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Lest We Forget

As the nation marks the centenary of Britain entering World War One, John Fennelly reflects on the impact the conflict had on White Hart Lane and pays tribute to the former Spurs players who paid the ‘ultimate sacrifice’ during the conflict.

Spurs 1913-14 featuring Alf Hobday, Findlay Weir, John Fleming and Ed Lightfoot.

Throughout the country there could be no corner that was not totally devastated, either physically or emotionally, by an all consuming conflict that would last four long years.

Families, communities, work places...nothing could escape.  Football continued through the war as a distraction on the home front but with so many players enlisting and to avoid travel, the competition was downgraded to a more local concentration.

Guest players serving in the forces played for clubs near to where they were billeted and it hardly seemed to matter that we finished bottom of Division One at the end of the 1914-15 season as the football continued but with very little emphasis or enthusiasm.

By the following season we were operating in the regionalised London Football Combination, aided by a whole squad of temporary players that changed from game to game as our own lads either enlisted or were called up.

Then, after the opening game of the 1916-17 season, White Hart Lane was requisitioned by the Ministry of Munitions for the duration. While we played ‘home’ games at Homerton or Highbury, Klingers Manufacturers used our ground to make protective clothing such as leather hoods – and an estimated 11 million gas masks.

And while the stands were converted into workshops, the pitch was used for military drill practice. This was done under the auspices of the Tottenham Rifle Club with Robert Baden Powell in attendance when the official handover took place.

By now, the playing surface was being utilised as a parade ground by the Middlesex Regiment from which the famous Footballers’ Battalion was created.  Two Spurs players – George Bowler and William Oliver - were among the first recruits while the Club then staged a rally at the stadium to encourage players and fans to join up.

The Battalion also featured Major Frank Buckley, who would achieve great fame with Wolves, and our own England centre-forward Vivian Woodward who was the nation’s favourite ‘pin up boy’ at the time.  He would attain the rank of Captain.

At the end of the war, our 1919-20 handbook summed up the Club’s retrospective view in this way:

“On the combined effort to achieve victory in the great game of war we can look with solemn pride.  Naturally, our thoughts revert to those who fought and fell.  

“It is rather a long list, this record of men associated, or who had been previously associated, with the Tottenham Hotspur Football Club who made the supreme sacrifice.

“To their memories we pay humble tribute, knowing full well that if they could send us a message today, it would be just this – ‘Carry on.’”

In conclusion we similarly acknowledge the many other players and members of our staff who also served during the conflict but were fortunate to return.  Many will have suffered physical injury while the mental trauma can never be underestimated.

WW1_badenochThese include our 1920s England international Jimmy Seed who suffered the effects of a gas attack while on active service at the age of 24 but thankfully recovered to enjoy an outstanding career in the game.

We salute them all.



Born in Galloway, he spent just a single season with us, playing in one Southern League and one Western League game. Also a talented cricketer, George (pictured, right) had started out with Hearts and then played for Glossop and Watford before joining us in May, 1906. An outside-right, he subsequently moved on to Northampton Town in May, 1907, where he helped them win the Southern League title under his former Spurs team mate Herbert Chapman. A knee injury ended his career and he emigrated to Canada but returned to Europe with the Canadian Western Ontario Regiment and lost his life during an attack at Givenchy on June 15, 1915.  He was 27.


Another Scot, John (pictured, left) was born in Slamannan and spent two years with Newcastle United, ironically making his debut for them at White Hart Lane in November, 1912.  He moved to Spurs in April, 1913, where he made a successful switch from centre-forward to inside-right.  A versatile performer, he was more of a squad player and made just 19 League appearances for us, being joined by his younger brother Bill at Tottenham in August, 1914. John returned to Scotland to play for Armadale Thistle in November, 1915, and then enlisted with the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders. He succumbed to a bout of pneumonia at Richmond Camp, Yorkshire on March 21, 1916, aged 26.


A goalkeeper from Presteigne, Wales, Fred played locally in junior football before emerging at Blackpool and then joining Millwall Athletic via Stalybridge.  A big, brave custodian he made his senior Wales debut in February, 1900, and by the following year had joined Spurs and was soon in the first team.  He moved to Preston North End in March, 1902, but by the following September had joined West Ham, ending his career with New Brompton.  He was working as a coalminer when he enlisted in the Sherwood Foresters, reaching the rank of Sergeant, and died at Passendale on October 30, 1917.  He was 44.


