Sopwith Plane being tested on the Richmond Road ground. Photos via Kingston Aviation Centenary Project
end of 1913-1914 couldn't have seen the two Kingston clubs in more different
circumstances. Old Kingstonians had done a treble, winning the Southern
Suburban League and also the two Surrey Cups. They had £15
in the bank as reported at the Annual General Meeting and no outstanding
debts. In comparison Kingston On Thames had finished 8th out the 12 teams
in the same league as O.K.'s and had not come within a sniff of a trophy.
Worse still Kingston On Thames were in debt to the tune of about £65.
As a result Kingston scrapped
their A team in advance of any war declarations.
The cloud on the O.K.'s horizon was the loss of two of their top players, with Jack Cock being signed as a professional, including Summer pay, by Huddersfield Town and also Gibson who was leaving the area and moving to Leeds due to work. Ernie Palmer had also had to stand down as Captain due to work commitments and was replaced by Freddie Little.
Both clubs looked to be going their separate ways as Old Kingstonians had applied to join the prestigious Isthmian League while Kingston On Thames were accepted into the London League. Old Kingstonians failed in their application to the Isthmian League but were accepted into the Athenian League which they had wanted to join because of similar defections by Tooting and Summerstown and the prospect of a higher level of competition. It did mean more travelling though as many of the teams were north of the river.
All these changes were to become irrelevant as the First World War drew nearer. War was declared on 4th August around the time of Kingston On Thames's annual Sports day which had become something of a traditional fundraiser to clear their debts. Because of the news and rumours about the war, the sports day only had about 1/3rd of it's usual attendance.
Old Kingstonians cancelled their own sports day scheduled for 22nd August but continued to prepare for the start of the season, replacing Sports Day with a practice match. Both clubs continued with a series of practice matches and Old Kingstonians first semi competitive game was against a "Rest of League" Southern Suburban team on 5th September with proceeds going to the war fund. O.K.'s won the game 9-1 but only had 4 players who had played at the end of the previous season as many had already joined up. Kingston On Thames were still involved in games with a practice match on the same day.
Unlike the Second World War where there was a period of "phoney war", the First World War was very much a reality at a very early stage with Germany taking much of Belgium and France before being halted as trench warfare set in.
While there was not yet conscription, there was intense pressure put on football teams to suspend activities and encourage their young men to join up. The Surrey Comet was firmly of this view and by the start of September was printing strongly worded editorials criticising the attitude of the football authorities to the continuance of the game. At Old Kingstonians, their president David Judd was of the opinion that, while encouraging players to join up, it would "take people's thoughts off the doom and gloom of the period" if football continued. The Comet was very critical of this decision suggesting instead that he should turn the ground into a drill field.
On Thames, perhaps influenced by the pressure, announced in early September
that they were suspending
activities and their decision was heartedly
endorsed by the Surrey Comet. Kingston On Thames claimed at least 10
of their players had joined up, although early duties for one of their players,
Sid Chandler, involved laying
out the ground for a soldiers football match and picking the team. A
number of O.K.'s players had also been reported as joining up including
Bert Daniells, Pat Sheehy, Ernie Palmer, Tickner and Frankie Franklin. Many
were recruited by the 6th East Surrey Regiment whose barracks were based
in Kings Road.
There was tension between the camps that wanted football to continue and those that didn't. The Surrey Comet noted in November the failure of recruitment drives on football grounds in the Metropolitan areas with many meetings but only one new recruit. However both the Football League and FA Cup were to continue in the 1914-1915 season as did the Amateur Cup with severely reduced numbers of teams. Gradually many of the other leagues succumbed to the pressure. The Kingston and District League suspended activities, although in the end a small Wednesday League was run by them in the 1914-1915 season.
Unlike Kingston On Thames, Old Kingstonians did continue with football into the 1914-1915 season. This prompted the Surrey Comet to virtually ignore their existence. The paper almost never listed fixtures and usually even failed to mention the result. OK's started their Athenian league season on 12th September with a match at Enfield and about 6 regulars from the previous season. A second game followed a week later at home to Luton Clarence who had won the league in 1913-1914. Both games were lost before the Athenian league also yielded to pressure and suspended all matches.
However O.K.'s did make progress in the F.A. Cup to keep their fixture card alive. O.K.'s were able to call on a couple of Kingston On Thames players with Stuckey and Bowry making up increasingly depleted numbers. Bowry got his chance after Freddie Little was involved in a cycling accident and on Little's return both players were utilised in a couple of matches with Little playing outfield. There was also a return for Dick Garrett with Pat Sheehy playing one game while on leave and also running the line on another occasion.
