Recently, I came across this quite remarkable story via the BBC News website:
‘A pub in south-west London has been dedicated to a local soldier who became known as the “Footballer of Loos”.
The Rifleman’ in Twickenham unveiled its sign honouring Rifleman Frank Edwards, who fought in the Battle of Loos in France during World War 1. Historians said at the start of the 1915 battle, the London Irish Rifles planned to kick footballs into the German trenches as they advanced. But officers disapproved of the plan and deflated all but one of the balls.
The London Irish Rifles Association said on 25 September 1915, Pte Edwards led his comrades in dribbling the football across no-man’s land “before kicking it into the Germans’ trench with a joyous shout of ‘goal'”. The battalion overcame two lines of German trenches and withheld a “massive enemy counterattack”, the association said.
Saturday’s dedication was attended by Pte Edwards’s granddaughter Sue Harris and her husband Ed, who chronicled the story in his book ‘The Footballer of Loos’. Rita Palmer, the Mayor of Richmond-upon-Thames, unveiled the sign and the London Irish Rifles Pipers brought the football with them.
Richard Walters, who volunteered at the dedication, said the pub had previously had a generic Riflemen sign. “We found out about this local hero who was involved in quite an audacious event during World War 1,” he said.
“The London Irish Rifles still has the football. They believe it’s the best trophy they’ve got because it represents so much. He was an ordinary fellow who did a very audacious act of bravery.”
More than 60,000 British soldiers were killed, wounded or captured during the battle, which lasted from 25 September until 8 October 1915. Pte Edwards, who was born in 1893, was shot and injured and failed to reach the enemy lines. He recovered, but was affected by gas poisoning for the rest of his life. He died in 1964.’
The following servicemen had at some time played for Queen’s Park Rangers and all tragically lost their lives serving their Country:
Corporal Albert ‘Ben’ Butler – Apart from playing for the R’s, he was also the first professional footballer in the ranks of 17th Middlesex to be killed in action (more about him in last year’s commemoration).
Albert Bonass – He joined QPR in 1939 and later became a reserve policeman before joining the RAF. Apparently he was something of a Ju-jitsu expert and between 1940 and 1945 he guested for Fulham, Aldershot, Brentford, Watford, Luton, Southampton and York. He was killed in 1945 when his Stirling bomber crashed on a training flight in Yorkshire, eight weeks or so after VJ Day.
Charlie Clarke – He played in 6 league games for the R’s between 1936 and 1938 and was a Luton Town player at the time of his death in March 1943.
Alan Fowler – Guested a few times for the R’s in 1940/41 and also 1943/444, but was actually on Swindon’s books although they did not compete between 1940 and 1945. Sgt Fowler served in the Dorsetshire Regiment and lost his life in July 1944 after the D-Day landings. He is buried in the Banneville-la-Campagne War Cemetery.
Evelyn Henry Lintott – Apart from making 35 appearances for the R’s, Lintott was also our first full England international. He was later killed leading his men of the 15th West Yorkshire Regiment on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. He was the first professional footballer to receive a commission. There is a brief mention of him in ‘When the Whistle Blows’ where it is revealed that only a few months before his death, when the battalion had been stationed in Egypt, Lintott had written home saying that ‘he was ashamed to put “On Active Service” on the envelope as he had so little to do’. It also states that there was much speculation that he was to be transferred to the 17th Middlesex, but the move never happened.
Frank Cannon – Hammersmith born and he made 29 appearances for QPR before signing for West Ham. He was transferred from the Bedfordshire Regiment to the Essex Regiment, rising to the rank of Sgt Major. Aged 27, he was killed by shrapnel at Ypres on 15th February 1916, leaving behind his wife Violet and three children. He was buried in Potijze in Belgium.
Joseph Dines – Apart from winning more than 30 amateur caps for England, he also played in all three matches in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm for the Great Britain team which won him a gold medal. He made his one appearance for the R’s on 16th April 1910 against West Ham United. Joseph Dines was one of three brothers to enlist and served as a Second-Lieutenant in the King’s Liverpool Regiment, but he only survived for eleven days. He was cut down by machine gun fire on 27th September 1918 in Pas-de-Calais on the Western Front. He was buried in the Grand Ravine British Cemetery, Havrincourt.
Albert Edwards – He made 17 1st team appearances for the R’s and also played for Bristol City and Newport County, but lost his life in the Great War.
Oscar Horace Stanley Linkson: Andrew Riddoch’s book: ‘When the Whistle Blows’ mentions the time that this former Manchester United right-back was actually arrested on one occasion after he absented himself with Pte Wilfred Nixon of Fulham, to play for the R’s at White Hart Lane. Pte Linkson was killed on 8th August 1916 and is commemorated at the Thiepval Memorial. His mother never accepted that her son was dead, choosing to believe that he had run away to escape what she believed to be an unhappy marriage. He left behind a widow and two young children at the family home in Barnet.
John H. Pennifer: Arrived at QPR in 1913 and after just 3 appearances, he enlisted the following year. He played a number of times for the 17th Middlesex. Andrew Riddoch records that: ‘Three days later, a 17th Middlesex team played Hampstead Town at the Avenue Ground in Cricklewood Lane, winning 3-1, Pte Henry Pennifer of QPR scored two of the battalions goals…..’ He died at the Battle of the Somme.
Corporal John Tosswill: He made 3 appearances for the R’s before joining the Royal Engineers. He became a dispatch rider and returned home after being wounded, but died aged 24 on the operating table in Eastbourne Military Hospital.
Rangers stalwart Jimmy Eggleton was gassed in World War 1 and he continued to suffer with chest problems throughout his life.
Dennis Higgins was an amateur defender who played thirty times for the R’s before joining the Sportsmen Battalion and becoming an officer. He was so badly injured at Ypres in Flanders that he never played again.
Apart from the servicemen associated with playing for QPR and losing their lives, there must of been numerous R’s fans too. Sadly, there were two who were killed a couple of years ago in Afghanistan:
Lance Corporal Tom Keogh: He came from the Hallfield Estate in Paddington and was only 24 when he died from a gunshot wound in Sangin, Helmand Province.
Acting Corporal David Barnsdale: 33 Engineer Regiment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal). He was killed clearing explosive devices and was also the same age. His parents laid a wreath in the Loftus Road centre circle before the Burnley home game in 2010.
WE WILL REMEMBER THEM
(My thanks once again to Andrew Riddoch for giving me permission to reproduce sections of his highly recommended book: ‘When the Whistle Blows’. Also my thanks to our Club Historian, Gordon Macey, for all the QPR career details)