The former striker was speaking at events held last Saturday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the club’s last game before 41 of its players and staff - the most from any professional club in the country - left to join the war effort.
The families of William Jonas, Richard McFadden and George Scott, the three Clapton Orient players who lost their lives in the war, were among a host of guests who saw a re-enactment of the last game of the 1914-15 season between Clapton Orient and Leicester Fosse and a special performance of songs from the game 100 years ago by the Honourable Artillery Company Regimental Band before the O’s clash with Sheffield United.
The day also saw the launch of the Trust’s ‘Clapton Orient and the First World War’ initiative which aims to bring wider attention to the story of the club’s involvement in the war. Despite some initial funding for the project from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Trust is looking to raise a further £30,000 to develop an education programme to take the story to over 200 local schools and 50 community groups.
Kitchen, who has also played a key role in the O’s Somme Memorial Fund, which saw a permanent memorial built at the Somme in 2011 to commemorate the 41 players and staff, explained the importance of the story and the Trust’s new project:
“The example of First World War and what happened should never be forgotten, so taking the O’s story out is vital and it is something that people in the local community can associate with. I feel very proud to be associated with it and I think it’s a story about what a football club and camaraderie can do.”
“The story keeps gathering momentum. The fact that we had family members of the three players here on Saturday was incredible.”
The 63 year-old, who enjoyed two spells with the club between 1977 and 1984 also revealed how his interest in the subject was developed at a young age.
“When I was at school, I studied A-Level English and History and learned about the First World War but I first went to the Somme battlefields in 1980 during pre-season when I was playing for Fulham. A friend who had been going there for a number of years asked me to come along and I was blown away by the whole area and the significance of what had happened. So when I eventually got there everything fitted into place.”
“It never ceases to amaze me how moving the area is and its one of those subjects that inspires my imagination.”
Full 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
See below for the full interview with Peter Kitchen.