with Barnsley, instead he joined Havanna Rovers in 1910 and netted 68 goals in two seasons.
He signed for the O’s in 1912 and his style of football made him a real favourite with the O’s fans. He had plenty of skill and his passing and distribution of the ball was first class, he was often the target of crude tackles by defenders.
He could play in any position except outside-left, he even played in goal on the occasions when Jimmy Hugall was injured during a number of league matches.
He really hit form during the 1913-14 season scoring 10 league and 17 reserve goals.
William Jonas became a great heartthrob of the lady supporters and it was reported that he received over 50 letters a week from his adoring fans.
Things got so bad that he requested the club to place a special notice in the match programme, stating that he was happily married to his sweetheart Mary Jane!
Jonas was once sent off in a FA Cup tie at Millwall in January 1915 for fighting with the opposing goalkeeper.
The incident resulted in a riot on the terraces and the local newspaper reported that police on horseback had to be brought in to stop the fighting and escort the O’s fans out of the old Den Stadium.
The following article appeared in a Clapton Orient Programme concerning the death of George Scott:
“It is with feelings of sorrow we inform our readers that another of our players has paid the the Great Price.
We have received confirmatory evidence that George Scott died on August 27th, Big-hearted and daring – as George always was – we can imagine the impetuosity with which he confronted the enemy.
To those who knew him personally he was one of the BEST, and the thousands who have witnessed his football career will, undoubtedly, express feelings of sorrow at his untimely end.
Our warmest sympathy goes forth to his bereaved wife and children; and, although condolence may not assuage grief, they have the satisfaction of knowing that no man could have sacrificed his life in a nobler cause.”
George Scott’s football career details:
George Scott was born in West Stanley and started his career with two local sides Braeside FC and Sunderland West End both of the Sunderland District amateur League’s.
He joined Clapton Orient in July 1908 and went on to become one of the O’s greatest pre First World War players, famous for having bandy legs standing at 5ft 8ins tall and weighing 10st 9lbs this highly versatile player made his league debut at centre half in a 2-0 win over Oldham Athletic on 12th December 1908, he also appeared in various forward positions during that season.
George Scott was a consistent player and his fine play was rewarded by being picked to represent a London Xl versus a Paris Xl in France during 1911.
Scott was loyal servant over the years and he scored many fine goals but none better than the winning goal he scored against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane on Boxing Day 1909. He also scored a hat trick against Leicester.
In the Arsenal Official Programme, the following tribute to McFadden, Jonas and Scott appeared:
“Two things distinguished these three players’ careers as footballers. Their heroism and goalscoring abilities, much feared by all who played against them. They complemented each other.
In civil life they were heroes and they proved themselves heroes on the battlefield. Three of a noble band of Clapton Orient players.
Brave men and a brave football club&they will be missed by all who knew them&we say thank you to Clapton Orient FC for taking the lead and showing the way so that other clubs could follow. Thank you.”
Other tributes poured in, including a special note from King George V, which stated:
“Good luck to Clapton Orient FC, no football club had paid a greater price to patriotism”
THE WHITE AND RED OF OUR GRAND OLD CLUB
WAS ALWAYS WORN WITH SUCH PRIDE;
THE KHAKI KIT WITH THE FLANDERS MUD
LAY DEEP BECAUSE THEY DIED;
McFADDEN, JONAS, SCOTT, ALL THREE
THEY PLAYED THE GAME, THEY TRIED;
AND NOW THEIR NAMES WILL ALWAYS BE
ENRICHED WITH SO MUCH PRIDE.
ROLL OF HONOUR KILLED
Company Serjeant Major R. McFADDEN
Private W. JONAS
Private G. SCOTT
Lieutenant J. HUGALL
Serjeant R. DALRYMPLE (Twice)
Serjeant NOLAN EVANS
Serjeant HARRY GIBSON
Corporal T. PEARSON
Corporal GEORGE SAUNDERS (Twice)
Lance-Corporal NORMAN HOLMES
Private A. SPENCER (twice)
Private H. REASON
Private W. ASKEW (Asst. Groundsman)
WITH THE FORCES
Company QM Serjeant F. W. PARKER
Serjeant G. BEECH
Serjeant S. MORRIS A/M J. ING
Ship’s writer J. LAMB (R.N.)
