A number of Huddersfield Town players and former-players ‘did their bit’ for club and country during the First World War and here you can find out something about these brave men. As far as I know this is an exhaustive list but if you know of some that I have missed please get in touch. In addition, if you can supply images where I am missing ones I’d be very grateful.
Firstly there were two players on Town’s books who lost their lives in the service of their country…
Larrett Roebuck has the dubious distinction of being the very first English professional footballer to be killed in the War. Born in Jump, Barnsley, Roebuck had arrived at Town from Silverwood Colliery on 1st March 1913 as a left-back and went on to make his debut on 3rd January 1914 in the home game against Fulham, a match which Town won 3-1. He went on to cement his place in the team as an ever-present for the remainder of that season. However, he was a reservist with the Second Battalion, the York and Lancaster Regiment and was recalled to the colours at the onset of war, where he was sent to France to fight in the early battles of 1914, the so-called “Race to the Sea”.
Larrett Roebuck was killed in October 1914 during his battalion’s actions near the village of Beaucamps, close to the Belgian border. His grave has never been found, despite the relatively recent discovery of the remains of 15 fellow soldiers of his regiment. They were reburied at a Commonwealth military cemetery on October 22nd 2014.
Roebuck can be seen in this late-season 1913-14 (ignore the caption – it’s wrong!) photograph standing second from the right at the back.
You can read much more about Roebuck and his life HERE.
Sidney James was a Lance Corporal in the KOYLI (King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry) and was killed in action on 9th April 1917. He is buried at Cojeul British Cemetery, St. Martin-sur-Cojeul, a small village about 8 kilometres south-south-east of Arras, France. From Darnall, Sheffield, Sid was a centre-forward with Town between 1913-1915 having made his debut on 20th December 1913 at Leeds Road against Leicester Fosse; he actually scored Town’s only goal on that day in a 1-2 defeat.
James made a total of twelve League appearances – scoring two goals – and a further two appearances in the FA Cup in January 1914 against London Caledonians and Birmingham.
These are followed by six other ex-players who also laid down their lives for the greater good…
John “Jack” Cameron was a Scots centre-forward who joined Town on 21st August 1911 from Darnoch. He made his debut in a 2-0 win against Fulham at Leeds Road on 16th September and his only other game was the following week where he made a scoring appearance in the 2-4 defeat at Derby County. Cameron was released only a few weeks later in October. Unfortunately I know nothing about his military service other than the fact that he was killed in action sometime in 1916.
Henry Cyril Crozier was born in Walton-le-Dale near Preston in 1889 and played as an outside-right for Huddersfield Town Reserves in the Midland League during 1911/12.
Cyril’s football career began with Sheffield junior side Commercials FC, and in June 1910 he was signed by Castleford Town secretary-manager Leslie Knighton (later assistant-secretary to Dick Pudan at Huddersfield Town between 1912 and 1914). Outside-left Cyril became great pals with “Ike” Whelpton (cf. James Whelpton, below) who had been signed at the same time from the Lupton Street United Methodists Chapel team, and the pair played for ‘Cas’ in the Midland League during 1910/11. After Mr Knighton left to become assistant-secretary at Manchester City, the two friends then went to Huddersfield Town in October 1911 and played for the Reserve team. Whilst Whelpton briefly made it into the first team, Crozier remained in the second-string, and even played the odd game for Sheffield United Reserves.
At the outbreak of war Cyril enlisted with the 12th (Sheffield City) Battalion, York & Lancaster Regiment, more popularly known as ‘The Sheffield Pals’. The battalion was raised on 10 September 1914, and he may have been amongst the near 1,000 volunteers recruited in the first two days. He was rapidly promoted to Sergeant and became a musketry instructor. Tragically he was to then lose his life on 1 July 1916, the disastrous first day of the Somme Offensive.
You can read a fuller biography of Crozier on Town’s official website HERE.
Edward John “Fred” Didymus played for home town club Portsmouth (Western League) and Southern League club Northampton Town before joining Huddersfield Town where, in 1908/09, he made 28 North Eastern League appearances at outside-right and scoring four goals in the process before joining Blackpool in the summer. He played two Second Division matches for the “Seasiders” in the 1909–10 season before moving on again, this time to North Staffordshire & District League club Port Vale until at the end 1912.
