Today marks the 99th anniversary of the death of Richard McFadden, Clapton Orient inside-forward and ace goal-scorer.
Richard McFadden was one of forty-one players, staff and supporters from the O’s who joined-up into the 17th Battalion Middlesex Regiment which was to be more commonly known as the Footballers’ Battalion. He was also one of the first players to sign on the dotted line for King and Country at the specially convened meeting to form the battalion at Fulham Town Hall on 15th December 1914.
McFadden was killed during the Battle of the Somme in 1916 after being seriously wounded by a shell-blast while leading a line of troops along a trench in the front-line near the village of Serre on October 22nd. Sadly he died the following day in a field hospital. Company Serjeant Major Richard McFadden was buried with full military honour in Couin British Cemetery on October 25th 1916. His loss was a huge blow to all who knew him and followed the deaths of two of his Clapton Orient team-mates – William Jonas and George Scott.
His heroism in the face of the enemy was well documented and resulted in him being awarded the Military Medal for ‘Bravery in the Field’, It was know that he often went out into No Man’s Land to rescue wounded comrades. He was also in-line for a commission as an officer.
Prior to the war and before coming to London to play for the O’s, it is reported that he had dragged a man from a burning building. After he had signed for Clapton Orient, it was also documented that he saved the life of a small boy who was drowning in the River Lea and had later rescued a very young child from a burning building in Clapton.
Richard McFadden was indeed a very brave man and to underline this, in the past month or so new evidence supporting his bravery has been uncovered by Andrew Riddoch, co-author of When The Whistle Blows –The Story of the Footballers’ Battalion in the Great War, who is a friend of the O’s WW1 Historian Steve Jenkins.
Andrew supplied Steve with a copy of a newspaper article from the Nottingham Evening Post published on February 27th 1913, which gives a report of the inquest of the death of five-year-old Alice Maude who sadly did not survive the fire from which Richard McFadden had rescued her. The report then mentions that two weeks prior to this incident, McFadden had saved the lives of not one but two young boys from the River Lea.
For the rescuing of these three young children he was awarded a medal from the mayor of Hackney.
Richard McFadden was signed from Wallsend Park Villa in 1911
Clapton Orient statistics
142 Appearances 68 Goals
(Top scorer in the four seasons he played for the O’s)