Terriers in the Great War

As well as the Great War my other passion in life is following my local football team Huddersfield Town (nicknamed ‘The Terriers’ due to us having a Yorkshire Terrier on our club badge) Woof!. If I’m honest for the past couple of seasons this has not been the most enjoyable of past times believe me. From the euphoria of our incredible & unexpected promotion to the Premier League a few years ago came the reality of relegation back to the Championship. And don’t even get me started on the start to this season!!

Across the country several players & club staff followed the fans into the armed forces and Huddersfield Town was no exception with several of their, at the time, current & previous players joining up. Sadly 6 of those who did so would give their lives in the war. Below is the story of some of those players

Larrett Roebuck (Image:FootballandtheFirstWorldWar.Org)

Larrett Roebuck has the sad distinction of being not only Town’s first player casualty but also the first professional footballer to be killed from the English Leagues. (William Urquhart Sutherland is believed to be the first footballer to die in the Great War on 26th August 1914. But he was a Scottish career soldier in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders who were stationed in England & therefore he had only semi professionally played for Southend United, Plymouth Argyle as well as Chatham)

Larrett lived quite a humble life being born in a place called Jump, near Barnsley on 27th January 1889 to parents Elias & Elizabeth Roebuck. In the 1891 Census he’s living with his mother at 117 Church Street, Jump but by 1901 the family had moved to Rotherham where his father works as a Coal Hewer and Larrett now aged 12 lives with his younger brother John aged 10 & sister Lucy aged 5 at 9 Barker’s Yard, off High Street

Tragically at the age of just 13 Larrett would lose his father who died aged just 40 and he left school to begin work at most probably the same colliery that his father had worked at where he worked as a trammer, the name given to a young mine worker. What he did I don’t know but I have seen a suggestion that he may have looked after the pit ponies

In 1904 things went badly for Larrett  when he was found guilty of stealing a watch and was sentenced to a month’s imprisonment. Having lied about his age saying he was 17 not 15 he was therefore convicted as almost an adult

On his release from prison in October 1904 he had lost his job and therefore decided to join the army at Pontefract where the York’s & Lancaster Regiment was based. On his service record he lied about his age stating that he was 18 not 16 and also not revealing that he had been in prison. He’s recorded as being only 5’4 1/2″ weighing 134Ibs (9.5 Stone) with a 37″ chest with a flush complexion, hazel eyes & dark eyes. He has a couple of scars one of which is on the right of his chest

He joined as Private S/N 8116 in the 1st battalion and after training went with them to serve in India stationed at Mhow between October 1906 & December 1907. Sport in the Army of course was encouraged in its various forms & it’s likely that whilst in India Larrett became part of the battalions football team

On his return to England he then joined the 2nd battalion who were at the time in Limerick, Ireland where they would remain until the outbreak of the Great War. Larrett would be promoted to Lance Corporal in December 1907

6th June 1908 saw Larrett marry Frances (Fanny) Walker at the Parish Church in Rotherham and 5 months later their son John Joseph Roebuck was baptised at the same church

In April of 1910 Larrett lost his rank due to misconduct and was back to being a Private but the birth of a daughter Violet on 10th September whilst his family were stationed at Princess Royal Barracks at Deepcut, Surrey must have made things seem better followed a year later by the birth of Lucy Francis in November at Limerick

In May 1912 Larrett was discharged to the Army reserve and went back to his native Yorkshire at Rotherham where he took work again in a colliery at Silverwood. The colliery had a well known football team which Larrett joined and they several times entered the FA Cup qualifying rounds and this is where Larrett came to the attention of the scouts of Huddersfield Town. Playing as a full back he would be signed by Huddersfield on 1st March 1913 and would make his debut as a left back in January 1914 where he played for 19 games upto 25th April 1914. He signed a new contract for £2 per week which would rise to £3 a week from September 1914 and given a rail pass to get him from either Rotherham or Sheffield

However on the outbreak of war on the 4th August at 10pm Larrett, as a reservist, received his orders to proceed firstly to Pontefract then to Cambridge & Newmarket to commence training with the 2nd bn who were part of 16th brigade 6th Division

The war diary records that on 9th September the battalion sets sail from Tilbury docks heading to a unknown destination which turned out to be St Nazaire on the French west coast. Larrett was reappointed to Lance Corporal at this point .On 11th they left by train heading North and after detraining marched to Crecy. Moving to Jouarre a few days later they then moved to Citrey near the River Marne. Further movements were made to near Soissions then later to Vailly from late September near Maison Rouge until their relief on 11th October by French troops

