Arsenal, 11 – 31 December 1918. A 9-2 victory, the chairman becomes an MP, footballers unionise.

By Tony Attwood

On 11 December 1918, just three days before the day of the general election Sir Henry Norris held another campaign meeting, and then two days later, in common with other candidates he placed an advertisement in the local paper announcing that as a candidate of the Coalition which had taken power in 1916 upon the fall of the Asquith government, he was the candidate supported by the Liberals and the Conservatives and even a minority of Labour supporters.

This last point was a trifle spurious since as we have seen in the last episode, Sir Henry had just sued the Labour candidate in his constituency over what was said in the Labour promotional leaflets, and had won in court.  Labour for the most part was not part of the coalition.

Voting took place on Saturday 14 December, with many men in the armed forces voting with their units in whichever country they were stationed.  Women over the age of 30, and all men over the age of 21, could vote. Previously, all women and many men living in poorer accommodation had been excluded from voting.

Because of voting being held across much of the world, the counting of the votes was delayed until 28 December, once all the voting papers had been sent back to England.  Nevertheless it was the first general election to be held on a single day – previously elections had lasted up to a week.

As was widely anticipated (although of course without the benefit of pre-vote polling in the modern sense), the coalition government of Lloyd George won but what was not anticipated was the rebellion among Irish voters following the aborted attempt to enforce conscription in 1918.  The Irish Parliamentary Party which wanted home rule for Ireland through negotiation within Westminster were almost completely wiped out by the Sinn Féin who successfully argued that the “Home Rule Party” (as the IPP were known) had achieved nothing. Sinn Féin then as now refused to take their seats instead setting up their own First Dáil.

Back with the football, on 14 December Arsenal beat Chelsea 3-0 in front of 8000 hardy souls, a match which was followed by a meeting of professional footballers from London in Farringdon Street, EC4 – a meeting that was to all intents and purposes a trade union meeting to discuss the recent pay offers by clubs following the re-start of professionalism.

The meeting was chaired by Harold Hardinge of Arsenal and voted to re-form the Players’ Union – a vote that was accepted.  All the current London Combination clubs were represented at this meeting.

Hardinge’s position as chair was important for he was not only an Arsenal man, he was also an England international, and played cricket for Kent and England.  Indeed he had been something of a protege starting out in first class cricket aged 16 and scored 33,519 runs and played in one Test match against the Australians while in 1913 he scored four consecutive centuries.  He also bowled and took 371 wickets – and was Cricketer of the Year in 1915.  Having him as chair gave the meeting gravitas.

In footballing terms Hardinge played inside forward, moving from Kent to Newcastle United in 1905.  After just nine games in nearly three years, he went to Sheffield United for £350 and scored 50 goals in 150 games, as well as getting an England game against Scotland in 1910.

He joined Woolwich Arsenal in the summer of 1913, and he played in Woolwich Arsenal’s first-ever game at Highbury, the 2-1 win over Leicester Fosse on 6 September 1913.

After the League was stopped for the duration in 1915, Wally Hardinge had served as a CPO in the Royal Navy, and then after the war went on to play one more season for Arsenal’s first team.  He continued in the reserves however until 1921 playing a total of 55 first team matches and scoring 14 goals.  He also made 70 wartime appearances for Woolwich Arsenal FC.

After retiring from both cricket and football, Wally worked as a sales rep for John Wisden & Co the cricket manual publishers.  He also worked as a coach for Tottenham Hotspur, having responsibility for the reserves, and was also caretaker manager of the first team in 1935 for a short spell.  A picture of him is given below.

Harold Thomas William HardingeThe next footballing event occurred on 17 December 1918, at the Anderton’s Hotel in Fleet Street, when the Southern League met (as the Football League had already done) to consider their future.

The result was something that looking back seems quite extraordinary, for the meeting instructed the directors of the Southern League to meet with the Football League, to discuss amalgamation.  Reporting the meeting “Athletic News” suggested that the outcome would be the Third Division that had already been mooted.

On the same day at the same time the London Combination (which had run the war time leagues in London, and initially in London and the south east) held a meeting with the now re-formed Players’ Union.  Sir Henry Norris attended, and the meeting resolved that it could say nothing on the issue since it had only been formed because the Football League had not taken any steps to organise a league in London during the war, and thus it had no legal function once this season was over.  It was a rather pointless meeting as it turned out.

Then, in the coming days newspapers started to report that clubs were starting to approach to authorities to have their players demobilised early.  This most certainly would have interested Sir Henry not just as chairman of Arsenal but also as Chairman of the Ministry of Labour’s Advisory Committee on demobilisation.  Such matters were not his to decide alone, but he certainly had a lot of influence.

The run up to Christmas then finished for the first time with an event which was set to become an English institution – and one that continues until this day, the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s College Cambridge.

As was traditional at the time, clubs played home and away games against the same team on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.   This season the opposition was Clapton Orient, with the Christmas Day match at Orient’s ground being a 2-3 defeat in front of 7500.

