Memorial plaque at Thiepval

Leicester Fosse & The First World War: James Stevenson

James Stevenson was the fourth player from Leicester Fosse to be killed in the First World War.
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He was killed on the 3 July, 1916, the third day of the Battle of the Somme.

Born in Paisley in 1877, James had played for Clyde, Derby County, Newcastle United, Bristol City and Grimsby Town before signing for Leicester Fosse in January 1902. An inside forward, he played seven games for the Fossils before returning to Clyde.

When he was killed, James was serving as a private in the Highland Light Infantry. He was in the 15th (Glasgow Tramways) Battalion which been raised in Glasgow September 1914.

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Andrew Neville
Andrew Neville

Football Operations Director Andrew Neville lays a poppy in memory of James Stevenson.

By the time the Battle of the Somme started on 1 July, 1916, James’ 15th Battalion was part of the 32nd Division’s 14th Brigade.

The British offensive on the River Somme, originally intended for August, was brought forward a month to relieve pressure on the French Army further south at Verdun, where they had been suffering terrible losses since February. In the eight days preceding the battle, the British had pounded the German lines with a constant artillery barrage from one thousand guns. Surprisingly this onslaught failed to have any real effect on the Germans, who emerged from their shelters dug up to 40 feet deep in the chalk soil to machine gun the advancing British at will.

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James Stevenson's poppy at Thiepval
James Stevenson's poppy at Thiepval

A poppy for James Stevenson was laid at Thiepval's Memorial to the Missing.

On the first day of the battle, when the British suffered 57,470 British casualties, including 20,000 fatalities, the 14th Brigade had been held in reserve. James’ 15th Battalion in that Brigade nevertheless suffered some losses from shellfire.

On the third day of the battle, the 15th Battalion took part in an attack on a German stronghold known as the Leipzig Salient, just south of Thiepval. The plan of attack was confused and poor. The attack, initially planned for 3am, was delayed for three hours. The infantry received the new orders, but the artillery did not. This meant the barrage started three hours too soon and when they tried to repeat the process at the rescheduled time of 6am, they quickly ran out of shells. This had disastrous consequences. Two companies of the 15th, including James in their number, attacked at 6:15 am. They entered the German lines twice, but were forced out both times. 285 men were killed in the attack. Sadly James was amongst them.

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Memorial to the Missing
Memorial to the Missing

The Memorial to the Missing at Thiepval, France.

The Battle of the Somme continued along a 20-mile front until November 1916, by which time the Allies had only advanced, at the most, 10 miles.  When the battle ended, a total of over 1M casualties, either killed or wounded, had been sustained on both sides.

James’ name is one of the 73,000 on the huge Memorial to the Missing at Thiepval. In October 2014 , when a party from Leicester City visited the Western Front to pay tribute to the Leicester Fosse fallen, Football Operations Director Andrew Neville laid a remembrance poppy at the foot of the archway containing the panel (15C) on which James’ name is recorded.

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