Arriving at Sailly they were ordered to move 1 miles south of Fleurbaix where on 18th October they received verbal orders to move to the Bois Grenier- Radinghem road near Touqet and after a successful attack on the Hau de Bas line with little resistance at 2.25pm they were told to advance & take the village of Radinghem & having done this to then take the high ground running South East from Chateau de Flandres .’A’ Company took the village. On reaching the high ground they came under heavy shelling but advanced to the Radinghem-Fromelles road. Heavy machine gun & shrapnel from their right forced them back to the road & despite companies managing to get into the woods of the Chateau de Flandres they were driven back on 3 occasions by machine gun, rifle fire & shelling before retiring to the road together with The Buffs. The York & Lancs suffered severe casualties and one of those posted as missing was Larrett Roebuck

The war office informed the family that Larrett was missing but having received no further information his mother placed an advert in a local newspaper asking for information. She received information from the families of 2 men serving with Larrett, one of them stating that he had been beside Larrett in the attack when he saw him killed

Up to this point of confirmation Huddersfield Town had been paying Larrett’s wife Fanny £1 a week since he was called up however in February 1915 the club wrote to her saying that they could no longer afford to pay this due to the dire financial state of the club. They forwarded her £2 5s that the other players had collected for Larrett for a present but thought it best to now give to his widow

34 men of the 2nd bn Y & L were recorded as killed on 18th/19th October 1914 with only 2 of them having known graves. The rest including Larrett had their names inscribed on the Ploegstreet Memorial to the Missing

Ploegstreer Memorial (Authors Own Photo)

However in November 2009 15 bodies were uncovered by builders at Beaucamps-Ligny and identified as men of the 2nd Yorks & Lancs. Whilst I won’t go into the actual excavation, from what I’ve initially read to say it was rather amateur I believe is an understatement. After the remains were given over to the CWGC an appeal was made for relatives of 58 Y & L men lost in October 1914 to step forward to provide DNA samples. One of these families were the descendants of Larrett but despite 11 of the men being positively identified the remaining 4 couldn’t be and Larrett wasn’t one of those identified but that’s not say there is a chance he could be one of the 4

Larrett was just 25 years old

The other of Huddersfield Town’s players to be killed whilst still on the books of the club was Sidney James( Called Sydney on some records)

Image result for sidney james footballer
Sidney James (Image:FootballandtheFirstWorldWar.org)

Born in 1891 at Tinsley near Sheffield to George Henry & Sarah James he was the youngest of 5 children at the time. By 1911 Sarah had lost her husband at a young age and now was bringing up 6 sons and 2 daughters the youngest of whom was only 3 at 11 Wharf Row Tinsley

By 1911 he’s still in Tinsley working a General Labourer in a Rolling Mill ( Steel) and his name has changed to Sydney which is how it’s eventually recorded on some records. How he got into football I’m unsure but he would sign for Huddersfield in 1913 as a centre forward and went on to 12 Appearances for Town scoring 2 goals

He joined up at Huddersfield in the 1/6th bn Duke of Wellingtons ,West Riding Regiment as Private 3/18263 and at some point is transferred to 1/5th bn King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry s/n 35274 before ending up in the 9th bn KOYLI as a Lance Corporal

On 9th April 1917 the 9th bn,as part of 21st Division, VII Corps, is South West of Arras at Boiry-St-Martin from where they then proceed forward to take part in an attack known as the First Battle of the Scarpe. Sidney was killed on this day and was buried in Cojeul British Cemetery, Saint-Martin-sur-Cojeul which had been set up by the 21st Division burial officer after the villages capture by 30th Division on 9th April. He was 26 years old

Of the players who had played for Town pre war but had since moved on and were lost in the war two particularly stand out for me. The first being the flamboyant Welsh International goalkeeper Leigh Richmond Roose who played a few games for Huddersfield in 1911. I can’t do his story justice here so I will post this link so you can read about him yourself https://thesefootballtimes.co/2017/11/20/leigh-richmond-roose-the-forgotten-hero-who-became-footballs-first-playboy/ . One sad end to his extraordinary life is that he is recorded as having no next of kin and his medals including his MM were returned to the War Office. This maybe due to the fact he served as Rouse and this name appeared on the Thiepval memorial for many years, you can now see the change clearly which was done in the last few years

The second one is someone I regularly say hello to on my visits to Dantzig Alley Cemetery and that is Charles Edward Randall. Born 1884 in Bearpark County Durham he was a footballer playing inside left for Newcastle United when he was sent out on loan to Huddersfield in the 1908/09 & 1910/11 seasons making 19 appearances & scoring 6 goals. He returned to Newcastle for another season before joining Woolwich Arsenal until the outbreak of war

