Today marks the 102nd anniversary of the death of Richard McFadden, Clapton Orient inside-forward and ace goal-scorer.
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.
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 future team-mate 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 2nd 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 two young lads who were struggling in the River Lea, prior to rescuing a very young child from a burning building in Clapton just two weeks later.
For the rescuing of these three young children he was awarded a medal from councillor William Hammer, the mayor of Hackney.
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. Having attained the rank of Company Serjeant Major, he was in-line for a commission as a Warrant Officer
Richard 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 and 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 and close friends – William Jonas and George Scott.
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 best friend William Jonas:
‘I, Richard McFadden sadly report the death of my friend and O’s colleague William Jonas on the morning of Thursday 27th 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’.
The Club announced their commemorative 4th kit last week, adorned with the iconic red chevron in a nod to the Club's World War I history. Purchase yours now.