Arsenal in the summer 1939

By Tony Attwood

Arsenal finished the 1938/9 season in fifth place (not their worst since 1930, but still rather disappointing for the reigning champions).

They then set off on a post season tour which took in six Scandinavian games and a seventh against the Belgian national side.

Writing of this tour Bernard Joy called it “Easily the most successful tour undertaken” although as he says, he was “unable to make the trip” so I guess he was thinking only of the results.  There were other absences too: Bastin, Denis Compton, George Swindin, and Alex Wilson did not travel, although (and this is Bernard Joy at his most infuriating) he doesn’t tell us why.

The explanation might be that Allison wanted to give games to Laurie Scott, Geroge Marks (who played in goal for each of the games) and Gordon Bemner, and Joy does note that the average age of the side was in the early 20s.  He also tells us that after the game on 26 May, the team returned to London before setting off again for the final game against the Belgium national side.

Scott, Leslie Compton, Male and Cartwright shared the right back position on the tour, Compton mostly playing left back, with Young getting one game.  Crayston, Cartwright and Pride played in different games at right half, while Fields, Sidey and Les Jones took centre half, and Jones, Collet and Fields played right half.

Kirchen Drake and Walsh shared duties at outside right, Drury and Bremner took inside right, Drake and Lewis naturally shared centre forward, Bryn Jones, Drury and Curtis played inside left and on the left wing we had Nelson for every game except one in which Kirchen took over.

Date Opposition Score Crowd Goals….
10/05/1939 Sweden 4-0 40,000 Drury 1 Crayston Kirchen 2
12/05/1939 Swedish XI 8-2 20,000 Lewis 2 Nelson 3 Compton Drake 2
16/05/1939 Gothenburg Alliance 3-0 26,000 Drury 1 Drake 2
22/05/1939 Danish XI 3-0 30,000 Drury 1 Lewis 2
24/05/1939 Danish XI 4-1 4,500 Bremner 1 Lewis 3
26/05/1939 Danish XI 6-0 21,000 Drury 1 Lewis 1 Crayston 2 Kirchen2
04/06/1939 Diables Rouges 5-1 25,000 Drury 2 Lewis 1 Nelson 2

Meanwhile the England internationals proceeded.  On 13 May 1939 England played away to Italy and drew 2-2 with Male and Hapgood in the team.   Then on 18 May 1939 England played Yugoslavia away with the same Arsenal players in the team.  This was Eddie Hapgood’s last game for England.  He played 30 games in all for England including captaining England in the notorious game against Germany in Berlin on 14 May 1938, where the players were ordered to give the Nazi salute before the game.  

Finally on 24 May 1939 we have Romania v England which England won 2-0 .  Male and Copping played, and again it was their final appearances.   It was England’s last full international for seven years with Male finally getting  19 caps and Copping 20 caps.

Back in England on 3 June 1939  Jimmy Logie signed for Arsenal from Lochore Welfare.  He served in the Royal Navy through the war before returning to Arsenal with whom he won the league twice.

On 26 June 1939 Wilf Wash was sold to Derby.  He had spent two years at Margate before making his three league appearances as a forward, but was not considered by Allison to be of the quality needed.

Elsewhere in the summer however all the talk was of preparations for war.  On 28 June the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force was created, absorbing the companies of the Auxiliary Territorial Service.  Then on 1 July the Women’s Land Army was re-formed to work in agriculture.

At its AGM on 5 July 1939 the Football League finally allowed numbered shirts having previously outlawed them as Herbert Chapman and others tried to introduce the concept.   

Back with football Arsenal made one signing: on 9 August 1939 Lionel Smith signed as a pro.  He had joined as an amateur left back and signed professionally in August on the eve of the new season.

And that season began in effect on 19 August 1939 with another Arsenal v Tottenham friendly, which Arsenal won 1-0.  Clearly the clubs had found the experiment which had been tried with a similar game before the start of the season in 1938 to their taste.  But more of that in the next article when we consider what happened to the Football League in September 1939 and thereafter.

Arsenal in the 30s, the series

1930s: the players, the crowds, the tactics

Joseph Szabo, his visit to Arsenal, and the way it changed SC Braga’s history.

6 Replies to “Arsenal in the summer 1939”

  1. Centre half, right half, bring back the old positions!

    I think it’s amazing that with a war going on, there was still time for football back then.

    My pen is capped


  2. The point to remember I think, is that just as men were needed to fly, fight in the army and in the navy, so men were needed to work in the armaments factories to make the weapons. These men worked five and a half day weeks, so would still have saturday afternoon off to play or watch.

  3. I’m looking for some help tracing a realtive – Harold James Watson, known as Jim. I’ve always been told that he played for Aresnal. I believe he was a goalie. This would have been in the thirties and possibly during WW2. During the wat he moved to Coventry and played for a works team (Jaguar?? Eolls ROyce??) and was later a scout for Coventry City. I’d be gratgeful fro any info!! TIA

  4. Kay – thanks for writing in and maybe someone will know. I will mention this on the website in an article of its own, so if you look there you will see if anyone replies.


  5. I have been searching Fred Ollier’s “Arsenal A Complete Record 1886-1990” and can find no mention of a Harold James Watson. However in the section of wartime appearances in the 1942-43 season a N.Watson-Smith played twice as a guest player and, interestingly was in goal on Christmas day and Boxing day versus Chelsea both times home and away, remembering that home was at White Hart Lane. Arsenal lost each match 2-5 away and 1-5 at home. I could not find any suitable name in the chapter on the London/Football Combination appearances when the title was won, or in any friendly matches of that era.
    I have further researched a book titled “Soccer at War 1939-45” by Jack Rollin and found the same N.Watson-Smith played for Watford three times 1941-42 again as a guest player. Also there was a S.Watson-Smith played one game for West Ham United in 1942-43 and not marked as a guest.
    There are no H.Watson’s in either book but a J.Watson is mentioned on on seven different occasions in the latter. The first time is for Bristol Rovers twice in 1939-40 and is not marked as a guest player and after played as a guest for Blackburn Rovers once in 1940-41, once for Bradford City ’41-42, six times for Bolton Wanderers ’42-43, twenty for Brentford in 43-44 finally in 45-46 fourteen appearances for Brighton. Don’t know his postition but no goals awarded to him if its the same man.
    There are three Watson’s with no initial who only make one appearance each for Aldershot, Reading and Southport.
    Sorry I can’t go any further than this but hope it may perhaps help a little. Please let me know if you find any more information.

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