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Norwich City’s true heroes: the players who gave their lives in the First World War

Norwich City's team of 1908-9, including George Porter and John Flanagan, who were both to die fighting in the First World War. Picture: Archant Library

Norwich City's team of 1908-9, including George Porter and John Flanagan, who were both to die fighting in the First World War. Picture: Archant Library

Archant Library

Remembering some of the former Norwich City footballers who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country in the First World War, with the help of the Norwich City Historical Trust, who traced those who played for the Canaries and died in the conflict

George Bell

Born in Dundee in 1890 he came to City at the start of 1912/13 after playing for Dumfries. He left with 39 appearances in league and cup matches, scoring once. He served in the 4th Battalion, Black Watch (Royal Highlanders). He died in action on September 25, 1915 and was buried at the Loos Memorial, Pas de Calais, France.

Joseph Dines

Born in 1886 in King’s Lynn, the son of a blacksmith. By the time he was 18 Joe was a regular in King’s Lynn first team. In 1906/7 he was given a trial by City in a practice match and later in the season played in a few reserve team matches. A teacher by trade, the defender played for Bradford City as an amateur. On November 29, 1915 he joined the Army Ordnance Corps as a private, then, from June 1917 in the sixth Battalion Middlesex regiment, then in the Machine Gun Corps from September 1917 where he was promoted to corporal. On June 22, 1918 he became a Second Lieutenant with the 13th Battalion of the King’s Liverpool Regiment. Eleven days after being posted to France he was killed by German machine gun fire on September 27, 1918 in the final advance towards the Hindenburg Line. He was buried in the Grand Ravine British Cemetery at Havrincourt. In 1987 a plaque was placed on the wall of the house in King’s Lynn in which he was born by way of commemoration.

Ernest Ellis

Born in Sprowston on November 30, 1885. In 1903/4 he played for Thorpe Village and worked as a machine operator in the boot trade. In the following season he was with Norwich St James and also began to play for City as a right-back, half-back, inside-right and outside-right. He became a professional with City in August 1907. During World War One he served as a private with the 16th Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland (Lothian Regiment). He left for France with his regiment on January 8 1916, his daughter being born in Edinburgh soon after he left. He died on July 1 1916 during the first day of the Battle of the Somme. He was buried there.

John Flanagan

His birth was registered in Aston, Warwickshire in the second quarter of 1887. He was employed by a bicycle manufacturer and played for Stourbridge before coming to City. By the end of the 1907/8 season he became a professional and spent two seasons with City, playing in 43 league and cup matches and scoring four goals. In World War One he worked in munitions, then served as a private in the 816th Motor Transport Company of the Royal Army Service Corps. He was killed whilst serving in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on August 31 1917.

Alexander Kay

Born in Lanarkshire, Scotland in August 1886. He served in the Royal Regiment of Scotland and played for Partick Thistle, then joined Sheffield United as a left-back. He later became a forward and played against City for the Royal Scots Greys in December 1904. He played once, and scored, for City’s first team on April 21 1905. He was killed in action in France on March 23 1918 whilst serving as a corporal in the Machine Gun Corps. He was buried at Cambrai East Military Cemetery, Nord.

George MacDonald

Some newspaper reports gave his date of birth as January 4 1890 in Inverness but this has not been confirmed. He played for Inverness Thistle before joining Tottenham Hotspur. An outside-right, he signed for City as a professional on a free transfer in the summer of 1913. He played in 38 league and cup matches for City, scoring five goals. He died whilst serving as a Private with the 17th Middlesex Regiment in France.

Robert McIntyre

Born in Scotland, he was serving with the Royal Scots Greys when he played his only match for City at outside-left on April 21 1905. Believe to have been killed during World War One on May 22 1915. He had been serving in the 7th Battalion, Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment).

George Porter

Born in Bow, East London in 1887. He played for Ilford and Bow Argyle Juniors before joining City after a trial on August 17 1908. A forward, he played nine first team matches for City. In World War One he served as a Lance Corporal in the 18th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment, and he died of wounds in France in July 1918.

Vivian Simpson

He was born near Sheffield in 1883. He joined The Wednesday (later Sheffield Wednesday) as an amateur in December 1900 and played in 38 league and cup matches for them, scoring 11 goals. He also played for the amateur club Sheffield. He was still with The Wednesday when assisting City on November 23 1907 whilst on holiday in Norfolk. He served in the 12th Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment in World War One and rose to the rank of captain. He was awarded the Military Cross in September 1917 for “conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during and after an attack upon enemy trenches”. He was killed in France by a German sniper on April 13 1918.

Ralph Thurgar

He was born at Brundall on September 28 1890 and went on to attend Norwich School. He captained Norfolk at football and played in 26 matches for the county from 1909 to 1914. He also played cricket for Norfolk as a wicket-keeper between 1907 and 1914. He played for the county in 48 Minor Counties matches, scoring 1,108 runs in 74 innings at an average of 15.60. A goalkeeper, he played for Church of England Young Men’s Society before playing for City. He lived with his parents at Thorpe St Andrew, Norwich and worked for an auctioneer. He was serving as a Second Lieutenant in the 1st/4th Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment in Gaza, Palestine, when he was killed on April 19 1917. He was awarded the Military Cross posthumously.

Extract from an article from The Canary Magazine, 2014-15

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