Didymus was married with five children and, after his retirement from football in 1912, he worked as a tram driver for Portsmouth Corporation Transport. In 1915, during the second year of the First World War, he enlisted in the Army Service Corps. After being transferred to the Manchester Regiment, Didymus arrived on the Western Front in March 1918 and was then transferred to the Middlesex Regiment. While serving with the rank of private, he was killed in France on 12th April 1918, the day before his 32nd birthday, and is buried in Tilloy British Cemetery, Tilloy-lès-Mofflaines in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Hauts-de-France region of France.
Ernest George Kenworthy was born in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire in 1888. He was an inside right who played in the Football League for Bradford City having signed in April 1907 from Manningham Recreational. During his time with the club he made two appearances in the Football League, scoring once. He left Valley Parade in 1908 and signed for Huddersfield Town (then a Midland League club) in 1909 for whom he made 20 appearances and scored six goals in the 1909/10 season.
He later trained to be a teacher at Peterborough Training College and eventually became headmaster of Matlock Town Schools by 1914. At the outbreak of the Great War he served as a gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery and was killed by a shell on the Western Front in November 1917.
Kenworthy was buried in Coxyde Military Cemetery, Belgium and left a widow and a child.
(Photograph courtesy of Jeff Williamson, 2020)
Charles Edward Randall was a private in the Coldstream Guards who died on 27th September 1916, aged just 32. He is buried at Dantzig Alley British Cemetery, Mametz. A former amateur player with Town during their North Eastern and Midland Counties League seasons (1908-10), his FA registration was held by Newcastle United at that time and he made his Football League debut for the Magpies while on Town’s books. Randall made two FA Cup appearances for Town in the 1909-10 season.
(Photograph courtesy of Jeff Williamson, 2020)
Welshman Leigh Richmond Roose was a goalkeeper of some extraordinary talent who arrived at Town from Port Vale in 1910. His stay at Leeds Road was short-lived as by 1911 and after only five Second Division games for Town he had moved on to Aston Villa. The first of the ‘playboy’ footballers, Roose has often also been referred to as a doctor of bacteriology although the truth is that he never actually qualified.
Although well above the age of the average recruit, Roose joined the British Army on the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, and served in the Royal Army Medical Corps in France and Gallipoli. He returned to London and enlisted as a private of the Royal Fusiliers in 1916 and then served in the First World War on the Western Front, where his goalkeeping abilities resulted in his becoming a noted grenade thrower.
He was awarded the Military Medal for his bravery on the first occasion he saw action, the regimental history recording: “Private Leigh Roose, who had never visited the trenches before, was in the sap when the flammenwerfer [flame-thrower] attack began. He managed to get back along the trench and, though nearly choked with fumes with his clothes burnt, refused to go to the dressing station. He continued to throw bombs until his arm gave out, and then, joining the covering party, used his rifle with great effect.” His award was gazetted on 21 September 1916.
Promoted to the rank of lance corporal, Roose was killed, aged 38, towards the end of the Battle of the Somme the next month. The exact location and manner of his death remain a matter of dispute. His body was not recovered, and his name appears on the war memorial to missing soldiers at Thiepval. Due to a typographical error on his enlistment papers, his name was recorded as “Leigh Rouse”, although this was later corrected.
There is a great biography of Roose on Wikipedia HERE.
And then came the players on Town’s books who served and survived…
James William “Jim” Baker joined Town from Hartlepool United in 1914 and went on to make 56 appearances for the team and scoring three goals in an interrupted wartime career before moving on to Leeds United in 1920, where he became their very first captain.
Unfortunately I know nothing of his military service other than the fact that he did serve according to the Football And The First World War website listed below.
Like Jack Cock, Frederick Edward “Fred” Bullock joined the 17th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment, the so-called ‘Footballers’ Battalion’ where hundreds of players served together. Although he was raised to the rank of Lance Corporal, I am unsure as to whether or not Bullock actually saw service in conflict; I believe that many of these soldiers served in Blighty and played charity games to keep up the morale of the folks back home. Bullock can be seen third from the right on the back row on this photograph of a Footballers’ Battalion team before an unknown game and again in the photograph at the bottom of this article.
John Gilbert “Jack” Cock had joined Town from Brentford in 1914 before the outbreak of hostilities but subsequently joined the Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex) Regiment in the 17th (Service) Battalion (1st Football) soon after the war started, eventually rising to the rank of Sergeant-Major. At one point he was reported as “missing, presumed dead”. He earned a Military Medal for bravery and was also mentioned in despatches. After the war he continued to play professional football, returning first to Town before moving to Chelsea in October 1919 during Town’s financial crisis for a then record fee of £2500.
