By Tony Attwood
Through the work of Andy Kelly of TheArsenalHistory we have a list of players who played for Arsenal during the 1917/18 season of wartime football – the third such season.
Looking at the players there are some whose names continued all the way through the wartime campaigns, such a Bradshaw, Chipperfield, Ducat (once of Arsenal, now of Villa but regularly playing for Arsenal, presumably because his wartime work had drawn him to London), Grant, FW Groves, Lewis, Liddell, McKinnon, Rutherford, Shaw, Stapley, Tyler, and Williamson.
These would be men whose war work would have been either working in the munitions plants or other such essential work based in London.
Arsenal also used a number of loan players as the table below shows. The figures are for 1917/18 in the London Combination and the rather mysterious four match cup competition played at the end of the season to which we have alluded previously.
|E Cooper||Newcastle United||–||–||1||–|
|GH Douglas||Leicester Fosse||7||4||–||–|
|A Ducat||Aston Villa||7||–||1||–|
|F Rooney (on field)||3||2||–||–|
|F Rooney (in goal)||1||–||–|
|EC Williamson||Croydon Common||35||4||5|
As we can see we only had 12 players who played 10+ games in the season – thus revealing an ever chopping and changing side. It would be good to know how this compares with other clubs in the Combination at this time, but I have not been able to locate their records.
In 1915/16 Arsenal had come third in the first wartime league and 11th in the shorter “supplementary” competition that kept football going until the end of April. Chelsea had won both leagues, West Ham being runners up in the first, and Millwall in the second competition.
In 1916/17 the same three teams dominated. This time, in a league that ran all through the season West Ham won the title, Millwall came second and Chelsea third. Arsenal were fifth. In this, the third season Chelsea and West Ham once again occupied the top two spots, but this time Fulham came in third. Millwall were ninth, Arsenal fifth again.
I have already published the league table in an earlier page, but to put everything together in one file here it is again.
|2||West Ham United||36||20||9||7||103||51||49|
|8||Queen’s Park Rangers||36||14||2||20||48||73||30|
Why some teams flourished more than others I can’t really say because I can’t find access to all the results and the events surrounding each team. Perhaps Arsenal suffered by having more players than most sign up for service in the army overseas, because of Henry Norris’ initiation of the Footballers’ Battalion. Perhaps some moved back to Plumstead to work at the Woolwich Arsenal and simply didn’t want to make the journey across the river for matches. Indeed maybe Millwall themselves benefited from their proximity to the factories on the southern reaches of the Thames.
Maybe Arsenal also suffered by not having its foremost decision maker taking much interest in the club, with Sir Henry being engaged with the War Office. Indeed as we have seen, the number of games that he attended was very small. Punch McEwan always seems to come across as a thoroughly likeable man, but he was certainly not a man who wanted to be manager, and yet by and large he seems to have run the club along with a few of the regular players.
Chelsea certainly seemed to get large crowds in the early parts of the war seasons, and maybe that attracted players to them. There is an interesting article on Chelsea in the first world war here.
The West Ham success is particularly interesting because there was a West Ham Battalion formed on the model of Henry Norris’ Footballers’ Battalion which became part of the Middlesex Regiment, but I wonder if part of the club’s success at this time was perhaps down its origins as a club formed by a company for its employees, and thus it was able to retain the services of many of its employees during the war years – and therefore they were able to play for the club.
That is speculation of course. There are some articles around, but many of them make assertions without giving a sense of any detail or the sources of information, and thus may not be 100% accurate if they are (as sometimes appears to be the case) retelling stories told across the generations.
Next we shall move on to the final wartime season, and of course the victory of the Allied Forces in 1918.
If you are interested in Sir Henry Norris and the promotion of Arsenal in 1919, plus the allegations of scandal surrounding this, we have already written up several articles on this. You will find details in Henry Norris at the Arsenal.
Below is the index to articles concerning Henry Norris in sequence. The series continues.
The Henry Norris Files Section 1 – 1910.
- Part 1. How Arsenal fell from grace.
