George Draycott's grave

Leicester Fosse & The First World War: George Draycott

George ‘Kibby’ Draycott was the ninth Leicester Fosse player to lose his life in the Great War.

He was born in Newhall in Derbyshire in December 1887. His mother Charlotte’s mark on his birth certificate is a scrawled cross. His father died when he was 13, by which time George was a colliery horse driver. 

Football provided an escape from these hardships. A central defender, George played for Newhall Swifts before joining Gresley Rovers for whom he made 64 appearances. In March 1913 he was transferred to First Division Bradford City, along with two of his Gresley Rovers team-mates for a combined fee of £150. Although all three made their Bradford City debut in a benefit game for Leicester Fosse’s former long-serving secretary George Johnson, ‘Kibby’ had still not made the first team at Valley Parade when the war broke out in August 1914 (although one source indicates that he returned to Gresley Rovers for the 1914/15 season).

Sources held at National Archive and at the Imperial War Museum indicate that George initially enlisted in the Leicestershire Regiment before transferring to the 7th Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment.

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Gauche Wood cemetery
Gauche Wood cemetery

George is buried not far from where he died, in Gauche Wood cemetery.

Between December 1916 and April 1918, George played 44 games for Leicester Fosse in the Midland Section of the Wartime League. His last two games for Leicester Fosse were back-to-back fixtures against Birmingham City. He also played for Gresley Rovers against Burton Workers in April 1918.

Five months later, George was dead, killed in France at the Battle of Epehy, which was part of the Allied advance towards the Hindenburg line.

On 18 September, 1918, the day of his death, George’s regiment, the 7th Lincolnshires, moved to their positions at 1am under a heavy gas bombardment.

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George Draycott
George Draycott

Between December 1916 and April 1918, George played 44 games for Leicester Fosse in the Midland Section of the Wartime League.

Heavy rain was falling. At 6:29 am the 7th Lincolnshire, under a heavy artillery barrage and machine gun fire, topped a ridge just south of the village of Villers-Guislan, before advancing further a couple of hours later to the north of Gauche Wood. The enemy’s resistance was broken. The next phase was to reorganise prior to launching an attack on the main defences of the Hindenburg Line.

By this time, George had been killed.

He is buried near where he fell, in a tiny war cemetery in Gauche Wood (pictured), near to the village of Villers-Guislan. It contains only 48 graves, arranged in front of a monumental cross. When a party from Leicester City Football Club visited George’s grave to pay the Club’s respects, we could only access the cemetery by driving along a rough farm track, not really suitable for motor vehicles. The cemetery is very atmospheric set amidst trees and hills. It is beautifully maintained.

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Ritchie De Laet at Victoria Park
Ritchie De Laet at Victoria Park

Former defender Ritchie De Laet holds up an image of George Draycott's name at Victoria Park in 2014.

George’s name can also be found on the war memorial at Church Gresley.

In November 2014, when Leicester City first team players paid their respects to Leicester Fosse’s fallen at the Victoria Park War Memorial, the player chosen to honour George Draycott was Ritchie De Laet.

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