How Arsenal showed the football world how to remember Armistice Day

This is our daily review of Arsenal anniversaries taken from the Arsenal day by day  files prepared by the AISA Arsenal History Society.



By Tony Attwood

The notion that football should do something for the veterans of the first world war was a Herbert Chapman idea.  It was both typical of the man, and like so many of his ideas, was way ahead of its time.  But now the Armistice Day games have largely been dropped from the telling of Chapman’s role in Arsenal’s history.  Renaming the tube station, white sleeves, numbered shirts, the clock… they all get a mention, but how he placed  football at the heart of remembering those who fought for their country, no, that one has slipped away.

To give the context to what Chapman did let me quote one paragraph from the book “To Dearly Loved to be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris”:

“The biggest scar however, throughout the post-war period for all participating countries was the sheer number of wounded and maimed ex-servicemen that the conflict had left behind: for instance it is calculated that over two million British servicemen were wounded in action during the war…”

It was out of the recognition that more needed to be done to help those left maimed and often destitute by the war, that Arsenal and Racing Club de Paris came together, to hold a unique and groundbreaking fund raising experiment, to raise money for the injured servicemen of France.

There was I believe also a recognition by Chapman of the work that Lt Col Sir Henry Norris (the man who brought Chapman to Arsenal) had done for the war effort by setting up the Footballers’ Battalion in 1917.  It was felt that Arsenal, with its origins linked to the military, and having as its chairman during the first world war, a man who was particularly noted and rewarded for his work in the war, should be the club that took this unique step of helping those injured in the war.

The idea was that the clubs would play each other on 11 November 1930 and so successful was the experiment that ultimately the game was played 27 times across the years.  Part way through they obviously had to stop for a second horrendous conflict but the games were then resumed.  It was by far the biggest event of its kind in terms of international awareness and importance, and in my view every Arsenal supporter should be proud that our club was at the very heart of it.

When the first match was played in 1930 Arsenal had just won their first ever major trophy – the FA Cup.  Racing Club had also reached their domestic cup final, but they had lost.  What no one knew of course was that Arsenal’s cup victory in 1930 was the start of the club’s greatest era.  Arsenal had never won the league… but they were about to – again, and again, and again (and then some).

The series of games became phenomenally famous across Europe and of vital importance to France as they twice were forced to rebuild their country.  Herbert Chapman, Samuel Hill Wood (Arsenal’s chairmen) and later George Allison were all awarded the prestigious French Medal of Physical Culture for their part in developing and keeping alive the fixture.  In terms of national awareness in England it was as big the Grand National.   Indeed so famous did these matches become it was these games that led in part to L’Equipe starting the pressure for a European Champion Clubs’ Cup which was finally agreed in Paris in 1955.

As for the first game on November 11, 1930, at half time Arsenal were 2-1 down.  And then… Lambert scored four as Arsenal went on to win 7-2.  Stories concerning this match, and all the others in the series abound.  Apparently Chapman was scared witless by flying to Paris, leaping up and shouting (when the plane went into a cloud on the way to the first game) “My God the engines have fallen off,” and having to be pacified by the air crew.

In 1938 the airport in Paris was affected by fog and the two planes carrying the Arsenal players skimmed past each other, as one then went on to miss a hanger by a matter of feet.

It is appropriate that at a time when the club seems to have turned its back on this element of its history, not only to reflect on these matches but also to mention the book that commemorates the games.  An A4 size book with between one and three pictures per page.  Match photos, cartoons, programmes (even the front cover of the programme for the very first game between the two sides in 1930)  and some colour pictures from the first game too…

What makes this volume even more valuable is that this is not just about Arsenal and Racing, although that is the central theme, this is also a history of Arsenal through the period, with illustrations the like of which I have never previously seen.   I hadn’t previously seen the Arsenal programme for the first home match at the start of the 1946/7 season before – a season that marked the return of Arsenal to Highbury after spending the war years playing at White Hart Lane – and let me tell you, that front page article, recording Arsenal men who served their country, the sadness of passing, the joy of being back… well, you really do need to read it.

If you have any interest at all in Arsenal’s history, in the importance of our club in the 1930s, in the rebuilding of Arsenal after the second world war, in the way in which Herbert Chapman could seize the moment and do wondrous work on behalf of those who served their country, and could make Arsenal part of that, you really ought to read this book.

“To dearly loved to be forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962” by Steve Ingless costs £19.99.   Postage is UK 1st class £6, UK 2nd class £3. Europe £10, rest of the world £16.00.

You can order by post with a cheque to S C Ingless, 35 Leat Close, Sawbridgeworth, Herts CM21 9LZ or PayPal via

Below are the Anniversaries from  November 11.  

In many years the Racing Club matches could not be played on 11 November, and so were played on the nearest suitable day.  Each match is commemorated in our anniversary series.


11 November 1930: Racing Club de Paris 2 Arsenal 7.  This was the first in the series of games to honour and raise money for those who gave their lives in the first world war, each game played on or close to Armistice Day.

11 November 1935: Racing Club de Paris 2 Arsenal 2

11 November 1946: Racing Club de Paris 1 Arsenal 2 – the Arsenal side including Albert Sigurður Guðmundsson

11 November 1947: Racing Club de Paris 4 Arsenal 3

11 November 1958: John Devine born in Dublin.  played for Arsenal from 1974 to 1983 at a time when the number of Irishmen associated with Arsenal was particularly high and included Liam Brady, David O’Leary and Frank Stapleton

11 November 1970: Gilles Grimandi born in Gap.  He played for his home town club from 1988-91 and Monaco from 1991 to 1997 before playing his first Arsenal game on 9th August 1997 along with Overmars, and Petit.

11 November 1998: Arsenal Reserves 0 Chelsea 5, league cup fourth round.  It was the last time that Arsenal charged full price for tickets and included the league cup in the season ticket cup allocation.

11 November 2000: John Lukic played against Derby C aged 39 years 336 days and became Arsenal’s oldest player of the post-war era.

11 November 2010: Szczesny signed a five year deal.  He progressed to be the clear first choice keeper until early 2015 when a poor performance and disciplinary issues saw him replaced by David Ospina.  In the summer of 2015 he went out on loan.


Yesterday’s anniversaries:

The Arsenal men who make a living out of attacking Arsenal


The latest post from our series on Henry Norris at the Arsenal

Arsenal at the end of 1917. Crowds collapse, results poor, the war drags on.

A full index of the various series of articles on this site appears on the home page.


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