Bombardier E. FERRIS
Bombardier J. A. SPENCER
Gunner A. E. NORRIS (Trainer)
Gunner ALF. PARSONS
Gunner R. McCULLOCH
Gunner J. GASCOIGNE
Gunner J. RUTHERFORD
Gunner W. HAMPSON
Corporal J. REYNOLDS
Private W. MAWBEY (Trainer)
Private ROBERT EVANS
Private A. TILLEY
Private D. J. WILSON
Private A. CROSSLEY
Private C. SATTERTHWAITE
Private J. CARNEY
Private W. ASHURST
Private GORDON JONES
Private F. DUNN
Private J.C. LEE
Private R. CHAPMAN
Private D. UPEX
The research I have undertaken has taken me across Britain and beyond in the hope of tracing living relatives of Richard McFadden, William Jonas and George Scott.
The next natural step for me was to visit their graves and to see for myself the battlefields they fought and died in.
I had booked the date for my visit well in advance, it was to be 23rd October 2001, the eighty-fifth anniversary of the death of Richard McFadden.
There were four of us in the party: David Dodd (Chairman of Leyton Orient Supporters’ Club), Dennis Barefield (Supporters’ Club Committee Officer), my dear wife Karon Jenkins and myself.
I had warned everyone that because I hadn’t done this journey before I had no idea whether we would get to see all three graves in one day, I must admit that I took a large intake of breath when I saw the distance I had to travel considering we were in a foreign country and we only had one day to do it in.
I planned the journey to be a circular trip, starting with the furthest grave that of Private George Scott who is buried in the British Cemetery at St Souplet.
The distance from Calais to St Souplet is approximately 112 miles so we didn’t hang around once we got off the ferry.
The traffic was very light and once we got on to the toll road the miles just slipped away, I thought it best not to think any further than the first stop.
About 25 miles south east of Arras we reached St Souplet and by now the early morning sunshine had made way for cloudy grey skies and a constant drizzle, St Souplet is a typical sleepy French village with hardly a soul about however, we were pleasantly surprised to see almost straight away a large green sign directing us to the British Cemetery.
We soon found the Cemetery which was right by the side of the road and on a small hill, upon entering the gates we had the task of looking for George Scott’s grave, it only took us five minutes or so before we found him.
It was a strange feeling being so close to someone who was part of Orient’s history and a subject of my research.
His grave is very well tended as all the graves are, a miniature pink rose bush grew by his headstone and the close cut grass trimmings clung to our shoes.
Not many words were spoken, photographs were taken with the clicks of the cameras momentarily hiding the constant twittering of overhead birds and the gentle pattering of spots of rain.
We all agreed how peaceful it all was with panoramic views of the village with its church spire on the horizon, with our own thoughts in place we signed the visitors’ book at the entrance to the Cemetery and made our way back to the car.
Having now made our furthest stop from Calais I felt much more confident of completing our journey, our next stop being to visit the memorial to Private William Jonas which is at the village of Thiepval some 58 miles from St Souplet and approximately 20 miles due south of Arras.
We were by now in the heart of the Somme and it wasn’t long before we saw another green sign directing us to the Thiepval Memorial, turning off the main road we saw on the horizon on the edge of a large wood a very imposing structure silhouetted in black against the sky, it seemed huge even from a distance so we didn’t have any problems in locating it.
Upon reaching Thiepval we turned into the entrance of the Memorial and made our way up the gravel road for about 800 metres into the car park where we were surprised to see coach parties of students and in general less intimate surroundings than at St Souplet.
By now the rain had stopped but the clouds were looking very dark and angry, this along with the howling wind, made for an atmosphere of sadness for this monument was built for all the soldiers who died fighting for Britain and France whose bodies were never recovered.
