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 December 15, 1914.
Born in Cambuslang, Lanarkshire, Scotland in 1889, McFadden moved to Blyth with his family when a small boy and went to the same school as his team-mate to be William Jonas where they became great friends. His football career started at Newburn FC after having played for local youth sides Ashington Black Watch and Hirst St John before Joining Blyth Spartans in the Northern League. He then moved to Wallsend Park Villa before joining the Orient in May 1911.
He made his Football League debut in impressive style scoring against Derby County on September 2 on the opening day of the 1911-12 season, and was to score no less than 19 goals in his first term with the O’s.
McFadden endeared himself to the Orient supporters not only with his goal-scoring prowess but also for several life-saving situations he was directly involved.
Firstly and prior to coming to London to play for the O’s, it is reported that he had dragged a man from a burning building. Later, 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 then a couple of weeks later rescued a very young child from a burning building in Clapton.
Having joined-up with the rest of the Orient squad, his reputation went before him and when not in the front-line he was to be a regular in the Footballers’ Battalion football team in northern France.
His fearlessness and heroism in the face of the enemy was also well documented and resulted in him being awarded the Military Medal for ‘Bravery in the Field’. It was known that he often went out into No Man’s Land to rescue wounded comrades. He was also in-line for a commission as a Warrant Officer
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 22. 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 25, 1916. His loss was a huge blow to all who knew him and followed the deaths of two of his Clapton Orient team-mates and close friends – William Jonas and George Scott.
Richard McFadden was indeed a very brave man and to underline this, evidence supporting his bravery was 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 27, 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.
Whilst sheltering in a trench during severe fighting in Delville Wood, Richard McFadden sent an eye-witness account to the O’s of the death of his good friend William Jonas:
‘I, Richard McFadden sadly report the death of my friend and O’s colleague William Jonas on the morning of Thursday 27 July, aged 26.
‘Both Willie and I were trapped in a trench near to 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 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)
WE WILL REMEMBER THEM