Beaumont Hamel, 1916

“Beaumont Hamel”  as our then G.O.C. said six years later, “was the first occasion when the Highland Division was able to prove that, given a fair chance, it would certainly be successful against the enemy. Here was a fortress defended by every artifice of which the Boche was a past master. It had several lines of defence connected by subterranean tunnels, and each line defended by several belts of barbed wire. When the Division proceeded there the place had been attacked on at least two occasions, and it still remained intact. When I went to those Divisions that had attacked in order to try to get some tips, I was told, “You have not a dog’s chance”. As you know it rained continuously for several days before 13th November. In fact we carried out a raid two or three days before, and the men were so involved in the mud that they could not get on and could scarcely get back. Yet Beaumont Hamel was taken, you might say, with almost automatic precision. We took nearly 3,000 prisoners, and that in spite of very little progress being made on our left. This was the same Division that had fought bravely … Read the rest

The Somme, 1916

We lay for some days in huts outside Acq, a village of no great interest, although in its vicinity were two large stones les pierres d’Acq said to have been raised by Beaudouin Bras de Fer in 862 in honour of his victory over Charles the Bald, but in reality old prehistoric monoliths. A visit to the village cemetery shewed the more common names of the local families to be Delcour, Allart, Richebé, Genel, Bacqueville, Cuisinier, Gauchy, Delassus, Masclef, Dubois (of course), Cuvellier, Goude- mont, Compagnon, Leroux, Lantoine, Delettre, Bayart and Bulteel. And if one had, like Hervey, to spend one’s spare time in meditation among the tombs, it can be guessed that there was not much else to do. For, knowing we were soon to be on the old tinker’s trail again, we wasted no time on landscape gardening round about our hutments to catch the eye of itinerant medical brass hats, but stuck in to that never-failing operation, the over-hauling of equipment. 

So, having got orders late on the previous night, we left Acq on the morning of the 15th, and spent a very hot and dusty summer day in trekking via Haute Avesnes, Habarcq, Avesnes le Comte … Read the rest

Franklin Charles Buckley

Frank Buckley
Frank Buckley

Franklin Charles Buckley (more commonly known as Major Frank Buckley) (3 October 1882 – 21 December 1964) was an English football player and, later, manager. He was the brother of Chris Buckley, who played for Aston Villa.

Early life

Buckley was born in Urmston, Lancashire. He attended St Francis Xavier’s College, Liverpool, and became an office clerk. Already part of the Manchester Regiment, Buckley signed up for a 12-year enlistment in King’s Regiment (Liverpool) and expected to serve in the Boer War, but was instead sent to Ireland. He bought himself out of the army in 1902 to become a professional footballer.

Playing career

He went from Aston Villa to Brighton and Hove Albion to Manchester United and Manchester City all within six years, and found something approaching stability only with Birmingham, where he made 56 appearances. Soon after that he was on the move again, this time to Derby County. It was with the Rams, in 1914, that he gained his sole England cap, in a shock 3–0 defeat by Ireland at Ayresome Park, before upping sticks, again, to join Bradford City; his stay in Yorkshire shortened by the start of the First World War.

Managerial careerRead the rest

Donald Simpson Bell

Donald Simpson Bell
Donald Simpson Bell

Second Lieutenant Donald Simpson Bell, VC (3 December 1890 – 10 July 1916) was an English school teacher and professional footballer. During World War I he was awarded the Victoria Cross (VC) for actions during the Battle of the Somme in mid-1916.


Bell was born on 3 December 1890 to Smith and Annie Bell, who resided in Queen’s Road, Harrogate. He attended St Peter’s Church of England Primary School and Harrogate Grammar School before going to Westminster College, London, to train as a teacher. A noted sportsman at college, he played as an amateur with Crystal Palace and later for Newcastle United. He returned to Harrogate and became a schoolteacher at Starbeck Council School (now Starbeck Primary School) and a member of the National Union of Teachers. To supplement his salary, in 1912 he signed professional forms with Bradford (Park Avenue). He played 6 games for the club as a defender or midfielder between 1912–14.

World War I

When World War I broke out, he became the first professional footballer to enlist into the British Army – joining the West Yorkshire Regiment in 1915. He was promoted to Lance Corporal and then commissioned into the 9th … Read the rest

The Football Battalions

Memorial to the Football Battalion in Longueval, France
Memorial to the Football Battalions in Longueval, France

The 17th (Service) Battalion, Middlesex Regiment was an infantry battalion of the Middlesex Regiment, part of the British Army, which was formed as a Pals battalion during the Great War. The core of the battalion was a group of professional footballers, which was the reason for its most commonly used name, The Football Battalion (also the footballers’ or players’ battalion). The 23rd (Service) Battalion, Middlesex Regiment was formed in June 1915 and became known as the 2nd Football Battalion. The battalions fought in the Battle of the Somme in 1916 among others.

During the First World War there had been an initial push by clubs for professional football to continue, in order to keep the public’s spirits up. This stance was not widely agreed with and public opinion turned against professional footballers. One soldier, serving in France, wrote to a British newspaper to complain that “hundreds of thousands of able-bodied young roughs were watching hirelings playing football” while others were serving their country. The suggestion was even made that King George V should cease being a patron of The Football Association.

William Joynson-Hicks formed the battalion on 12 December 1914 at Fulham … Read the rest

Battle of the Somme

The Battle of the Somme (French: Bataille de la Somme; German: Schlacht an der Somme), also known as the Somme offensive, was a battle of the First World War fought by the armies of the British Empire and the French Third Republic against the German Empire. It took place between 1 July and 18 November 1916 on both sides of the upper reaches of the river Somme in France. The battle was intended to hasten a victory for the Allies. More than three million men fought in the battle, of whom one million were either wounded or killed, making it one of the deadliest battles in all of human history.

The French and British had committed themselves to an offensive on the Somme during the Chantilly Conference in December 1915. The Allies agreed upon a strategy of combined offensives against the Central Powers in 1916 by the French, Russian, British and Italian armies, with the Somme offensive as the Franco-British contribution. Initial plans called for the French army to undertake the main part of the Somme offensive, supported on the northern flank by the Fourth Army of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). When the Imperial German Army began the Battle … Read the rest

Sydney Stanley French

Sydney Stanley French, 9th Battalion, Essex Regiment & Second World War Air Raid Precautions (ARP) Warden

Sydney Stanley French was born on 9th November 1894 and would see service as a Private and later Acting Corporal (No. 19743) with the 9th Battalion, Essex Regiment on the Western Front from 16th December 1915. He was noted as wounded in the Suffolk and Free Press on 20th September 1916, this during the Battle of the Somme where the battalion saw action at Ovillers and La Boiselle, and he would later be discharged due to wounds and sickness on 18th July 1917.

Sydney would go on to serve during the Second World War as part of an Air Raid Protection Rescue Party, this being confirmed on the 1939 Register, where he is noted as living at Roseberry Road, Chelmsford.