When war was declared on 4th August 1914, Manchester City were in pre-season training, and people were heading back to work after a sunny bank holiday weekend. Blackburn Rovers were champions of the 1913/14 season, City had finished above United and would do for all but three occasions, until the outbreak of World War 2.
City were based at Hyde Road, less than half a mile from St Mark’s Church, West Gorton, from where they originally founded. By the time City played their opening fixture on 1st September, in front of a packed crowd who saw them beat Bradford City 4-1. There had been questions leading up to the opening game of the season as to whether the season should commence. The FA Secretary, Frederick Wall believed that it would in the interests of the country that the football season ought to start as planned.
Many of the squad and former players signed up across the country to serve and some would pay the ultimate price. The Hyde Road ground was commandeered by the War Department and used to stable over 300 horses, and they still played games on the pitch. The first City knew about Hyde Road being commandeered was in the newspaper.
Many of the squad signed up to the armed service at the end of the 1914/15 season some would come home at the end of the war, others were not so lucky. This included the footballing brothers and City team mates Albert and Peter Fairclough, England international Ted Hanney, who enlisted in to the Footballer’s Battalion (17th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment). Welsh international, Billy ‘Lot’ Jones when he enlisted was assigned to the Army Service Corp and was based at Ormskirk in the Transport Division, before being posted overseas.
Frank Hesham had joined City as a teenager, a local lad, who had played for Gorton St Francis prior to being at City. At the outbreak of war, Hesham had retired from the football and was working as a clerk in Manchester. Frank Hesham had been called up almost immediately having had pre-war service with the 4th Volunteers, Manchester Regiment. He was subsequently placed with the Royal Garrison Artillery and was sent to France, after basic training. It was during the Second Battle of Ypres, 17th November 1915, Frank Hesham was killed in action and subsequently buried at La Clytte Military Cemetery. He left behind his wife Jennie, and a 14-year-old son, in Longsight.
Frank Hesham became the first City player, past or present to be killed in action. Frank Hesham is not mentioned on any of the cenotaphs or memorials within Manchester at this time.
City Players Killed in 1916
2016 was the centenary of one of the worst Battles in British history, that being the Battle of the Somme, by the end of the first day, 1st July 1916, 19,240 men had been killed in action and a further 35,493 were wounded. Like many professional clubs, Manchester City had several players who were serving on that day, and during that Battle, some paid the ultimate price with their lives.
Tommy Farrell, signed from Arsenal in 1905 and spend two seasons at Hyde Road, only making 3 appearances in that time, before moving on to Airdrieonians for another 2 seasons before moving back to Salford and played for Eccles Borough and retired from football in 1910. Tommy joined the Lancashire Fusiliers at the outbreak of war and served with them at Gallipoli being evacuated from there in January 1916. By March 1916 Tommy was a corporal in the Lancashire’s and that month his battalion the 1st Lancashire Fusiliers had been moved forward into reserve on the Western Front.
On the 1st July, the Battalion had been tasked with taking tasked with attacking the fortified village of Beaumont Hamel on the Somme, when zero hour (7.30am) came. When zero hour came, they were under heavy and sustained machine gun fire from both Hawthorn Ridge, and positions immediately to their front and left flank.
Many of the Battalion were killed instantly in no man’s land, Corporal Tommy Farrell was amongst them, his body was not recovered until November 1916 and laid to rest at Auchonvillers Military Cemetery, which contains 528 bodies. He left a widow, Frances, and three children, Tommy was 29 when he was killed in action.
Private Jack Yuill only had a short career with City, also playing for Stockport County and Oldham Athletic amongst others. On the 4th September 1914 Jack signed up with the Manchester Regiment, and completed his basic training at Heaton Park. As a member of the 19th Manchester’s and took part in the 30th Division’s attack on the village of Montauban, and by mid-morning had achieved their objectives. On that day, Jack Yuill was promoted to the rank of Lance Sergeant, a battlefield promotion, and with his regiment was moved back in to reserve.
On the 7th July, the 19th Manchester’s were moved forward to support an attack on Trones Wood and Maltzhorn Farm. While digging in, the Manchester’s came under sustained attack from German Bombardment and the 19th Manchester’s had suffered 60 casualties during the action at Trones Wood, including one officer and 12 other ranks killed, Jack Yuill being one of those killed. Jack Yuill was 31 years old, his body has never been recovered and is remembered on the Memorial at Thiepval.
