LEYTON: O`s WW1 memorial unveiled at the Somme
A MEMORIAL funded by Leyton Orient FC supporters commemorating east London footballers who fought and died in the First World War has been officially unveiled in France.
The solid granite monument in the village of Flers near the Somme battlefield commemorates the sacrifice of players, staff and fans of Clapton Orient – as the O`s were originally known up until the 1940s.
Around 200 supporters, ex-players and Royal British Legion representatives attended the ceremony, which marks the culmination of a two-year campaign in the borough to raise £15,000 to fund the two metre high plaque.
O`s Supporters Club chairman David Dodd and former player Peter Kitchen unveil the memorial assisted by Mayor of Flers Charles Delette.
Inscribed with the logos of Leyton Orient FC and the memorial fund, it is the first monument to an English football league side on the Somme.
Residents of Flers also turned out in force for the occasion, and a section of the pitch from the O’s Brisbane Road stadium was planted at the scene as a goodwill gesture.
In return, a patch of French grass will be placed at the team’s ground in Leyton. Among those present to mark the unveiling was Steve Jenkins, deputy chairman of Leyton Orient Supporters Club.
He said: "It was a very proud moment for all of us, it`s something we`ll remember for the rest of our lives. It was fantastic occasion and a fitting tribute to all those young men, We`re really pleased we were able to hit our target to pay for it and it was entirely down to voluntary contributions and fund-raising, and we`re also very grateful to Les Bailey of the Leyton Branch of the Royal British Legion who helped organise the trip."
The "football battalion" – the 17th Middlesex Regiment – was established in 1914 in response to a furious public outcry that professional football stars were continuing to play on while other men were being sent off to die in the trenches.
The O’s lead the way in signing up, and paid the ultimate price when three of its rising stars - Company Sergeant Major Richard McFadden, Private William Jonas and Private George Scott – were all killed during the Somme battle of 1916.
The supporters who travelled to France also paid their respects by visiting the graves of the men as well as the battlefields where the battalion fought.
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Article and photo taken from Waltham Forest Guardian © Acknowledged