Football’s fallen heroes of WW1

Card showing Frank Hesham of Oldham Athletic, who was killed in 1915.
Frank Hesham of Oldham Athletic, who was killed in 1915.

Today many of us are paying our respects to the nearly 1 million British and Commonwealth that fell in the conflict. Collector Michael Wallace has added his own tribute this year by releasing a unique set of 24 cards remembering footballers that fought and died for their country in the Great War.

The set of 24 cards depicts men from various regiments of the British Army (but not surprisingly nearly half of the set is made up of men of the 17th Middlesex Regiment or 'Football Battalion'). Each card features a photo of the player with the regimental cap badge in the top left corner and a poppy in the top right with the reverse of the cards giving a short biography of the teams they played for and the particular battle they lost their lives in.

We asked Mick what it was that prompted the production of the set:

I was checking my Churchman's cards and came across Jimmy Speirs and thought that people often see the front of the card and skim over details on the back without going any further - I wanted to know more about the man's later life. Reading up on it I was very taken by his story. Then I looked at Richard McFadden of Clapton Orient and read about how 3 of their players joined the footballers battalion and all were killed in action. Then onto the Hearts team who had 7 players killed.
I like my football and being ex-military I thought I wanted to do something rather than just sit reading about it this being the 100th Anniversary, so I got into contact with John Fitzhugh who does his own cards. It was originally meant to be just a private set for myself but the further we went we both thought it should be made available for collectors and not just of cards but WW1 and football enthusiasts and  so I spent hours and hours researching football sites, WW1 sites, The Commonwealth graves commission site and local area heritage sites. I wanted the red poppy to be shown and the players regimental badge and that's how we did it - the set is about respect and remembering.
Card showing Evelyn Lintott of Leeds City, who was killed in 2016.
Evelyn Lintott of Leeds City, who was killed in 2016.

I'm sure it isn't only Mick that will find this subject fascinating (as well as often tragic) to read about. Evelyn Lintott (No. 9) for example was the first football player to be commissioned and served in the 15th (Service) Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment (The Leeds Pals). Much like today the public followed his activities as their beloved Leeds City half-back went to the trenches along with thousands of other men from nearby communities. It will come as little surprise to many that Lt. Lintott was KIA on July 1st 1916 – the first day of the Battle of the Somme. At the time the Yorkshire Evening Post reported on Lintott’s death:

"Lieutenant Lintott’s end was particularly gallant. He led his men with great dash, and when hit the first time declined to take the count. He drew his revolver and called for further effort. Again he was hit but struggled on, but a third shot finally bowled him over."

Another interesting player featured in the set is Walter Tull (Northampton Town) who joined the Middlesex Regiment and became the first non-white NCO in the British Army. Tull was killed during the spring offensive of 1918 and is remembered on the Arras memorial.

Collectors will note the title of the series states '1st Series' and so we asked whether we could expect a second set. Mick confirmed that he has a list of over 80 footballers and hinted that he may consider branching out to cricket and rugby.

It’s a great idea Mick and it's another way we can remember and learn more about the sacrifices these men made.

For collectors interested in getting a set you can order by following the link below. We have also added a table so you can see the teams and the men included in the 1st series.


Name Team (before entering service) Regiment Killed Awards and Decorations
Donald Bell Bradford City 17th Yorkshire Regiment (The Green Howards) 10/07/16 VC
Wilfred Bartrop Liverpool Royal Artillery 07/11/18  
Sandy Turnbull Manchester United 17th East Surrey Regiment 03/05/17  
Edward Bell Portsmouth 17th Middlesex Regiment 24/03/18 MC & Bar
Jimmy Speirs Leeds City Cameron Highlanders 20/08/14 MM
Allen Foster Reading 17th Middlesex Regiment 08/08/16  
George Scott Clapton Orient 17th Middlesex Regiment 16/08/16  
William Jonas Clapton Orient 17th Middlesex Regiment 27/07/16  
Evelyn Lintott Leeds City 15th West Yorkshire Regiment 01/07/16  
Walter Tull Northampton Town 17th Middlesex Regiment 25/03/18  
Leigh Roose Woolwich Arsenal 9th Royal Welsh Fusiliers 07/10/16 MM
Fred Griffiths West Ham United Sherwood Foresters 30/10/17  
Bob Torrance Bradford City Royal Field Artillery 24/04/18  
Eddie Latherton Blackburn Rovers Royal Field Artillery 14/10/17  
Richard McFadden Clapton Orient 17th Middlesex Regiment 23/10/14 MM
Bob Whiting Brighton & Hove Albion 17th Middlesex Regiment 28/04/17  
Frank Hesham Oldham Athletic Royal Garrison Artillary 17/11/15  
Sidney Wheelhouse Grimsby Town 17th Middlesex Regiment 19/09/15  
'Pat' Flanagan Woolwich Arsenal Army Service Corps 31/08/17  
Billy Baker Plymouth Argyle 17th Middlesex Regiment 22/10/16 MM
James Williams Milwall 17th Middlesex Regiment 05/06/16  
Billy Gerrish Chesterfield 17th Middlesex Regiment 08/08/16  
Frank Cannon Port Vale Essex Regiment 15/02/16  
James Speedle Heart of Midlothian 7th Cameron Highlanders 25/09/15  
Tom Gracie Heart of Midlothian 16th Royal Scots 25/10/16  
Duncan Currie Heart of Midlothian 16th Royal Scots 01/07/16  
Ernest Ellis Heart of Midlothian 16th Royal Scots 01/07/16  
Henry Wattle Heart of Midlothian 16th Royal Scots 01/07/16  
James Boyd Heart of Midlothian 16th Royal Scots 03/08/16