Julius Gregory, a Stockport born former Manchester Grammar School, started his professional career at Bury before signing for City. He would later play also for Brighton and Hove Albion where he was brought up on charges by the FA for in sighting violence from fans during a game and had various disciplinary problems throughout his career.
Gregory signed up with the Royal Fusiliers in late 1914, serving with the 98th Brigade before being transferred to the 19th Brigade and moved up to the front on The Somme, 10th July 1916. On 20th July, the 19th Brigade took part in the attack on High Wood, where there was hand to hand combat, and the attack raged until the early hours of the 21st July. Around midnight, the 19th Brigade was withdrawn from the front line having sustained heavy casualties, Julius Gregory among them. Julius’ body has never been recovered and remembered on the Thiepval Memorial and the Bredbury Village Memorial.
Patrick Maguire signed for City from Hurst FC, now known as Ashton United, having previously been an amateur with Manchester United, and played for City including the 1914/15 season. Patrick joined the Manchester Regiment at the culmination of the 1914/15 season, making some war time guest appearances for Grimsby Town. Patrick was posted to the 17th Manchester’s and had taken part in the successful divisional attack on Montauban on 1 July 1916 but took heavy casualties. The 17th Manchester’s also took part in heavy fighting at both Trones Wood and Guillement before they were withdrawn for a period of rest and reorganisation.
The 17th Manchester’s returned to the Somme to take part an assault on trenches near the village of Flers on 12 October 1916. The attack was a costly failure for the Manchester’s as they suffered heavy losses from machine-gun and heavy artillery fire, one of the missing in action was Patrick McGuire. This news was relayed to the people of Manchester by the Evening News, and while hope remained that he was alive, the report was later corrected to him being killed in action.
Patrick McGuire has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial, he is also remembered on the war memorial at St Chad’s Church, in Cheetham Hill, he was 28 years old.
Ted Hanney took part in the Battle of the Somme in July 1916 and had attained the rank of sergeant. On 28th July 1916 Ted Hanney was wounded in the face, shoulder and right thigh. While he returned to City at the end of the war, the injuries would become a struggle that he could not overcome. Hanney went on to have a successful career as a football coach in Germany in the interwar period and eventually returned to Reading FC as a coach.
City Players Killed in 1917.
Scottish International Alexander ‘Sandy’ Turnbull, an FA Cup winner with City in 1904, and a league winner with United signed up to fight in 1915 and joined the Footballer’s regiment, the 23rd (Service) Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment. By 1917 Sandy had been made up to a lance sergeant and was about to take part in the Battle of Arras.
Turnbull’s Battalion was to assault the northern approaches to the village of Cherisy as part of a series of attacks to become known as the Third Battle of the Scarpe. Zero hour was set for 0345.
The attack itself initially provided some success, with the village reportedly falling into British hands during the first hours of the assault. There followed some bitter fighting, however, and Cherisy would soon be back under German control.
It was in the chaos that L/Sergeant Turnbull was reported missing. It was reported that he had been wounded and that his comrades hoped he had been taken prisoner. Unfortunately he had been killed on 3rd May 1917 and has no known grave but is one of 34,795 names commemorated on the Arras Memorial to the Missing, located in Faubourg d’Amiens.
Jimmy Conlin held a number of firsts with City, he was the first player the Club had paid £1000, the first ever City player to be sent off and became the first City player to be capped by England. He signed up in 1914 and was first sent overseas in 1915. Conlin took part in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. It was in June 1917, during the third Battle of Ypres, on 23rd June Conlin was killed in action. Jimmy Conlin has no known grave and is commemorated on the Nieuport memorial.
Thomas Callaghan was a winger when City signed him from Glossop North End and impressed in the reserve team. He would only ever make two appearances for City. Callaghan was killed during a trench raid on the 2nd February 1917 and is buried at Chester Farm Cemetery, which is located 5 kilometres south of Ypres town centre on the Vaartstraat.
William Wallace had only just left City for Bolton Wanderers for the 1914-15 season when war broke out. Having signed up in 1915, William Wallace was a sapper in the 151st Field Company of the Royal Engineers. It was during the Third Battle of Ypres better known as Passchendaele, that battle had been raging since July. On the 8th November 1917, William Wallace was killed in action, and his body has never been recovered. He is remembered on the Ploegsteert Memorial, panel 1.
