When the club was contacted by a young Leyton Orient supporter from Broomgrove Junior School in Wivenhoe near Colchester, asking for help with a school project, what else could we do but come to his aid?
Drew Yellop, aged 10, had a topic at school entitled ‘The Way We Work’ and he had to make contact with someone who inspired him. His year group had also been studying the Great War and in a moment of inspiration, Drew put the two together, knowing that his favourite football club had a special connection with this event and, as he would like to be a professional footballer one day, why not ask a player at the O’s to be his role model?
He requested for a player to visit his school and also talk about the special history the club has regarding World War One and the players that became a part of the footballer’s battalion.
But we thought we could do better than that, utilising the expertise of O’s Supporters Club deputy chairman and local historian Steve Jenkins along with the information, artefacts and photos on display at the Matchroom Stadium. And so, we invited the whole school year to come for a visit, have a tour of the stadium and grab the opportunity of a history lesson with Steve!
“We were delighted when Drew received a reply from Howard at Leyton Orient inviting us to visit the ground and to learn about the club’s involvement in World War 1.
The pupils had been studying the Great War at the beginning of the year and the visit fitted in with both our topics” said Wendy Woolnough, school Governor. “Drew is an avid Orient fan even though he now lives in Colchester and he couldn’t believe the response from the club. It was a wonderful opportunity we couldn’t turn down.”
And once they knew they were due for a day-trip out to east London, it came to light that another pupil had real Os’ connections! Lily Crane announced that her great grandfather was Dave Groombridge, goal keeper for the O’s in the 1950’s!
So, on a bright Thursday morning in July, 70 pupils and teachers descended upon the stadium, took their seats in the west stand gallery seating area and were treated to a descriptive and enlightening talk by Steve on the players and staff who enrolled into the army to serve their country 100 years ago.
Just under an hour later, the group split into two and half were led to the supporters club by Steve whilst the other half enjoyed a tour of the levels in the west stand culminating in visiting the changing rooms and emerging from the players tunnel.
Pupil Jemima G said, “I wasn’t really interested to come to a football stadium but that feeling has changed. It’s been very interesting and I really liked the talk about World War 1, George Scott and how he saved people’s lives.”
And Phoebe T said, “I really enjoyed Steve’s talk about the club in World War 1 and also the view from the 5th floor balcony. It was amazing!”
Once both groups had concluded their tours and on completion of the day, Drew stated, “My favourite team is Leyton Orient so I loved showing my friends where they play. I haven’t been to those areas before so it was a great experience and I loved walking out of the tunnel and sitting in the dugout!”
And Wendy added, “We learned so much about the clubs history and we would like to thank everyone from the club who made us feel so welcome. The children can’t wait to return and we’re all looking forward to coming back and cheering the team on later in the season.”
And finally, Howard Gould, Community Liaison Officer, said, “It was a pleasure hosting the staff and pupils from Broomgrove. Steve (Jenkins) is so good at telling the story of the lads who went to war. He has so much passion and enthusiasm it infects the kids and they were engrossed. It was also nice to read the old newspaper clippings about Dave Groombridge and show Lily where her great granddad used to play! The children really enjoyed the day and we have invited them back as our guests to watch a match during the season and they have all promised to support the O’s!”
Lily holds a photo of the team surrounded by newspaper clippings and mementos of her great grandfather and O’s goalkeeper Dave Groombridge