Club captain Mathieu Baudry was among a group of guests who helped launch the next stage of Leyton Orient Trust’s ‘They Took the Lead’ project in Walthamstow last night.The event at the Vestry House Museum was held to showcase the work done by a group of 30 volunteers who have spent the last eight months researching the story of Clapton Orient’s role in World War 1. Their research has been turned into an exhibition and website which will be used to deliver a series of workshops with local schools later this year.
The volunteers, a group of O’s fans and students from Leyton Orient Trust’s college programme, have been working alongside local charity Eastside Community Heritage and fan Steve Jenkins, who first started researching the story in the mid 1990’s. The research has included visits to the Hackney Archives, and for the younger group of volunteers, a trip to the National Football Museum in Manchester to take part in a special workshop on football’s role in the Great War.
Guests, who also included the Leader of Waltham Forest Council Councillor Chris Robbins and the Mayor of Waltham Forest, Saima Mahmud saw the first screening of a film made by the young volunteer featuring interviews with families of club staff who fought in the war.
A total of 41 players and staff from Clapton Orient - the most from any professional football club in the country – served in the war, many of them leaving to join the trenches after playing in the club’s final game of the 1914/15 season, a 2-0 victory against Leicester Fosse. Three players - Richard McFadden, William Jonas and George Scott died on the Somme battlefields.
Speaking at the launch, Frenchman Baudry said: “I’d heard about the story of the Clapton Orient players who left to fight in the war straight after playing a game for the club. As a footballer, often you just worry about winning and losing games but it is incredible to think what it must have been like for them. It really does put things into perspective and makes you realise how lucky we are.”
He added: “I learned a lot about the war growing up in school in France so it’s a subject I’m interested in. I think it’s really important for younger generations to understand and remember what happened.”
Joseph Brown, one of Leyton Orient Trust students on the project commented: “Being involved has given me more in depth knowledge about the First World War and learning more about football’s relationship with the war has been a real eye-opener. I’m 19 but there were so many people younger than me who fought and died. You can’t begin to imagine what that pressure must have been like for people so young.”
To find out more about the project and the stories discovered by the volunteers visit the website here.