A passion for military and football cards

We all collect our cards but how much do we look into the card subject itself?

Being the 100th anniversary of the Great War, this article is a tribute to those who played the extra time but this time against Germany penalties were not an option. Professional footballers enlisted for King and Country and two famous battalions were formed - namely 17th Battalion Middlesex Regiment and for Scottish footballers, the 16th Battalion Royal Scots. Many others joined their local regiments.

Donald Simpson Bell VC, from a set issued by J Lees in 1912.

Many of us know about the inspirational story of Walter Tull, one of the first footballers of Afro-Caribbean descent. He was also the first officer of Afro-Caribbean descent to be depicted on a cigarette card (which I personally consider to be the holy grail of football cards) from a set detailing Northampton Town Football Club, issued by J Lees in 1912.

Perhaps equally as famous is one Donald Simpson Bell VC, the first footballing Victoria Cross holder, who sadly died whilst serving with 7th Yorkshire Regiment (The Green Howards). His medal is on display at the National Football Museum, and he was depicted on Gallaher's Victoria Cross Heroes 7th series (1917) only a year after his death.

But there were many more who were not pictured on a cigarette card - not as well-known perhaps, but equally valiant. One example is Sandy Turnbull, who played for both Manchester City and Manchester Utd and was the first ever goal scorer at Old Trafford. He can be found in a set issued in 1912 by Murray Sons & Co known as Footballers series H.

Leigh Richmond Roose, from the WD & HO Wills 'International Footballers' 1910.
Leigh Richmond Roose, from the WD & HO Wills 'International Footballers' 1910.

A famous goalkeeper and footballing playboy of the day, dating the music hall star Marie Lloyds, was Leigh Richmond Roose. He played for many clubs during the late 19th and early 20th century, including Stoke, Sunderland and Huddersfield Town, and would undoubtedly have shuddered at the thought of promoting shampoo as his peers do today! He managed his sporting career with his medical studies and joined the Royal Army Medical Corp, but wanting to serve on the front line transferred to the Royal Welch Fusiliers. He won the Military Medal before losing his life in the Battle of the Somme, and is depicted on Ogden's Famous Footballers (1908) and also in WD & HO Wills International Footballers (1910).

Richard McFadden (one of three Clapton Orient players killed in action) and Jimmy Speirs of Bradford City (who scored the winning goal in the 1911 FA cup final) are both depicted in Churchmans Footballers (coloured) (1914) - one of the finest footballing sets issued. Last, but certainly not least, Taddy's Prominent Footballers (1907) featured Edward Inkerman Bell, who played for both Southampton and Portsmouth and won the Military Cross, and Teddy Bullen of Bury appearing in Cope's Noted Footballers (1910).

Many more are out there to be found however. Next time you purchase early football cards, take a look at the history of the players featured and you may find a hero who laid down their footballing career to serve for King and Country. We will remember them.