If you remember back to my story of Richard McFadden witnessing the death of his friend William Jonas I can only think that after he had fallen his body must have been hit by a shell exploding nearby.
73,000 names are inscribed on the pillars but with the information I had from The Commonwealth War Commission we soon found the name of Private William Jonas, once again photographs were taken and the visitors book was signed.
Thiepval is a sad place not only with the reminder of so many soldiers without a grave but also the village itself which was wiped out twice by the Germans, firstly as they swept through France in 1914 and then on their retreat in 1918.
The last visit we were to make was to visit the Grave of Company Serjeant Major Richard McFadden MM which is in the British Cemetery at Couin some 12 miles on from Thiepval.
Although in distance it is not far it was the most awkward to find and we were zigzagging across the countryside passing many small cemeteries and monuments en route.
We eventually reached Couin by now the weather had improved considerably blue skies and sunshine welcomed us to the climax of our visit, the road we were on was between two cemeteries, the original to the left and the new cemetery to the right, Richard McFadden was in the cemetery to the left.
As we got out of the car we noticed a team of cemetery workers just about to move off after ensuring everything was neat and tidy, they were pleased to see us and we exchanged greetings, Dennis Barefield commented on how well the grave stones looked considering their age.
I have subsequently enquired with The Commonwealth War Graves Commission about this, they state that each grave stone is checked regularly for any faults and is replaced after seven years.
We found Richard McFadden’s grave to the far end of the cemetery and just like George Scott’s grave it was immaculately kept but with this time a yellow buttercup type plant growing from the headstone.
We took our photographs and as the sun sank down over to the west behind a thick wood I presented to David Dodd a special Citation I had made which confirms the Military and Clapton Orient career details of all three men.
For the last time today the visitors’ book was signed and also as a sign of our visit we left a copy of the citation (as we had also done at the previous two visits) which is to be presented to Leyton Orient Football Club for safekeeping and as a permanent reminder of the sacrifice these three men made.
The futility of war hit home when I had noticed that Richard McFadden was buried next to a German.
Since our trip to the Somme there have been some exciting developments as regards to tracing the families of Richard McFadden and William Jonas.
Shortly after our return I was working through one of several search engines I have used on previous occasions and I left a brief request on a message board for anyone who thought they might be related to Richard McFadden to contact me.
Within a few hours I had received a reply from Jane Swyer, Richard’s great niece! Jane was really pleased to hear of all the research I have been doing, her family had known about Richard’s exploits both as a footballer and soldier and have always been proud of him, they also knew of his saving of a boy from drowning in the River Lea.
The timing of my contact with Jane Swyer could not have been better, it was only a week or so away from ‘Remembrance Sunday’ and I had been in discussions with John Hines from Leyton Orient and the local Royal British Legion with a view to organising an ‘Act of Remembrance’ on the pitch prior to a league game that weekend.
I contacted Jane to ask if she along with other members of her family would like to attend the service, no less than seven of her family attended from several different parts of the country; the north east, the midlands and the west country.
I had designed a large ‘Memorial Citation’ recognising the footballing and military careers of Richard McFadden, William Jonas and George Scott and the sacrifice they made for their Country.
I was extremely proud that Richard McFadden’s family presented the Citation to Steve Dawson, Director and Chief Executive of Leyton Orient Football Club on the pitch. The Citation is now sited inside the main entrance of the Club for all to see.
Several Months later, Chris Martin, a friend and colleague of mine at the Supporters’ Club offered to assist me in my search for the family of William Jonas.
It took some time but eventually Chris was successful with his research and passed on his findings to me, I subsequently made contact with the Jonas family and likewise they are so happy that the Orient has not forgotten William and hopefully they will be coming back to the O’s during the forthcoming season.
George Scott’s family are proving to be the hardest to trace as I have no date of birth for him.
At present, all I know is that he was born in West Stanley, County Durham and was married with children at his time of death – the search goes on, if anyone can provide any information on the family of George Scott it will be most welcome.
Leyton Orient Supporters’ Club
A copy of the citation of remembrance that is now on display at the club: