Leicester City In The Second World War: Repairing Wartime Damage
Throughout this series, we have seen that Leicester City had to face some huge challenges during the War, some of which posed an existential threat to the Club’s very existence.
In addition to these fundamental problems, the Directors were also concerned with repairing war damage and planning for a post-war future.
At the start of the 1945/46 season, there were real worries about the state of the Filbert Street ground. The Main Stand had been badly damaged by the Luftwaffe in November 1940 (below image) and by a fire in June 1942. Estimates for repairing the damaged roof and reglazing were over £450.
Bomb damage to Filbert Street
Sections of terracing elsewhere in the ground were in a very bad condition and the Directors realised that there was a grave risk of accidents if repairs, which would cost £100, were not carried out.
In addition, there were 15 lights broken in the Spion Kop and the heating in the Board Room needed attention.
In October 1945 an audit was set up to detail all expenditure likely to be incurred in repairing war damage on the understanding that there would be no payment from the Ministry of Works until a licence for the work had been granted and the work had been completed.
Main Stand motor garage building plan
Towards the end of the season, the Directors tendered for the restoration of the tip-up seating in the Main Stand.
The decision was also taken to restore the garage under the Filbert Street end of the Main Stand (above image) which been requisitioned for the War effort, so that directors and visiting officials could once again use it.
The state of the pitch caused concern throughout the season.
Groundsman Bill Taylor
In August, the Directors, ‘in view of the groundsman’s attitude and general demeanour,’ replaced him with Corporal Bill Taylor who went on to be groundsman at Filbert Street for many years. (above image). Arrangements were made to repair the pitch roller and by December, a second-hand water ballast roller had also been purchased for £7.
During this transition season, fans were returning to Filbert Street despite a string of poor results which saw the team (below image) sink towards the foot of the Wartime Football League South. Instead of the meagre wartime gates which were sometimes as low as 3,000 and rarely exceeded four figures, the average gate in the transition season was about 15,000, with five gates of over 20,000.
Leicester City 1945/46
However, some turnstile operators were misappropriating money. The Directors agreed to switch gatemen around the turnstiles for each successive match and in an attempt to attract ‘a better type of person’ to man the turnstiles, (below image) they raised the pay to 7/6d (37 1/2p) per match.
However, dishonesty continued to be an issue. In February 1946, following information provided by Mr. Eagle, one of the gatemen, a notice of warning was issued to all gatemen and the decision was taken to close turnstiles 16 and 19 and to employ new gatemen for the following season.
On matchdays, the Leicester Imperial Band entertained the crowd at half-time, but there were complaints about the standard of their performances and despite the band’s promises to improve, the Club spent much of the season investigating the possibility of obtaining loudspeaker apparatus to provide half-time music. Eventually, at the cost of £205, a suitable loudspeaker system was purchased and installed but not until towards the end of the season.
There were also moves to improve catering on match day, not only for the fans’ benefit but also as a means of raising extra revenue. Tenders were invited for catering rights at the ground, but interested parties withdrew after inspecting the stalls and appliances at Filbert Street. Consequently, the Club applied for its own catering licence.
There were a host of other decisions taken by the Directors during 1945/46 season. Amongst many others, these included the following. To raise revenue, four or five sites around the pitch were rented out on matchday to approved advertisers.
Following a ball being kicked during a match through the window of a house in Grasmere (now Burnmoor) Street nearly causing serious injury to the very distressed resident, the Club replaced the window and decided to check that their insurance covered third party claims.
Filbert Street turnstiles
A letter was sent to a named supporter relating to his abuse of a complimentary ticket privilege.
In February 1946, the BBC was given permission to radio broadcast the second half of Leicester City’s game at Southampton in the Wartime Football League South.
In order to free up the office at Filbert Street on match days so that Directors could have private meetings if necessary, the players were to receive their pay in the changing room after each match instead of going to the office.
Following the tragedy which caused the deaths of 33 fans at Burnden Park in March 1946, a sum of £100 was donated to the Bolton Disaster Relief fund and a benefit match between Leicester City and Notts County was arranged at the end of the season.
Each of these decisions help to build up a picture of the conditions prevailing at Leicester City after seven years of war.
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