Leicester Fosse And The First World War: Part 24
In a 25-part series, Club Historian John Hutchinson investigates the stories behind Leicester Fosse and the First World War.
2014 marked the one hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War.
There were huge losses on both sides of the conflict. Over fifty 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. Twelve more were killed in action. A thirteenth player died in a Prisoner of War camp. Two more died after surviving the war, one of Spanish flu, and the other of tuberculosis.
In Part 23 (link), John looked at the story of Honoré Vlamynck.
Sergeant Thomas Allsopp served on the Western Front during the First World War and survived. However, four months after the Armistice was signed, he was dead, a victim of the Spanish Flu epidemic which was sweeping through Europe. Although he died after the war, he lies in a military plot maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, whose records include details of his military career.
Thomas’ story is worth retelling. He was born in Leicester in December 1880. In 1899 he joined Leicester Fosse, making his debut against Middlesbrough in February 1901. A regular until the end of the following season, he then spent two seasons at Luton Town in the Southern League before rejoining the Fossils for 1904/05, during which season he only missed four games. He then returned to the Southern League to play for Brighton and Hove Albion in 1905 and Norwich City in 1907.
Thomas was also a good cricketer. He played 36 first class matches for Leicestershire County Cricket Club between 1903 and 1905 as well as one game for the MCC. Following his move to Norwich City he also played 27 Minor Counties games for Norfolk, between June 1909 and July 1912.
On 9 May 1911, Thomas took over a pub called the Hero of Redan (named after a local general who led the storming of Redan in the Crimean War) in Thorpe Road, Norwich and he is listed as the licensee until July 1916.
By this time, War had broken out and Thomas had enlisted in the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment, where he rose to be a sergeant in the 18th Battalion. His Military record also indicates that later in the war he was serving as a sergeant in the 126th Labour Company in the Labour Corps (which was formed in 1917).
This was because the 18th Battalion was one of five labour battalions in the Queens Royal West Surrey Regiment, which between them administered 30 labour companies. In 1917, these labour companies were all transferred to the newly formed Labour Corps, and Thomas, who was with his battalion in France, found himself in the 126th Labour Company.
The Labour Corps was used, amongst other things, for building and maintaining transport links in the UK and in war theatres. It also managed stores, telegraph and telephones. It eventually numbered 390,000 men, over 10 per cent of the Army. Often it was manned by officers and men who had been wounded. They were regarded as somehow being second class soldiers. As a result, men in the Corps who died (Thomas amongst them) are commemorated under their original regiment, with the Labour Company being secondary.
At the end of the war, the 126th Labour Company was charged with the task of exhuming bodies of soldiers in the field and reinterring them in official war graves.
As yet, I haven’t been able to establish when Thomas was demobilised, but he was back in Norwich in March 1919 with his wife Edith Rose. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission lists his address as 6 Redwell Street in Norwich. Further research indicates that this was the address of a pub called the City Arms pictured above soon after the War. The licensee from April 1918 was Thomas’ wife, Edith Rose Allsopp. The City Arms had been licensed to a John Young from 1912 and the indications are that Edith Rose was his wife. She took over the license under the name of Edith Rose Young in July 1917. By April she held the license in the name of Edith Rose Allsopp, having married Thomas. It was to this pub that Thomas returned at the end of the war. Is it too fanciful to surmise that the couple in the picture above are Thomas and Edith Rose?
Paul Taylor’s research suggests that Thomas fell victim to the Spanish flu pandemic which was sweeping the globe and which killed more people than died in the First World War. He died on 7 March 1919.
Thomas’ will can be viewed online from the newly available probate search website. It was a Soldier’s Will written in September 1918. In it he states: “In the event of my death, I give the whole of my property and effects to my wife Edith Rose Allsopp, City Arms, 6 Redwell Street.”
Thomas is buried in one of the two military plots containing about 200 First World War burials in Norwich cemetery, close to a Cross of Sacrifice which honours service men from both world wars.
Few people visiting Thomas’ grave in Norwich today would have any idea that the soldier buried there beneath a headstone bearing the Queens Royal West Surrey Regiment insignia was a man who, before serving on the Western Front, played many games for both Leicester Fosse and Leicestershire County Cricket Club.
The documentary film “Foxes Remembered: The story of Leicester City and the First World War” can be viewed at the LCFC YouTube channel
01. Thomas Allsopp
02. Thomas’ public house in Norwich, the ‘Hero of Redan’, pictured here in 1987. It is now a Cantonese Restaurant.
03. The City Arms in Norwich at the time of Thomas’ death.
04. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission plot at Norwich Cemetery where Thomas is buried.
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