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Spurs Remembers: 100 years on

Posted on 1 July 2016  - 06:38

Today marks the 100th anniversary of beginning of the first Battle of the Somme – a day on which 19,240 British soldiers lost their lives and tens of thousands more were injured in what remains one of the darkest days in this country’s military history.

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During World War One, all sport in the UK had been suspended by the time the battle began and many athletes including football players from teams across the country had volunteered to enlist in the Army.

Among those killed on this day in 1916 were Archie Wilson and Norman Wood, who both represented the Club before joining the Armed forces.

Archie, born in Ayrshire, started out with Nottingham Forest and joined our junior staff in December, 1909, before signing for Southend United in the summer of 1911. He excelled at the Essex club and continued his progress with Middlesbrough from July, 1914.

When war broke out, Archie 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, aged 26.

Norman, born in Streatham, South London, played for Bromley and was spotted by Spurs when representing the London FA. He joined the Club 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 served with the Middlesex Regiment as a Sergeant at Delville Wood and was killed in action during the Battle of the Somme, also aged 26.

Both Archie and Norman are commemorated at the Thiepval Memorial in France where the names of more than 72,000 soldiers who lost their lives in the 141-day long battle are remembered. It’s estimated that over 90 per cent of those commemorated died between July-November, 1916.

A second Battle of the Somme took place in 1918, during which another of our former players succumbed.

One of the first black outfield players in the professional game, Walter Tull 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 on March 25, 1918. He was 29.

Today, thousands are expected to attend a remembrance service at the Thiepval Memorial to mark 100 years since the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

Remembrance services are taking place up and down the country. For more information, visit https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/battle-of-the-somme-centenary-commemorations.