Hall of Fame - Second World War

Don’t miss the chance to find out more about football during the Second World War in our Hall of Fame!

Click here for the First World War Hall of Fame

Jo Coen

Jo Coen was born in Scotland and was goalie for a number of teams before signing for Luton in 1934. He appeared 153 times as goalkeeper for the Hatters in first team games before war broke out.

He was training to be a pilot at the Service Flying Training School at RAF Cranwell when he was killed. It’s not clear exactly how he died, but it’s very probable it was in a flying accident. Three Airspeed Oxfords crashed that day at Cranwell - 15th October 1941.

He is buried in a churchyard in Luton, with a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone to remember him by. Even though he wasn’t fighting, he still gave his life in service of his country.

How Jo Coen is remembered by the CWGC

Jo Coen image

Bobby Daniel

Bobby Daniel at 16 was a schoolboy international for Wales who went on to play for Arsenal. Five years later he was a flight sergeant gunner in a Lancaster bomber. On the night of December 23rd 1943 his plane was lost without trace on a mission to Berlin. He and the rest of the crew were never found. Their names are on the Runnymede Memorial along with over 20,000 other airmen who were lost in the Second World War flying from the UK, and who have no known graves.

How Bobby Daniel is remembered by the CWGC

Another Arsenal player, Leslie Lack, was killed by ‘friendly-fire’ when returning from a mission in his Spitfire.

How Leslie Lack is remembered by the CWGC

Bobby’s younger brother Ray went on to play for Arsenal

Bobby Daniel Lancaster bomber Ray Daniel

Alan Fowler

Alan was very small for a professional footballer standing just 5’6” and weighing less than ten stone. He signed for Leeds United on his 16th birthday, but went on to play for Swindon Town. He was a fantastic striker, and in a match against Luton in 1935 he scored a hat-trick in the first six minutes ! (Believed to be the fastest in the club’s history)

His career total at Swindon was 101 goals in 223 appearances and he was top scorer in 3 of his 6 seasons at the County Ground.

He was killed shortly after the D-Day landings, on July 10th 1944

Alan’s father Joe was assistant groundsman for Swindon. He never got over the death of Alan and he died in November 1947.

How he is remembered by the CWGC

Alan Fowler

Visiting players scroll

During the Second World War, footballers were based all over the country, so they were invited to play at which ever club was nearest to them. Aldershot Town was close to a big army barracks so they got loads of players! All their guests signed a poster which was framed.

There are some very famous names from the past on there, but you might be too young to remember them!

Tommy Lawton? Joe Mercer? Matt Busby?

You could try to find out about some of them.

Tom Cooper

Right-back Tom Cooper had already captained England when Liverpool paid £7,500 to buy him from Derby in December 1934. He became skipper, and he made 160 League and FA Cup appearances for Liverpool but never once scored!

He joined the military police when war broke out.

His last match for Liverpool was on April 20, 1940. Two months later on army despatch duty he was killed when his motor cycle collided with a bus. After an inquiry into his death all army despatch riders were ordered to wear crash helmets.

He is buried in a churchyard in Derby, with a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone to remember him by.

How he is remembered by the CWGC

76 Liverpool players and staff members enlisted in the course of the war - and Tom Cooper was the only one that was killed.

Tom Cooper image

Charlton Observer

When crowds of people were gathered together during the war, even for football matches, it was a good idea to have someone on duty to watch out for enemy planes and warn in case of air raids.

The photo shows a spotter at work at the Charlton Athletic ground, The Valley, in December 1940.

Charlton Observer

Harry Goslin

Harry Goslin was bought by Bolton Wanderers in 1930 for £25!

Early in 1939, when war seemed a certainty, Harry joined the Territorial Army, and inspired 14 other Bolton players to do the same. When war WAS declared, out of 35 Bolton players, 32 went into uniform, and the others worked in coal mines or munitions factories.

Harry and his team mates spent the war together in the Bolton Artillery, escaping from the beaches of Dunkirk, fighting in France, Africa and Italy.