- Part 2: heading for liquidation and the first thought of moving elsewhere
- Part 3: March and April 1910 – the crisis deepens
- Part 4: the proposed mergers with Tottenham and Chelsea.
- Part 5: The collapse of Woolwich Arsenal: how the rescue took shape.
- Part 6: It’s agreed, Arsenal stay in Plumstead for one (no two) years
- Part 7: Completing the takeover and preparing for the new season
- Part 8: July to December 1910. Bad news all round.
Section 2 – 1911
Section 3 – 1912
- 11: 1912 and Arsenal plan to move away from Plumstead
- 12: How Henry Norris chose Highbury as Arsenal’s new ground
- 13: Amid protests from the locals Arsenal’s future is secured
- 14: Arsenal relegated amidst allegations of match fixing
Section 4 – 1913
- How Henry Norris secured Highbury for Arsenal in 1913.
- Norris at the Arsenal: 1913 and the opening weeks at Highbury
- When Highbury opened, and “Victoria Concordia Crescit” was introduced
- The players who launched Arsenal’s rebirth and Arsenal’s games in October 1913.
- The rebirth of Arsenal after the move to Highbury: November 1913.
- December 1913, the alleged redcurrent shirts, and Chapman comes to Highbury for the first time
Section 5 – 1914
- Arsenal’s first ever FA Cup match at Highbury and a challenge for promotion: Jan 1914
- Arsenal February and March 1914; the wall falls down, the team slips up.
- The end of Woolwich Arsenal and of the first season at Highbury.
- Arsenal at the end of the world: May to August 1914.
- The newly named The Arsenal start their first season and go top of the League
- As the death toll mounts Arsenal keep playing: October 1914
- November 1914: The Times journalist goes to a reserve match without realising it.
- December 1914: The Footballers’ Battalion formed by Arsenal chairman and others
Section 6 – 1915
- January 1915: Arsenal players start to leave their club for their country
- Arsenal in February and March 1915: the abandonment of football is announced and the result is… curious
- April 1915: New revelations concerning perhaps the most important month in Arsenal’s history
- Norris promoted, the League loses interest but football pulls itself back together.
- Arsenal move into the London Combination in September 1915
- Arsenal in wartime: Norris’ genius for administration comes to the fore but reduces Arsenal’s playing staff.
- November / December 1915: the match fixing scandal comes to the fore: Norris is armed
Section 7: – 1916
- Arsenal in wartime: January 1916. The end of the first wartime league.
- Arsenal, February 1916: the 2nd league and a terrible tragedy on the pitch
- Arsenal: March – May 1916. The team in decline, entry to football taxed for the first time.
- Arsenal wartime league tables and player appearances: 1915/16
- Arsenal at war; Tottenham move out of WHL, Arsenal hit rock bottom. June to Sept 1916.
- Arsenal Oct 1916: a tragic death, a slow recovery
- Arsenal in wartime: November and December 1916
Section 8: 1917
- January 1917: Arsenal’s upturn continues, gang culture in London, turmoil in Russia.
- Arsenal in February 1917: Arsenal on the up, George Allison’s contribution.
- Arsenal – March 1917. Measles, price rises, women start to serve.
- Arsenal in April and May 1917. Norris goes missing, Arsenal continue winning.
- Norris at the Arsenal: Arsenal Players in the wartime league, 1916/17
- Henry Norris is knighted for setting up the Footballers’ Battalion. June 1917
- Sir Henry Norris promoted to Lt Colonel in recognition of his work in the War Office
- September 1917: Arsenal’s form definitely on the up.
- October 1917: Arsenal slip into sharp decline; Norris gains a new appointment
- Arsenal at the end of 1917. Crowds collapse, results poor, the war drags on.
Section 9: 1918 and the end of the war
- Arsenal in 1918: Chapman’s downfall, votes for women, schooling for all, Arsenal erratic
- Norris at the Arsenal: March 1918, crowds drop, rationing, the war turns
- April 1918: the third wartime league ends; Ireland rebels against conscription.
- Arsenal in the summer of 1918. The new league planned as the end of the war approaches.