A winger and a talented all-round sportsman, he was a former student and player with Charterhouse School, where his father was Headmaster, and Cambridge University.  He was playing for Corinthians when he signed for us as an amateur in October, 1901.  Alan was good enough for us to offer him full-time terms but football was a hobby to him and he was rarely available, eventually leaving us for Clapton Orient after two seasons.  WW1_HobdayHe already had strong connections with the army before the war and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel with the Middlesex Regiment (2nd Football Battalion). He was wounded twice while serving in France and Italy and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in June, 1917.  He died at Favreuil on March 25, 1918, while commanding the regiment.  He was 40.


A local man from Edmonton, he started out with Silver Street United and then played in our London League team from January, 1915. A Lance Corporal with the London Regiment 14th (County of London) Battalion (London Scottish), he was killed in action on April 9, 1917. He is buried at the London Cemetery, Neuville-Vitasse.


Born in Blackhill, County Durham, Alf (pictured, right) joined us from Consett Swifts in April, 1913, following a trial.  He was released at the end of the following season and moved to North Shields Athletic.  He had originally joined the army in February, 1904, when he served on the North West Frontier so was on the ‘Reserve List’ and recalled at the outbreak of the war.  While serving with the Northumberland Fusiliers he was honoured and recommended for the Victoria Cross after rescuing a wounded officer under heavy fire and promoted to Sergeant.   At Bellewaarde in the Ypres Saliant, he was wounded and subsequently died on June 16, 1915. He was 28.

WW1_lightfootJOHN JARVIE

A versatile left-sided player, John ‘Jock’ Jarvie was born in Dumbarton and was playing for Maryhill when we signed him in May, 1912.  He appeared regularly in our South Eastern League side throughout 1912-13 but left us at the end of the season for Luton Town.  Serving with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, he was killed when a mine exploded at Flanders on January 2, 1916. He was 27.


Born in Liverpool, he was spotted by Spurs playing for Southport Central and arrived at White Hart Lane in May, 1911.  Although mainly used as a reserve, the half-back still managed 66 senior appearances for us, particularly in the 1914-15 season when so many players joined the forces. Ed (pictured, left) was then called up himself and was killed in action while serving with the Royal Garrison Artillery in France on July 20, 1918.  He was 28.


Wrexham-born, he was playing amateur football with Tufnell Park when he also started turning out for Spurs, mainly in our South Eastern League team and Reserve side.  He scored in his last game for us – a friendly at Bedford – and then joined the Grenadier Guards where he attained the rank of Corporal.  He was killed early in the conflict – on November 7, 1914.


A centre-forward, Alex moved south to join us from Glasgow in June, 1914, while still a teenager.  He played in our South Eastern League and London League sides but left us at the outbreak of hostilities to join the Gordon Highlanders.  He died at Ypres on his first day at the Front – December 14, 1914 – and is named on the Menin Gate memorial.


One of the first black outfield players in the professional game, Walter (pictured, right) was born in Folkestone but orphaned at an early age.  After serving a printing apprenticeship, he was playing for Clapton when we signed him in 1909.  He moved to Northampton in 1911 where he remained until the outbreak of the war when he joined the (1st Football) Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment, nicknamed ‘The Diehards.’ His brother William also enlisted. Promoted to Sergeant, Walter was invalided home and then gained a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant on May 30, 1917, contrary to Army regulations at the time. Thus he became the first British-born black combat officer in the British army.   Walter was mentioned in dispatches  and recommended for the Military Cross for “gallantry and coolness” during action in Italy.  He died in the second battle of the Somme on March 25, 1918. He was 29.


Born in Glasgow, Weir (pictured, left) established himself at half-back with Maryhill and then Sheffield Wednesday  from May, 1909, before switching to Tottenham in May, 1912, following a trial.  He quickly became a first team regular at Tottenham and had already made 101 senior appearances when League football was suspended due to the war.  He joined the Tottenham Royal Engineers and died on July 9, 1918.  He was 29.


Born in Ayrshire, Archie started out with Nottingham Forest and joined our junior staff in December, 1909, at the age of 18.  However, there were doubts about the tricky winger making the grade and so he joined Southend United in the summer of 1911.  He did well there and continued his emergence as a quality player with Middlesbrough from July, 1914.  When war broke out he joined the London Scottish Regiment and returned to guest for Spurs.  After playing 10 games for us, he left for the Front where he was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme on July 1, 1916.  He was 26.


A South Londoner from Streatham, Norman played for Bromley and was spotted by Spurs when representing the London FA.  He joined us in 1907 and played on the left wing for our Reserves for two years before spending time with Crystal Palace, Plymouth Argyle, Croydon Common , Chelsea and Stockport County.  He was also serving with the Middlesex Regiment  as a Sergeant at Delville Wood during the Battle of the Somme  when he was killed in action on July 28, 1916.  He was 26.

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