Sadly Harry was wounded in action in Italy and died on December 18th 1943.

How he is remembered by the CWGC

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Quote from police chief

The police obviously thought it was a good idea to keep football matches going even if there was a war on!

‘If there is no football each week our cells will be full because the young men of today will have nowhere to go and will fall into mischief. The collection of people in churches is not barred and the collection of football crowds should not be hindered. Let us have them in their customary winter quarters, not on the streets or in the pubs.’

Police Chief

White Hart Lane

White Hart Lane – then and now!

During the Second World War, football grounds, especially those in big cities, were put to many uses.

The East Stand at White Hart Lane was used as a mortuary for blitz victims. (Hard to imagine, you Spurs supporters, next time you have a home game!)

Elsewhere in the ground, gas masks were made and people who were evacuated from the Tottenham area used the buildings to store their furniture!

Highbury was damaged, so Spurs opened their doors to arch-rivals, Arsenal so they had somewhere to play their matches!

image White Hart lane

Match cancellations

During the war it was difficult to keep on playing matches. Not only were many of the footballers away fighting, but the government had imposed a 50 mile travelling limit, to save petrol. The football league divided the country into seven regions, so that all fixtures were fairly local.

This made for some interesting combinations – like Liverpool being in the same league as Tranmere Rovers!

The worst day of domestic cancellations occurred on February 3 1940, but it was nothing to do with the war – it was the weather!

Only one out of 56 league matches could be played. Plymouth made the most of it beating Bristol City 10-3!

Plymouth Badge Bristol Badge

Wembley Stadium

In the Second World War, Wembley Stadium became a symbol of British fighting spirit, and its +determination to carry on as normal, as far as possible, in far from normal circumstances.

Cup finals and internationals were staged there, but there were a few more unusual incidents!

  • An incendiary bomb dropped on the pitch in 1944 causing quite a mess!
  • A V1 flying bomb dropped just outside the stadium, onto the greyhound kennels. Two dogs were killed and many more escaped onto the streets of London
  • American troops played baseball there!
  • It became a temporary home for French and Belgian refugees
  • In 1945 it was used to host a thanksgiving service to mark the end of the war in Europe.

Wembley Stadium

Cameron Campbell Buchanan and young players

Many footballers aged 18 and over were serving in the armed forces in the Second World War.

This meant that very young players suddenly found themselves playing in first team matches.

In 1941, Wolves fielded a team whose average age was 17. The ‘veteran’ was called Derek Ashton, and he was 19!

The very youngest player to make his debut in senior football also played for Wolves. He was called Cameron Campbell Buchanan, and was aged 14 years and 57 days.

Cameron Campbell Buchanan

Portsmouth FA Cup

Portsmouth won the FA cup in 1939, and then the competition was suspended until 1946, so they have the dubious record of holding the cup for the longest time ever!

The cup itself had an exciting time in the war, because Portsmouth was seriously bombed. It was kept in a bank, but on the night the building suffered a direct hit and was destroyed, the club manager, Jack Tinn had taken the cup home with him, and was sheltering under his stairs with it safely between his legs!

Patrick Shelley

Yes this is a cricket pavilion! It’s at a place called Broadhalfpenny Down near the south coast of England. Just before D-Day, in 1944, many troops camped here before they set off on their heroic mission to Normandy.

One of them, Stan Veasey, gave an account of an incident here:

“An impromptu football kick-about quickly started, in the course of which, a large Irish gunner named Shelley took a flying tackle. His opponent ended up on the ground with a broken ankle. There were many who thought him lucky to be out of the invasion. Shelley was asked jokingly to repeat the performance several times. Ironically, he was the first man to be killed in the unit nine days later.“

How he is remembered by the CWGC

Patrick Shelley

Football on the beaches

If you’ve seen ‘Saving Private Ryan’ you’ll know how horrific the D-Day landings on the Normandy beaches were, in June 1944.

With remarkable spirit, shortly afterwards, a football match was organised on the sand – Landing Craft v Other Ships.