Cock can be seen seated front and centre (with ball) in the photograph below which shows the Footballers Battalion team immediately prior to a game against Reading at Elm Park on 4th September 1915, which they won with Cock scoring the only goal.
Thomas William Elliott was a centre-forward who joined Town on 1st May 1912 and made a scoring debut against Bury on 3rd September later that year. He missed very few matches in the first two seasons of his Town career but then took time to readjust after the Great War, moving on to Grimsby Town in December 1919 after only a handful more Town games. Quick moves followed that, with Elliott taking in short stays at Nottingham Forest, Brentford, Durham City and Crewe Alexandra by 1924. I am sorry to say that I know nothing of his service record.
Fred Pagnam was on Town’s books from 1910 to 1912 although he never made any appearances for the first team. He moved on to several other clubs before finally signing for Liverpool in 1914. His time there coincided with a conspiracy by some Liverpool players to rig a match with Manchester United. This was in order to profit from betting on the result, in what became known as “the 1915 British football betting scandal”. Pagnam refused to take part in the conspiracy and even threatened to score a goal to ruin the prearranged result. United won 2–0 as agreed, but four Liverpool players and three United players were eventually found guilty of match-fixing by the Football Association, with Pagnam testifying against his teammates.
The outbreak of the First World War meant competitive football was suspended at the end of the 1914–15 season and Pagnam continued to play for Liverpool during the war, as well as making guest appearances for teams including Arsenal, Belfast Celtic and Blackpool. When football resumed after hostilities ceased, he played only eight more matches for the club before being sold to Arsenal for a £1,500 fee in October 1919.
Pagnam was a gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery serving in No. 2 Depot, then
No. 1 Reinforcing Siege Depot, No. 20 Officer’s Cadet School and finally No. 1 Siege Artillery Reserve Brigade. Whilst at Cadet School he was returned to serve in ranks for misconduct and temporarily posted to 3/6th (City of London) Battalion (Rifles), The London Regiment. He forfeited sixteen days’ pay for five days absence without leave on 23rd March 1918 and went on to be declared a deserter 20th April. Military service clearly didn’t agree with him…
My details for Thomas “Tug” Wilson are somewhat sketchy. I have been informed by fellow collector Derek Jenkins that he was good friends with Neil Wilson, one of Tommy’s sons, who told him that his father was awarded the Military Medal in World War I. Apparently he was a Company Sergeant Major in a Yorkshire Regiment and led his men to safety from a sticky situation.
Wilson didn’t hold much store by medals; he later refused to have his name engraved upon his 1930 FA Cup Runners-Up medal as he considered that Town had been cheated by the referee who had allowed Arsenal to score from a hastily taken free-kick. And, finally, a long dead contact who was the son of Herbert Chapman regaled Derek with many stories of his father and also described Tom Wilson as having “legs like tree trunks!”
And those who had already left Town, served in the Forces and survived…
James George William “Jimmy” Harrold had joined Town as a professional in 1911 but made no appearances before moving swiftly on to West Ham United. By the time that the Great War came along he was on the books of Leicester City; he signed-up as a fitter in the Royal Naval Air Service on 28th March 1917, transferred to the RAF Reserve on 21st November 1919 and was discharged on 30th April 1920, returning to play for City once more, and latterly joining Millwall and Clapton Orient. (These details are taken from the Football And The First World War website below.)
Norman Holmes was a right-back born in Matlock and was another player who also came to Town from Clapton Orient, signing on 16th June 1913. He made his debut on 18th October that year in the 1-2 defeat at Grimsby Town in League Division 2. He left Town for York City in July 1914 having played only two further games against Notts County away in December and the 1-2 February home defeat again by Grimsby. Holmes served in the 17th (Service) ‘Footballers’ Battalion’ in the Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex) Regiment and subsequently the 21st (Service) Battalion (Islington) and 5th (Reserve) Battalion, rising to the rank of Lieutenant.
James Isaac “Ike” Whelpton arrived from Castleford Town in October 1911 as cover for the two resident ‘keepers, Mutch and Brebner. He made two appearances in season 1911-12 before heading off to Guildford United in February 1912. He was a plumber by trade and had attended Sheffield Technical College where he gained a number of educational certificates. He hated the nickname “Ike” and always preferred to be called by his first name, James. In 1914 he was one of the first fighting footballers to win the Military Medal and then later during the War he was sailing on board a ship that was torpedoed.