During the course of the 1917, William McOustra, whom City signed from Celtic, was wounded by a gunshot wound in the right knee. This not only ended his war, as he was discharged but it also ended his footballing career. Daniel Coupe only ever made 1 appearance at fullback for City, but his luck was slightly better in the war, being wounded by mustard gas in October 1917 and then received gunshot wounds in 1918 he managed to survive the war. Slightly luckier was James Cumming, who was part of the City 1914/15 squad. As a Royal Engineer, Cumming was injured in 1917, receiving gunshot wounds to the leg and foot, and another injury in 1918. He was fortunate to resume his football career after the war with West Ham United.
Players Killed in 1918
Radcliffe born George Brooks had played for his local side Bury as well as City, but like so many footballers signed up in 1915. He enlisted into the York and Lancaster Regiment and was posted in to the Hallamshire Battalion. By 1918, George Brooks had been promoted to Lance Corporal and was in the forward lines in the final weeks of the war, just south of Mons. Brooks was wounded in the final weeks of the war and removed the 5th Casualty Clearing Station where he died on the 8th November. The end of the war was three days away. He was buried at Maubeuge (Sous-le-Bois) cemetery.
George Lake, the Great Uncle of former City captain Paul Lake, never made the first team at City but was a reserve play and was sold to Chelsea in 1914. He had enlisted in to the 66th (2nd East Lancashire) Divisional Cyclist Company before being transferred into 2/4th Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment. They were first posted to India, then Egypt before fighting on the Western Front, in June 1918. His regiment were taking part in the 100 days push which brought the Germans to the negotiating table and the eventual Armistice.
Lake’s Battalion were then among the troops tasked with crossing the Sambre Canal near the village of Frasnoy on 4 November 1918. It was during this action that Lake would sustain the wounds that would ultimately cost him his life two days later. George Lake was buried at Frasnoy Communal Cemetery alongside 41 soldiers who fell during the attack. He died 5 days before the end of the war.
Hyde born winger Frank Booth was popular with fans and players alike who had been capped by England. Booth retired from football during his second spell at Hyde Road, having struggled with form and injuries. In his first spell at City, he was a member of the City FA Cup winning side of 1904, alongside Sandy Turnbull and Billy Meredith.
When he was called up in 1915, he was enlisted into the Royal Garrison Artillery, serving on the Western Front. Booth returned to Britain in February 1919 but had not been demobbed. A couple of weeks after he was diagnosed with a tumour on his heart, that was terminal. He was admitted to Manchester Royal Infirmary and died there on 22nd June 1919, still officially a British soldier. It is thought, but not proven, that the tumour was a result of a gas attack during the war on British lines. He was given a military funeral and is buried in Denton Cemetery.
In April 1918, it was reported in the Manchester Evening News that former city player James ‘Jack’ Bannister had been killed along with he horses he was tending. Fortunately for Bannister he managed to survive the war and died in 1951 at his Preston home.
War interrupted Billy Gaughan’s career with City, having signed for the Blues in June 1914, and he returned in 1919, but unable to force his way back into the team he left the club in 1920 moving to Newport County. Moving to Wales was no surprise, as Gaughan had made many friends in Wales, due to his service with the Welsh Regiment and pre-City had played for Cardiff City. He was popular and rose through the ranks being commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and was gazetted in January 1918.
Peter Gartland joined City as a 20-year-old in 1914 and made his City debut in place of Eli Fletcher on Boxing Day 1914. He did go on to make 32 wartime appearances for City his last being in a 1-0 loss to Bolton on February 16th, 1918. In September 1918, the Manchester Evening News reported that Gartland had been admitted into an Australian Field Hospital with shrapnel wounds from a gas attack. A mixture of the gas and the shrapnel meant that Gartland had to have his leg amputated.
In 1922, Peter Gartland was the recipient of a charity match between City Reserves and Burnley Reserves at Hyde Road. After expenses the directors were able to hand over the gate receipts of £296, 8s, 8d the equivalent of £15, 390 and from a collection of the fans around the ground £19, 11s, 8d. Peter Gartland lived until he was 80 and died in Manchester in 1973.
Peter Gartland in spite of the amputation was the last of the 1914/15 pre-war squad to live, with Sid Hoad dying six months before.