Filbert Street Main Stand

Leicester City In The Second World War: Filbert Street's Main Stand Fire

On Monday 29 June, 1942, the directors of Leicester City Football Club met at a hastily convened Board meeting. In attendance were the Chairman Alf Pallett, Len Shipman, William Wileman, Thomas Bloor and Sidney Needham. Tom Bromilow, the manager, was also present.
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The meeting had been called because, earlier that day, the Main Stand at Filbert Street, already bomb damaged by the Luftwaffe in 1940, had caught fire and had suffered considerable additional damage.

Earlier in the war, part of the Main Stand had been requisitioned by the British Army’s Pioneer Corps, whose function was, among other things, to perform light engineering tasks.

The Corps was using an area at the Double Decker end of the Main Stand as a disinfecting station and it was here that the fire started. 

From this point, it spread across the stand towards Filbert Street, destroying in its progress the changing rooms, the referee’s room and the trainer’s room, which contained all of the Club's playing kit.

It also ruined the gymnasium, which was being used as a storage space by a local firm based in Kibworth. Most of the upper deck seating was damaged to the point over the changing rooms.

In addition, the ladies’ room, boardroom and offices were badly damaged by water. The hastily convened meeting on that Monday evening in June 1942 covered a lot of ground. 

It was decided that all of the financial records which, for some reason had been stored in the kitchen, were to be transferred to the secretary’s office and other important papers were to be suitably packed and deposited in ‘some approved place of safety.’

The Chairman, Pallett, reported that the Pioneer Corps Officer in charge had been instructed to ensure the safety of their area in order to minimise the risk of trespassing and pilfering.

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Bomb damage at Filbert Street
Bomb damage at Filbert Street

Filbert Street had already been hit by severe bomb damage earlier in the Second World War.

The city surveyor was to be contacted to examine the damaged stand in order to determine any portion likely to be unsafe.

The destroyed kit was also discussed. This was a problem due to wartime shortages and rationing. The Chairman promised to contact the Board of Trade with a view to obtaining clothing coupons to replace the kit.

Bromilow, the manager, agreed to contact the military to see if they could help out with kit and he was also tasked with obtaining balls and boots to enable training to be resumed. 

Another director promised to contact the FA and the Football League to see if they could help. Finally, the Chairman pledged to make enquiries to determine what initial repairs were needed to enable the Club to carry on. 

During the following week, the city surveyor, from a safety point of view, raised no objection to the old dressing room and the ladies’ room being used in place of the destroyed rooms.

He also identified which areas of the damaged stand were unsafe and served notice that they would require dismantling.

The decision was taken that the steel work of the damaged portion should not be allowed to be requisitioned at scrap price and that the original cost should be claimed. 

The Club was also informed that a building license was necessary before any repairs or rebuilding could be undertaken. 

Also in the first week after the fire, the Board of Trade responded to the kit replacement request by asking for a detailed list of the lost kit for their consideration. 

By the end of July 1942, the directors were informed that the building license had been received, and that arrangements were in progress for obtaining the necessary material to make replacement shorts (referred to as knickers) and for receiving replacement balls, boots and pumps.

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LCFC programme, 1942
LCFC programme, 1942

Despite many difficulties, Leicester City opened the new season against Birmingham City at Filbert Street.

A month later, despite the massive damage to the ground, the new 1942/43 season kicked off with a home match against Birmingham City in the newly reorganised War Time Football League North.

Played against the backdrop of the burnt out stand, Leicester City, with wartime stalwarts Sep Smith, Billy Frame, Bert Howe and Danny Liddle in the side, lost 1-0 in front of a crowd at 4,000. Despite the result, staging the match was a real achievement.

Three months into the season, in November 1942, the directors' minutes recorded that that the insurance company had advanced £300 for the loss of kit and equipment, of which £285 had been spent.

The minutes also stated that this was a better deal than the insurance settlement for the kit and equipment lost in the bomb damage to the Main Stand in November 1940.

That claim was settled at £117. This was 15 per cent less than the original claim due to depreciation and it wouldn’t be paid until after the war.

By the end of the year, a special 'Stand Reconstruction Account' was set up. The proceeds of any fire and war damage claims were to be paid into this. 

Repairs to the ground were still a long way off being completed, but at least the immediate problems caused by the fire had been effectively dealt with, enabling Leicester City to continue playing. 




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