Clapton Orient Memorial Unveiled at National Memorial Arboretum

access_time 1 month ago

To pay tribute to the proud history of Clapton Orient’s bravery in the battle of the Somme, a special tribute has been unveiled.

The O’s Somme Memorial Fund Committee (OSMF) today unveiled a Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

The Memorial is to honour the service and sacrifice of the forty-one players, staff, club officials and supporters of Clapton Orient Football Club in the Great War, and is based on the one that the OSMF proudly unveiled on the Somme battlefields in the village of Flers in northern France on 10th July, 2011.

The memorial is the first to commemorate a football club at the National Memorial Arboretum, which is very apt as Clapton Orient were the first English Football League club to enlist en masse into the British Army, at a recruitment meeting at Fulham Town Hall on 15th December, 1914, joining the 17th Bn Middlesex Regiment, which was later to become known as ‘The Footballers’ Battalion’.

Many of those that enlisted were wounded and three Orient players; Pte William Jonas, Pte George Scott and CSM Richard McFadden MM, made the ultimate sacrifice, losing their lives in the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

These two outstanding memorials have been made possible through fund-raising initiatives and generous donations by Leyton Orient supporters and fans of other clubs, as well as the general public and with the dedication, commitment and hard work of the OSMF Committee members, whose aim is to bring The O’s WW1 story to wider public attention and is led by Chairman Steve Jenkins, who is also Deputy Chairman of Leyton Orient Supporters Club, along with former O’s player Peter Kitchen.

The OSMF is a voluntary organisation which was launched by Steve and Peter in August 2009, in a packed hospitality lounge at Leyton Orient’s League Cup game v Stoke City, and since then they have continued to actively promote The O’s WW1 story and to honour the service and sacrifice of these brave men.

OSMF Chairman Steve Jenkins said; “The story of Clapton Orient’s service and sacrifice in the Great War is told in my book, ‘They Took The Lead’, written in 2005 and updated in 2014 and I’ve made it my life’s work to bring this story into the wider public domain, so that these brave men get the acclaim their heroic deeds deserve; it’s an amazing true story of patriotism and comradeship, when The O’s players and supporters swapped the football fields of England for the battlefields of France”.

Patron of the OSMF, former O’s player Peter Kitchen, who had two spells with the Club said; “I have had a keen interest in the Great War for many years and have always been interested in the role that footballers played in the conflict, so I was fascinated to learn about The O’s involvement in the Great War making this story for me, even more special.

“This is a very important piece of Leyton Orient’s heritage and it is vital that the bravery of those who enlisted, served and died is always remembered. Having one memorial dedicated to these brave heroes was a wonderful achievement for us, so now being able to unveil a second memorial at the NMA is a phenomenal accomplishment for the OSMF.”

This Saturday’s home game with Hartlepool United on 30th October will be the club’s dedicated memorial fixture, with plenty of activities arranged for the afternoon. For more, stay tuned to the Leyton Orient website.