The Unofficial Xmas Truce (Belgium) 1914 Painting by Roy Blakey oil on paper 2009

Cricket and Football, Sports and Spectators

by Eric Dove

The last horse races were held on the Forest in 1890. The first at Colwick Park on 19 August 1892. The full title of the venture being ‘Nottingham and Colwick Park Racecourse and Sports Company Limited. Like many racecourses in the land it was requisitioned for military purposes with the Notts Hussars starting training in October 1914. They stayed until the last day of February 1915. A race meeting was possible on 29 March 1915 and an influx of punters included many wounded soldiers out for the day. The course could be reached by train all the current companies participating by tram and by river steamboat – return fare 3d. After a meeting in April 1915 the course was closed ‘for the duration’.

Racing resumed on Monday 19th April 1919.

Notts, were playing Surrey at the Oval when war was declared on August 4th 1914. The Notts, captain was called away to join his regiment. He decided he would leave the match when he had had his innings.

During the next game, a Hampshire player when bowling was called away to report for military service. He completed his sixth over and then left the field. In a true sporting manner, it was agreed by Notts, that the Hampshire twelfth man should bat in the departed bowler’s place.

On August 7th the club received notice that the Trent Bridge pavilion had been requisitioned as an auxiliary military hospital to be managed by Lady Bruce with J W Hind as chairperson.

The Notts. committee met on March 3rd 1915 and agreed that no further county matches would be played until the end of the war. The ground would continue to be used for charity and service matches.

Of the players who enlisted or served during the war six did not survive.

First-class cricket resumed at Trent Bridge in May 1919.

1862 is well-known and always quoted as the year Notts. County was established as a football club.

Notts achieved their best ever performance in the 1900/01 season by finishing third in Division 1. The 1913/14 season saw them champions of Division 2 and promoted to Division 1. The 1914/15 season was started on September 2nd 1914 to finish in late April 1915 little knowing that the whole approach to League football was about to be radically reformed and rearranged.

The Sunday Times wrote ‘…everybody thought that the fighting would be over before Christmas…’ A F Pollard wrote “We view with indignation and alarm the persistence of the Association football clubs in doing their best for the enemy. There is no excuse for diverting from the front thousands of athletes in order to feast the eyes of crowds of inactive spectators, who are either unfit to fight or else unfit to be fought for.’

Football bowed to the inevitable, the League, FA Cup and internationals were suspended and replaced by regional competitions. In England players were not allowed to be paid. All players who had not enlisted were also required to take jobs that helped the war effort.

Notts. County joined Nottingham Forest in a regional league which involved other league clubs within easy travelling distance of each other.

The season 1913/14 when Notts. County won the 2nd Division Forest finished bottom and had to seek re-election. The next season Forest ran into financial difficulties and were obliged to seek help from local businesses and donations. So when the Football League was suspended ‘for the duration’, ‘it was the war which was the main factor in Forest’s survival as one of the country’s most powerful league clubs.’

During the league’s suspension clubs could recruit “guest players” who would turn out in many cases as war service permitted them to be available. And they did not need to be paid! It was not surprising that Forest short of cash as they were, should be the club that possibly used the system to advantage.

The 1918/19 season was excellent for Forest. They won the regional league for a second time and after the armistice crowds grew to 24,000. They played Everton, champions of another regional league for the Football League Victory Championship and won 1-0. (It was to be another 60 years before they could win the real thing).

Arthur clamp
Arthur Clamp

The story of Arthur Clamp almost epitomises completely the fate of a professional footballer of the time. ‘On Thursday 19 September 1918 Arthur Clamp died of his wounds in a military hospital in Newcastle –under-Lyne aged 34. He had been a stalwart of County’s defence in the seasons leading up to the outbreak of the war. Born in Sneinton he joined Notts. in 1906 and made 289 appearances including 128 in a row. A tough-tackling centre-half he was part of the Notts. side that won the 2nd Division title in 1913/14. He also played in the war-time Midland League side as well as working at the Raleigh factory until called up in April 1918. Only three days after he arrived in the trenches in France he sustained wounds that killed him. His popularity with Notts. supporters was demonstrated as thousands lined the streets to see his funeral cortege pass. He is buried at the Church Rock Cemetery in Nottingham.

League football returned to normality in the season 1919/20. Notts. County in the First Division. Nottingham Forest in the Second.

© Eric Dove 2017


  1. Main Image: The Unofficial Xmas Truce (Belgium) 1914 Painting by Roy Blakey oil on paper 2009
  2. Arthur Clamp
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