After hearing that the Shrouds were going to be on display next to their new home at the London Stadium, West Ham United got in touch to offer us their support and soon became official Shrouds of the Somme project partners.

But it wasn’t just the close proximity of the Shrouds that resonated with the Hammers. This Saturday they will be hosting a Remembrance Match against Burnley in honour of players and fans who served in World War One.

Several of West Ham’s former players were killed at the Somme and the team’s supporters formed their own Battalion, known as the West Ham Pals, who were part of the Essex Regiment.

David Gold, West Ham United Joint-Chairman says: “West Ham United is incredibly proud to partner with the Shrouds of the Somme project. The Club cherish their close relationship with the Armed Forces, dating back more than a century with the West Ham Pals, and we will always continue to show our dedication towards Remembrance, and those who died in the service of our country. As we reach the centenary of the end of the First World War, I would encourage West Ham fans and East Londoners alike to see this powerful tribute of sacrifice and bravery.”

The Theipval memorial

West Ham Players

One West Ham player and eight former players were killed in action during World War One.

West Ham player Arthur Stallard served in the 14th Battalion (London Scottish) of the London Regiment and was killed in action in 1917. He was born in Hackney and joined West Ham in 1913. Arthur fell at the Battle of Cambrai on 30 November, his body was never recovered and he is commemorated on the Cambrai Memorial to the Missing.

Arthur’s teammates Herbert Ashton, Dan Bailey, Frank Burton, Jimmy Carr, George Hilsdon, Syd Puddefoot, George Speak, Jack Tresadern, Joe Webster and Percy Wright survived the war but some received life-changing injuries. Star forward George Hilsdon endured a mustard gas attack, which damaged his lungs so badly that he was unable to continue as a professional footballer.

Several former West Ham players also fought in WW1. Frank Cannon, Frank Costello, Fred Griffiths, Sidney Hammond, William Jones, William Kennedy, William Kirby and Robert Whiting were all killed in action. Fred Harrison was so badly gassed that he could not play football again.

The ‘West Ham Pals’

In December 1914 the Mayor of West Ham applied to the War Office to raise an infantry unit of local men to serve in the British Army. By this time the army had sustained heavy losses on the Western Front and following the mayor Mayor’s request, the 13th (Service) Battalion of the Essex Regiment – aka the West Ham Pals – was established.

Young men flocked to local recruiting offices volunteering their services, keen to join the newly formed battalion which was comprised primarily from West Ham supporters. They had no uniforms, no rifles and many had no military experience, but they were eager to serve their country.

The new 13th Battalion trained locally before proceeding to advanced infantry training on Salisbury Plain. They landed in France in December 1915 and went on to fight for the rest of the war alongside the 17th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment.

The West Ham Pals fought at the Battle of the Somme, at Vimy Ridge and Cambrai. Many Officers were awarded the Military Cross, Military Medal and Distinguished Conduct Medal.

By the end of the War out of the original 1,300 West Ham Pals, more than 250 were killed and 500 were severely disabled.

West Ham Pals amongst the Shrouds

131 of the Shrouds of the Somme are from the 13th Battalion of the Essex Regiment and their names are on the Thiepval memorial in France.You can see the full list here.

Thank you

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank West Ham United for very generously printing all of our posters and flyers for the Shrouds in London.

Sources:

West Ham Players in WW1
The West Ham Pals
West Ham Pals website