Charles Edward Randall (Image:FootballandtheFirstWorldWar.org)

Charles enlisted at Newcastle into the Coldstream Guards as Guardsman (Private) 15469 and served with the 4th (Pioneer) battalion part of the Guards Division. He arrived on the Western front in November 1915. In September of 1916 the Guards Division were at Minden Post before moving to Lesboefs where they held the line as seen from the war diary map below on 25th/26th September. The Divisional casualties for just these 2 days were recorded as 19 Officers killed 30 wounded, Other Ranks Killed 275 Wounded 1255 & 437 Missing

War Diary Map (WO95/1192 Ancestry)

Charles Aged 32, along with 2 other Pioneers who died that day, was originally buried in Montauban village but all were concentrated into Dantzig Alley on 18th June 1919. Possibly the site of a field ambulance Charles may have died of his wounds in Montauban. If anyone knows what this cemetery was called I’d be very intrigued to know, below is its location

Location of Cemetery in Montauban (Great War Digital/Memory Map)

Of course not all the players who served would lose their lives but one story to be told is that of Frederick Edwin Bullock. A defender he joined Huddersfield in 1910 and in his 12 years with the club would go on to make 215 appearances

Fred Bullock seated far right (Image source thepfa.com)

Fred in February 1915 was one of those professional footballers who would join the newly formed 17th bn Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex) Regiment known as the footballers battalion as Private F/629. He was promoted to Lance Corporal (unpaid) almost immediately. Action at Delville Wood on 28th July 1916 saw Fred wounded by GSW to his back &  right shoulder and sent back to Blighty where he would stay until October 1917 before returning to the front and he would later in June 1918 suffer a further wound this time to his left leg whilst playing football! Again he was returned to England where he saw out the end of the war

After being discharged in March 1920 Fred returned to Huddersfield Town and was made club captain in what was the start of the glory year for Town. Promotion to Division One at the end of 1920 Fred would also be the first Huddersfield Captain to lead his team out in the now famous Blue & White Stripes in the FA Cup final of 1920 sadly losing 1-0 to Aston Villa. Towns second season in the top flight saw Fred being called up to play for England in October 1920. However now aged 34 and suffering problems from the wound he’d received on his knee he played less frequently and wouldn’t feature in the 21/22 season when Huddersfield went on to win the FA Cup!

Shortly after Fred decided to retire as a player but he placed an advert in the Daily Mail newspaper offering himself as a manager but with no replies. In October 1922 Fred decided to invest his savings and became a pub landlord at The Slubbers Arms public house in Huddersfield where he was joined by his wife Maude & 8 year old son Kenneth

But on 9th November Maude found Fred on the floor of the pub, beside him was an empty beer bottle used for the storage of cleaning chemicals. A fee days later in hospital Fred died of Ammonia poisoning. At the hearing it was heard that Fred had suffered with ‘nervous trouble’ in the month before and the coroner recorded Fred’s death as suicide. The loss of his career or maybe even his experiences of war had become too much, what a sad end to an incredible player and club legend

Slubbers Arms (Image Flickr)

As for Huddersfield Town under the initial management of Herbert Chapman they went on to even more glory winning the charity shield against Liverpool in 1922. They then won the League in 23/24, 24/25 and, after Chapman had left to manage Arsenal, under new manager Cecil Potter they went on to win the league again in 25/26 becoming ‘Thrice Champions’ and one of only 4 clubs to this day to achieve this. The season after 26/27 they only just lost out being crowned again by becoming runners up to Newcastle United and again runners up in 27/28 of not only the league but the FA Cup. The 1930’s would see them at Wembley in the final against Arsenal with the now famous image of the airship Graf Zeppelin in the skies above the stadium.Town would feature as runners up again in the 1933/34 season and feature in 2 FA Cup finals in 1930 against Arsenal & in 1938 against Preston North End, the first televised FA Cup match

So that’s the story of my club and it’s links to the Great War. As I’m finishing this I’m dreading the result of tonights game against Nottingham Forest. As we fans say ‘Ooh to be a Terrier’ I do hope once again that you’ve found this week’s blog interesting and thanks for all the support and messages


Ancestry.com Census & War Diary references WO95/1610/1 ,WO95/1192/1-6, WO95/2162, WO95/1284/1-3, Service Record Files, Medal Index Rolls & Cards

Commonwealth War Graves Commission




Huddersfield Examiner Newspaper

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