However this result gave no insight into what was going to happen the following day, although when Clapton Orient opened the scoring on two minutes, it looked like another defeat for Arsenal was on the cards.  But in fact the result was rather amazingly Arsenal 9 Clapton Orient 2 although only 6,000 turned up to witness the goal fest.  The goals came from Jack Butler (4), JJ Chipperfield (3), Rutherford and Spittle.  Amazingly it was Butler’s only game for Arsenal in the war seasons.

Jack Butler had moved to Arsenal from Fulham in 1914 and played in the reserves for the 1914/15 season until he joined the Royal Artillery and served his country in France.   He was a natural centre half but in this match played as centre forward, presumably because, as so often happened in wartime games, no one else was available.  He eventually made his first-team professional debut for Arsenal, against Bolton on 15 November 1919 but in his total of 267 league games he only scored seven goals.

JJ Chipperfield played for Luton Clarence (a team of whom I have little information) and is described as a wartime Guest Player.  He played 26 games in this final wartime season and scored 18 goals, giving a grand total of 106 league goals in 47 games.  He never played for Arsenal outside of the wartime leagues.

Two days later the count of the General Election results took place, and Sir Henry Norris was duly elected…

Party Candidate Votes %
Unionist Sir Henry Norris 10,242 69.4
Independent Labour David Cook 2,883 19.5
Liberal Frederick L. Coysh 1,644 11.1
Majority 7,359 49.9
Turnout 14,769 40.8
Registered electors 36,228

That Sir Henry won is not surprising, as he was the Mayor in what was obviously a deeply Conservative constituency (remembering that as we have noted before every single seat on Fulham Council at the time was held by a Conservative).  What is surprising however is that the Liberal candidate was beaten by an Independent Labour man who had no campaigners, and no election campaign save a leaflet which because of its libellous nature had been withdrawn at the start of campaigning.

Meanwhile, George Elliott, the mayor of Islington, who I mentioned in the last article as being the first Islington mayor to venture inside the Arsenal stadium since the council attempted to stop Arsenal moving north, was elected MP for Islington West.  This was not the seat that covers the area including Highbury Stadium (which is now held by Jeremy Corbyn) – that was taken by Baldwin Raper, a pilot in the recently formed RAF pilot.

Both Elliott and Raper were MPs for the Coalition government and Raper proved to be another supporter of the emancipation of women.  He also turned out to be an Arsenal supporter and was regularly seen at Arsenal matches.

On 28 December there was another round of London Combination matches, which included the result Queens Park Rangers 0 Arsenal 2, meaning Arsenal had won 3, drawn 2 and lost one of their December games.

That evening there was another meeting of the re-formed Players’ Union, and once again it was an Arsenal man who took the chair, this time being Frank Bradshaw.   Once again the meeting was held at the Memorial Hall, Farringdon Street, and the aim was to prepare the union’s demands for wages and contracts before the re-start of the Football League in August 1919.

It was also announced on this day that the country had its first woman MP, although Countess Constance Markievicz did not take her seat both because she was currently detained in Holloway Prison and because she had been elected on behalf of Sinn Féin who as mentioned before, did not take their seats.

The following day, the demand for news that had built up following four years of four page censored papers, resulted in another newspaper launch: the Sunday Express.

Around this time there was also a growing discussion of the need to consider expanding the football season, if the Leagues were going to contain more teams, and not play a lot of mid-week games (which through much of the year would start at 2pm and would preclude attendance by many who worked through the week. 

In part as a result of this, in its last edition of 1918 Athletic News (which was to play a very major part in focusing the discussions relating to the way the 1919/20 season was set up) also considered, for the first time, about what was to happen if there were to be an expanded 1st Division.  Chelsea, as we have seen, were relegated at the end of the 1914/15 season, along with Tottenham Hotspur.  But Chelsea’s relegation had been caused by the match fixing of which Liverpool were accused (with accusations going back at least as far back as 1913 when Henry Norris wrote his article on the subject), and of which their players (but not the club!) were found guilty in 1918.

Unfortunately I can find no articles on Chelsea’s official website nor any other site associated with the club about their relegation in 1915 nor their reinstatement into the first division in 1919, so I can’t give a broader perspective, but certainly the 30 December 1918 Athletic News argues vigorously on their behalf since they were the team that had clearly suffered as a result of the match fixing.

This debate of course dominated the next few months.

Here are the results from December 1918.

Game Date Opposition Venue Res Score Crowd
14 07/12/1918 Tottenham Hotspur A  L 0-1 12,000
15 14/12/1918 Chelsea H W 3-0 8,000
16 21/12/1918 Crystal Palace H D 3-3 8,500
17 25/12/1918 Clapton Orient A L 2-3 7,500
18 26/12/1918 Clapton Orient H W 9-2 6,000
19 28/12/1918 Queen’s Park Rangers A W 2-0 4,000

Below are the articles so far in this series…

The Henry Norris Files Section 1 – 1910.

Section 2 – 1911

Section 3 – 1912

Section 4 – 1913

Section 5 – 1914

Section 6 – 1915

Section 7: – 1916

Section 8: 1917

Section 9: 1918 and the end of the war

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