Let the living answer the roll call of the dead:
Walter Tull of Spurs and Northampton Town KIA 1918;
And now the names of the Robins:
Edmund Burton KIA 1917
Allen Foster KIA 1916
Henry Gildea KIA 1917
James Stevenson 1916
Thomas Ware KIA 1915
Names from another century come back to haunt us:
Edmund, Allen, Henry, James, Thomas,
Names once shouted over a football pitch,
‘Give it to James’,
‘Over here, Allen,
The imperatives of a football team
Replaced by new orders in khaki, with
Night patrols, barbed wire and machine guns;
Muddied football boots forgotten
In the trench foot fields of Flanders;
The clamour from the ground and stands
No match for whizz bangs, mortars and howitzers;
The fogs of a November match,
Innocent memories in a gas attack:
‘Over the top tomorrow, Edmund’,
‘Keep your head down, Allen’,
‘Stay quiet. Don’t shoot, Henry’,
‘Don’t worry, mate. We’ll get you on this stretcher’,
Allen and Walter –
You would have known each other,
You both joined up in the early months of the war,
You both joined the Middlesex Regiment,
The Footballers’ Battalion,
You would have trained together,
Boarded ships and trains together,
Relieved each other in the trenches,
And, Allen, you wrote this,
While, Walter you suffered from this:
‘Very trying on the nerves,
and lots of fellows get what they call shell-shock.
What with the continual bursting of shells etc.
and the thundering of the guns,
they seem to all go to pieces.
So I am afraid you won’t last long out here.’
And who knows?
Did you two talk of that Bristol City match back in 1909?
While huddled together in the trenches,
Private Allen Foster, Bristol City 1909-11
And then of Reading,
Lance-Sergeant Tull of Spurs, 1909-11,
And then of Northampton.
Did you talk of your keen Southern League encounters?
The Cobblers and the Biscuit-men?
Both teams up there near the top of the league,
In those golden days before the War …
While the ground shook and so did your minds,
And so did your hands and fingers and face ..
Who are these? Why sit they here in twilight?
Wherefore rock they, purgatorial shadows …
– These are men whose minds the Dead have ravished …
– Thus their hands are plucking at each other;
Picking at the rope-knouts of their scourging;
Snatching after us who smote them, brother,
Pawing us who dealt them war and madness
Private Allen Foster’s diary page 123
Walter Tull 1888 to 1918 Footballer and Officer
Phil Vasili London League Publications 2018