Leicester Fosse and the First World War: Part 10
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 12th fatality, whose story will be told later in this series.
In , John looked at the story of James Stevenson.
In the spring of 1916, with the conflict in full flow, British forces relieved the French at Vimy Ridge – a German stronghold near Arras in the north west of France. It was a site of extensive mining operations as both sides sought to move troops underground through intricate tunnel networks (pictured) and to plant explosive charges beneath enemy territory.
On 21 May, the Germans launched an attack on the British positions on the Ridge and gained some ground. The British counter attacked and on 30 May, the Footballers’ Battalion moved to the front line at Vimy Ridge.
Serving in the Footballers’ Battalion were three former Leicester Fosse players. These were Angus Seed, Arthur Mounteney and Tommy Codd. The bond they forged at Vimy Ridge was greater than any they could have cast as team-mates.
Seed had played for Leicester Fosse only briefly in early 1914. A reliable right full- back, he featured three times for the Fossils in the penultimate season of League football before fixtures were postponed. His brother was Jimmy Seed who became an England international and who played for Tottenham Hotspur and Sheffield Wednesday, before becoming manager of Charlton Athletic for over 20 years between 1933 and 1956.
Mounteney’s and Codd’s respective spells as Leicester Fosse players came ten years apart. Mounteney had been a Fosse player between 1903 and 1905. A sportsman of many talents, he would go on to play over 100 first class cricket games for Leicestershire in the three years that preceded the War.
Codd, an outside-left, had played regularly for the Fossils during the 1914-1915 season following his debut in December 1914. He joined the Footballers’ Battalion at the end of the campaign.
Between them, these three players were involved in two dramatic incidents on Vimy Ridge during the night of 1 and 2 June 1916.
At the time that Seed, Mounteney and Codd were moving, with the Footballers Battalion, into the front line at Vimy Ridge, British sappers were laying three mines in the tunnels with a view to detonating them on 1 June to wipe out part of the German front line on the Ridge.
These mines were detonated at 8.30pm on 1 June but the explosions did not have the desired effect. When the British attacked they met with fierce machine gun resistance from the Germans. Fierce fighting continued throughout through the night, with the British trying to capture the rims of the newly created craters.
The Footballers’ Battalion, with Seed, Mounteney and Codd amongst their number, found themselves defending the edge of the craters during the night but they were driven back. The Battalion began to suffer many casualties. It was during this action that Angus Seed distinguished himself. He dragged several wounded men of the Footballers’ Battalion back to the sanctuary of the British line, including one of Arsenal’s trainers. These men would have died had it not been for Seed’s actions. He was awarded the Military Medal for his bravery, one of seven men decorated for gallantry as a result of their actions on the Ridge that evening.
During the fighting that night, Private Codd was hit by shrapnel in his left eye, and suffered from severe shellshock. He was discovered by Private Mounteney, who, in an act of extraordinary bravery and camaraderie, hoisted up his injured comrade and carried him two miles to safety under heavy enemy fire.
Two days later, the Footballers’ Battalion was relieved by 13th Essex Regiment. Four months later, in October 1916, the Canadians relieved British forces on the western banks of Vimy Ridge.
Vimy finally fell to the Canadians the following April. A portion of the battlefield became a preserved Memorial Park and the site of The Canadian National Vimy Memorial (pictured).
Last November, the Club was proud to invite 14 members, from three generations of Arthur Mounteney’s family, to the premiere showing of the film “Foxes Remembered-the Story of Leicester City and the First World War."
The documentary film Foxes Remembered: The Story of Leicester City and the First World War can be viewed below.<div style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 10pt;" ><br /></div><div style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 10pt;" ><strong>Photos:</strong> </div><div style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 10pt;" >Header: Canadian Vimy Ridge Memorial</div><div style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 10pt;" >1. Arthur Mounteney.</div><div style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 10pt;" >2. The tunnels at Vimy Ridge.</div><div style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 10pt;" >3. Nigel Pearson in a Vimy Ridge tunnel.</div><div ><span style="font-family: Arial;"><span style="font-size: 10pt;"><a href="http://www.foxandcropclothing.co.uk" target="_blank"><img xlink:href="tcm:0-2159993" title="FoxandCrop_StoryBanner" alt="FoxandCrop_StoryBanner" style="width: 480px; height: 100px;" /></a><br /></span></span></div>
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