As a footnote to his career, it is worth noting that bravery ran in his family. The official HTAFC book 99 Years & Counting recalls that his father saved the life of a steeplejack in Sheffield who had been overcome by fumes and collapsed atop a chimney with half of his body hanging perilously over the edge. A crowd gathered in the street below awaiting the arrival of police and the fire brigade when through the crowd came an old chap of 60 or more years carrying a coiled rope that he had borrowed from a nearby shop. He parted the crowd and proceeded to ascend the iron ladder at the side of the almost 300 foot chimney. Once at the top he successfully lashed the unconscious steeplejack to the structure until others arrived to lower the victim to safety. Unfortunately there was a tragic sequel as Mr Whelpton himself had to be assisted down from the ladder, his nerve having given way as he had never been to such a height before. He was a broken man and never worked again although he did visit Buckingham Palace to collect his medal for bravery, but by then he was a shadow of his former self.
And then those who served and joined Town afterwards…
Although he wouldn’t actually join Town until 1921, Clem represented Leeds City in wartime football (see picture left) and worked as a shell-maker in a munitions factory. Ordinary Seaman Z/7344 Stephenson then joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (Bristol Division) on 28 January 1918 and was posted to the RN Depot at Crystal Palace on 29 April 1918. He subsequently spent much of his time as a physical training instructor at Crystal Palace and was promoted to the rank of leading seaman on 17 October 1918.
Stephenson was finally demobilised on 17 January 1919.
Sam Wadsworth was left “broken hearted” by his boyhood club at the end of the war. Aged 18, the then Blackburn Rovers defender from Darwen first tried to enlist to fight abroad. He was told by the Recruiting Sergeant Major to return a month later and lie about his age which he did and thus followed his older brother Charles into the British Army ranks. A Gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery Regiment (No. 2 Depot RGA; 21st Siege Battery RGA; and 53rd Siege Battery RGA) Wadsworth was wounded in action, but survived the war. His brother did not.
The atrocities left him physically and mentally scarred, suffering blackouts and grappling with post-traumatic stress. Among several hours of autobiographical recordings he made in the 1950s, Wadsworth recalled those dark times.
“I had lost my only brother and my best friend and supporter,” he said. “I began to realise that I had to forget all the rough times when we still stood up for more. I had to get on with my life.”
At first, Wadsworth tried to do this with Blackburn – a club he proudly continued to play for at every opportunity during the war.
“They were glad of my services and I was pleased to play,” he said of the matches he played while on leave from the Western Front. But when I came home for keeps the late Bob Middleton, manager of the Rovers, said ‘sorry Sam, I have not a vacancy. You may have a free transfer’. That was all. What a blow. My life’s dream had gone with the wind. I thought ‘is this what I receive after nearly five years’ service for my country?’ I was very bitter.”
That was where his career almost ended, with his father needing to convince the 23-year-old not to throw his football boots on the fire. Instead, he dropped down to play lower-league football with Nelson before going on to join Huddersfield Town. With Town he won three consecutive league titles and an FA Cup in 1922 – a triumphant run which saw them knock Blackburn Rovers out in the third round.
And, finally, those who refused to serve…
Frederick Leslie “Tiny” Fayers was born into a Quaker family in Kings Lynn, Norfolk, on 29th January 1890. By the time that the Great War rolled around Fred was a professional footballer on Town’s books. Indeed, he was an ever-present in the 1914-15 season, but when conscription became law he had a dilemma; Fred’s religious beliefs dictated that he was unable to kill another human being and so he became a “Conchie” or conscientious objector which meant that the British government could make life very difficult for him. In order to ensure that men were not simply masking their cowardice, objectors had to plead their cases at special tribunals and Fayers faced his on 16th April 1916 at a time when he lived in Stockport, close to County’s ground. He was duly granted Exemption from Combatant Service and, because he was an “Alternativist” rather than an “Absolutist“, he was set to work on farms in Cheshire to help with the production of food for the war effort. (Absolutists refused to do any work to help and were subsequently imprisoned.)
He did manage to make three more appearances for Town during the War years, but also guested for Stockport County whom he joined at the cessation of hostilities, moving on later to Manchester City before returning to West Yorkshire as manager of Halifax Town in 1923.
“They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old;
age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
we will remember them.”
Further reading on this subject can be done at the excellent website Football And The First World War where you will find information on EVERY football club’s representation.