100 years ago it was cup weekend, and Arsenal had no game

Arsenal had no game this weekend because they had been knocked out of the cup.  The match they should have played was moved to the monday (no hanging about for re-arranged fixture organisation or permission from the police 100 years back).

Meanwhile Henry Norris had gone cool on the issue of Woolwich Arsenal, and predicted in the West London and Fulham Times that the club was about to go into liquidation.

Which is ironic, since I spend so much time 100 years on suggesting that half of the Premierships is about to go down the same river.

Certainly Woolwich Arsenal were bust, their crowds were down, the torpedo factory (where many of their supporters worked) was being moved to the Clyde, and they were out of the FA Cup.  It didn’t look good.

With no news on the football front for the day, 100 years ago, I could end this column at this point, but there was another interesting development at this time.

MI5 was founded.

It wasn’t MI5 then, and it didn’t look like MI5 and Spooks, but it was MI5 all the same.

The government had realised that since there was likely to be a war with Germany, and since the Kingdom had done so badly in South Africa, some new methods were needed.  There was a feeling that Germany had spies everywhere and knew everything that Britain was planning.  But we had no intelligence network – and so clearly were on the back foot.

What the British government did not know in 1910 was that Germany really thought the same – only in reverse.  They believed that Britain had a spy network in Europe, and knew all that was going on, but that they, the Germans, had nothing to rival the network.

So the government talked to the War Office and the Admiralty about setting the matter to rights.  Two men were nominated to work on the project, but in that very British way, the two men didn’t get on.  One went back to the Admiralty and eventually founded MI6, and the other stayed in the War Office.

That man was Captain Kell who single handedly set up MI5.

The story of what happened next, and how the newly formed secret service drew on the experiences in the Boer War in South Africa, is part of the “Making the Arsenal” book – the novel which describes 1910.   There are more details on www.woolwicharsenal.co.uk

More from the Arsenal in 1910 shortly….



  • “Making the Arsenal” – the novel.  The most extraordinary book about Arsenal ever.  And that’s unofficial.  Available from Amazon.co.uk and from the publishers direct.

Football needs fixing: Recent stories from Untold Arsenal

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