Leicester Fosse And The First World War: Part Seven
In a new 25-part series, Club Historian John Hutchinson investigates the stories behind Leicester Fosse and the First World War. 2014 marks the one hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War.
There were huge losses on both sides of the conflict. Over 50 players from Leicester Fosse Football Club fought in that War. They served in a variety of regiments, including the famous Footballers’ Battalion. Four Fosse players were decorated during the conflict.
Up until recently, we thought that 11 Leicester Fosse players were killed in this war but recent research by Paul Taylor has revealed a twelfth fatality, whose story will be told later in this series.
In of this series, John looked at the story of Jack Sheffield.
When Private William (Bill) Cox died of his wounds on 6 November 1915, he was the second Leicester Fosse player to lose his life fighting in the First World War, following the death of Jack Sheffield at Neuve Chapelle on the Western Front eight months earlier.
Bill’s football career had been a nomadic one. Born in 1880 in Liverpool, he was on the books of nine clubs in the first decade of the new century. A centre-forward, he played for Bury, Plymouth Argyle, Leicester Fosse, Accrington Stanley, Oldham Athletic, Preston North End and Bradford Park Avenue in England. He also played in Scotland.
He had a very successful season at Dundee, followed by a spell at Heart of Midlothian. Bill only played three games for the Fossils. These were the first three games of the 1905/06 season when he turned out for the Second Division games against Clapton Orient, Leeds City and Burton Albion. He then moved to Accrington Stanley, then playing in the Lancashire Combination.
Of the 12 Fosse players who were killed in the First World War, Bill was one of only two not to die on the Western Front. He was fatally wounded fighting against the Turkish Ottoman Empire in the Gallipoli campaign.
This campaign was an unmitigated disaster. Gallipoli is a peninsular on the Dardanelles, a stretch of water linking the Mediterranean with the Black Sea. On 25 April 1915, an Allied force predominantly from Australia and New Zealand (The Anzacs) and from Great Britain, landed on the peninsular in an attempt to seize forts guarding the approach to Constantinople (now Istanbul) and thereby open up a route to assist their Russian Allies. The Turks put up a fierce resistance.
The inhospitable rocky terrain (pictured above) also made high attacking casualties inevitable. There followed several months of bitter fighting but no headway was made.
The casualties were so high that the sea was red with blood. Bill was a private in the 6th Battalion of the Kings Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. As part of the 13th Western Division, Bill’s battalion landed at Gallipoli’s Anzac Cove (pictured below) in August 1915.
The entire Division then took part in The Battle of Sari Bair, (6-10 August 1915), the Battle of Russell's Top (7 August) and the battle of Hill 60 at Anzac Cove (27-28 August).
Soon afterwards, the Division was transferred to Suvla Bay following the disastrously unsuccessful amphibious landings there which were to be the final British attempt to break the deadlock at Gallipoli.
Eventually towards the end of the year, the Allies withdrew from Gallipoli. The expedition had suffered from poor coordination, confused leadership and opposition from Allied Commanders who believed that the war could only be won on the Western Front.
Sadly, Bill was fatally wounded in this futile attempt to defeat the Turks. He died in hospital in Birmingham and is buried with full military honours in the Layton Cemetery in Blackpool.
When the Leicester City players paid their respects to Leicester Fosse’s fallen at Leicester’s War Memorial Arch on Victoria Park last November, the player chosen to hold up Bill’s picture in front of that Memorial was Jeff Schlupp (pictured above).
The documentary film “Foxes Remembered: The Story of Leicester City and the First World War” can be viewed .
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