Football on the beaches - men landing

Man U. bomb damage

Many football grounds were damaged during the Second World War, especially those in cities and near docks.

Factories that might be producing munitions and military machinery were important targets because, if put out of action, the Allied war effect would be badly affected. City football grounds were often in industrial areas so got caught as well.

The main stand at Old Trafford was destroyed by a bomb in 1941, and another bomb wrecked the terraces and cover. The pitch was badly scorched too.

Man City to the rescue! The two teams shared Maine Road throughout the war years.

Man U. bomb damage

POW football

A ‘Marlag’ was a POW camp for sailors and marines. Corporal Woods sketched a picture of his camp in Brac, an island off part of Yugoslavia (now called Croatia)

The place looks quite pleasant, from the picture…but life can’t have been easy for anyone.

Look at the football pitch! Football played a great part of life in many POW camps. It was good for fitness and for morale too.

Berlin goal cartoon

War was often compared to a game of football. This cartoon appeared in an August 1940 newspaper.

The caption reads "The R.A.F. has just scored a goal past Goering into the net "Berlin". A furious Hitler and Goebbels shout "Send him off! Offside! Foul!"

Do you know who the characters are? See if you can find out what happened in the war at this time to inspire the cartoon.

Eigth Army supporter cartoon

Another football/war cartoon, first published by the Evening News on 21st January, 1943

The caption reads:
“His team's had another away win. He's an Eighth Army Supporter."

The Eighth Army was serving in North Africa, at the time and was having a lot of success advancing towards Tripoli.


Nine Arsenal players died while serving in the forces in the Second World War.

Sidney Pugh joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve and was killed on active service.
How Sidney Pugh is remembered by the CWGC

Cyril Tooze joined the army and was killed by a sniper’s bullet in Italy.
How Cyril Tooze is remembered by the CWGC

Henry (Harry) Cook was in the Navy but died in a flying accident while training to land on the deck of a ship.
How Henry (Harry) Cook is remembered by the CWGC

Bobby Daniel died in a Lancaster Bomber over Berlin.
How Bobby Daniel is remembered by the CWGC

Goalie, Bill Dean, was on the HMS Naiad when it was torpedoed.
How Bill Dean is remembered by the CWGC

Hugh Glass was lost at sea when his ship, the SS Ocean Crusader, was sunk by a U-Boat.
How Hugh Glass is remembered by the CWGC

Leslie Lack’s Spitfire was hit by friendly fire when he was on his way home from a mission.
How Leslie Lack is remembered by the CWGC

William Parr was killed when his plane was shot down while searching for U-Boats.
How William Parr is remembered by the CWGC

Herbie Roberts died from a skin infection when he was in the army.
How Herbie Roberts is remembered by the CWGC

Arsenal Badge

POW humour

Prisoners of War often formed football teams in their camps.

Here’s a story from one camp, from Len Murphy.

“One day quite a number of us were back in camp early and decided to have a game of football. I was in goal when the German Sgt Major who had been watching decided to take part, pushing me out of the goal and taking my place. Well the lads all thought this was funny and after a while decided to kick the ball at him. After several goes ‘Peg Leg’ as he was known, pulled out his revolver, pointed it at the lads and said ‘The next one who tries to score will be shot!’ We all thought it rather funny, but thought better of it. We did not know that he was joking!”

POW Football team POW Football team

Escape to Victory

“Like The Great Escape with a football twist” and “as far removed from the terrible reality of war as its possible to get” are two reviews of the film Escape to Victory!

Bobby Moore, Pelé, Ossy Ardiles and numerous Ipswich Town players took part in the film, with Michael Caine and Sylvester Stallone.

Apparently Stallone insisted that his character score the game-winning goal in the film, as he felt he was the biggest star. The non-American crew was finally able to convince him of the absurdity of the goalkeeper scoring the winning goal, and a penalty shot was put in instead to keep him quiet!

It’s fun to watch, but not to be taken too seriously!

Escape to Victory still - Caine and Stallone Escape to Victory still - celebration