Considering the circumstances it was a surprisingly stable team with Harry Thayers, Harry Mansey and Tom Wilson being joined by newcomers Stokes and Chalk in the Forward Line. O.K.'s won their first F.A. Cup match against Summerstown and followed that two weeks later with a 2-0 win at Tooting. Around 1,000 people attended the Tooting match although crowds were set to drop soon afterwards. O.K.'s slotted in a friendly at home to South Tooting before a marathon cup tie with Redhill. In the first match at Redhill, OK's had had the better of the game but could only manage a 2-2 draw. The replay at Norbiton a week later saw Redhill winning 2-1 before the match was abandoned 10 minutes before time. Redhill's transport had broken down which meant a delay to kick off of an hour and a quarter. The third game, also at Norbiton in view of the abandonment, was played the following Wednesday and O.K.'s were poorly represented and beaten 1-0.
O.K.'s still had the London Senior Cup to look forward to and had hoped to compete in the F.A. Amateur Cup with the draw delayed until 31st October owing to the number of teams that were dropping out. They had also signed up to an informal Metropolitan League involving 7 teams. In order to minimise criticism the league was presented as being akin to friendly matches and no cups or medals were to be awarded. The league was also quick to point out how many players from each team had already signed up to the forces.
The London Senior Cup was shortlived though with the O.K.'s being beaten 3-2 in their first match by Walthamstow Grange at Norbiton. O.K.'s then played out two home matches in the Metropolitan League winning the first game against Southall but being beaten 4-1 by West Norwood in the second. Neither match was well attended with only a "handful of spectators" attending the second match at Norbiton. The second game was played with only nine men, two of those being late arrivals and a scamp who had sneaked in for free assuming the post of an absent linesman. It had already been announced that because of "poor financial support" the West Norwood game would be the last of the season and O.K.'s attempt to keep playing during wartime came to an end. The Metropolitan League, Amateur Cup and various professional competitions including the F.A. Cup did make it to the completion of 1914-1915 but that was to be the last football until after the war.
Just two months after Old Kingstonians had ceased activities came the news of the death of David Judd in January 1915 at the age of 64 following a throat infection. There was genuine sadness for the "father" of Old Kingstonians who had been so fondly thought of by everyone associated with the club and who had been presented with a gold watch from the players and supporters only the previous Summer in appreciation for his work. The following year William G Carn relocated to Cornwall and, regardless of the war, an era in Kingston football had come to an end.
|No official list has been uncovered for Kingston players who died or served in the First World War but the first Kingston football casualty mentioned was in November 1914 when Ernest Chivers was reported killed in action in France. He had played one friendly for Kingston On Thames and was a well known local swimmer and athlete. Other players known to have died during the war were Frankie Franklin who had been a forward at both Kingston clubs for fours season prior to the war. He was killed in France while giving help to a wounded man. Fred Adams who had played for O.K.'s Reserves was killed in 1915, and Kingston On Thames goalkeeper Arthur Bowry was killed on the Western Front in 1917. Jack Cullen, who had played for Kingston On Thames, was another casualty.|
was also a serious injury to Josh
Rowe who received over 80 wounds in an engagement but was to recover
and even went on to play a handful of games for Kingstonian after the war.
Other Kingston players who distinguished themselves included Bernard
Brady who received the Distinguished Service Medal, Ernie
Palmer who received the Military Cross and Thomas
White who received the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
Kingston itself hosted the Hawker and Sopwith factories that designed and built many of the planes used in the First World War and the Kingston On Thames Richmond Road ground had been used as a testing ground for the aircraft. The 6th East Surrey Regiment barracks was also based in Kingston at Kings Road where many of the players had joined up. There was an extraordinary story in July 1916 where Captain W. P. Nevill of the 8th East Surrey Regiment provided four footballs to dribble over a mile of no-mans land towards enemy trenches. Nevill was killed early on but two footballs continued to be kicked along as they moved forward and were recovered after the successful charge. One of the footballs was displayed in Kingston Town Hall attracting 200 people in the first hour for a small donation with a postcard also available to buy.
A postcard commemorating the taking of German trenches and the football that accompanied the troops. Reproduced by permission of Surrey History Centre (SHC ref ESR/25/NEVI/3).
Their article can be viewed here.