The families of three former Clapton Orient players who died in World War One joined civic leaders and other guests including O’s legend Peter Kitchen on Saturday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the club’s last game before the departure of 41 of its players and staff to the battlefields of northern France.
The events which took place at half time and before the O’s final home game of this season against Sheffield Utd included a re-enactment of the game 100 years ago between Clapton Orient and Leicester Fosse, a special performance on the pitch by the Honourable Artillery Company Regimental Band and a pre-match reception and presentation on the pitch for the families of the three fallen players William Jonas, George Scott and Richard McFadden.
The day’s activities kicked off with young players from Leyton Orient Trust and Leicester City Community Trust re-enacting the match between the two clubs on April 24th 1915 with the O’s team bettering Clapton Orient’s 2-0 victory 100 hundred years ago running out 3-0 winners. Players from both sides later formed a guard of honour for the O’s and Sheffield Utd players as they ran out onto the pitch at the Matchroom Stadium.
Prior to the kick-off, the 23-piece Honourable Artillery Company Regimental Band, a unit in the British Army performed songs played at the Clapton Orient v Leicester Fosse game 100 years ago.
The day also saw the launch of a new Leyton Orient Trust and Heritage Lottery Fund project, which aims to tell the story of the club’s involvement in World War 1 to local school children and the community. The Trust is hoping to raise £30,000 to deliver the ‘Clapton Orient and the First World War’ project to over 200 local schools and 50 community groups over the next three years.
The new project follows the success of the Somme Memorial Fund, led by Leyton Orient Supporters Club and former striker Kitchen, which in 2011 secured a permanent memorial in northern France for the players and staff who fought in the war.
Neil Taylor, CEO, Leyton Orient Trust said: “I’d like to thank all of the guests for making it such a fantastic and memorable day. It was a fitting tribute to those players and staff who 100 years ago sacrificed so much in the war. I was also delighted to launch our new project in the presence of the families of the fallen players and our other guests. Through fundraising and the help of volunteers the programme will tell this vitally important story to younger generations and the wider local community.”
Michael Jonas, the grandson of William Jonas, travelled from North Yorkshire to be part of Saturday’s events. He added:“Without the likes of William and his Orient colleagues perhaps life and the opportunities we all take for granted would have been very different. Saturday’s events were an opportunity for people to remember and pay homage to those extraordinary individuals who made the ultimate sacrifice so we can continue to enjoy our freedom and way of life.
“I think my grandfather and the other Orient heroes would have been immensely proud and possibly humbled by being remembered in this way.”
Steve Jenkins, deputy chair, Leyton Orient Supporters Club added: “Huge credit should go to Leyton Orient Trust for making the centenary commemorations possible and to all the people who worked hard to make this important event such a success. It was great to see representatives from both the local community and further afield join with the “Orient Family” in paying respect to the service and sacrifice made by Clapton Orient in the Great War. The importance and historical significance of the occasion was underlined by the presence of family members of the three fallen players. Many of them had travelled huge distances to be there.”
Further details of the Clapton Orient and the First World War fundraising campaign and how to get involved as a volunteer will be announced soon. Donations to the project can be made via http://campaign.justgiving.com/charity/leytonorienttrust/firstworldwar