As time passes fewer people who experienced and fought in the major wars of the 20th century remain. It becomes easier to remember the events, battles and outcomes of the conflicts than to reflect soberly on the cost of war to the individuals and families involved.
The normal football programme was suspended during both World Wars and for many players this meant changing out of their club’s kit into uniform. Pools players, alongside lots of ‘rivals’ from other clubs, went to fight. Some returned to resume their football careers, others were injured, a number paid the ultimate price.
Today, by naming a few of the Pools players who served, and outlining some details of their lives, we pay our respects and reflect on the horror of war.
Eddie Smith (1914)
Eddie was on holiday in Switzerland when the war began in earnest in 1914. He was stranded there for a month before making his way across Europe to get home. He then enlisted in Durham County Battalion B Company alongside his friend and teammate Jack Bennett.
Jack Bennett (at Pools 1909-15)
A member of the Durham Light Infantry, Jack was killed in action at Arras, France, in May 1917.
Ernest Ellis (1912-14)
Joined Hearts from Pools in 1914 and signed up with the Royal Scots 2nd Battalion at the outbreak of hostilities. Private Ellis gave his life in service of his country near the French village of Contalmaison in June 1917 during the Battle of the Somme.
John Gatenby (1911-14)
Rifleman John Gatenby of the King’s Royal Rifle Corp died of wounds received in France, October 1915.
Harry Thoms (1919-22)
Was twice injured while fighting for his country in France during the Great War. Spent just one season at Pools before signing for Derby County, where he spent six years, reaching the FA Cup semi-final in 1923.
Albert Bonass (1934-36)
Served as a war reservist with the Met and as a sergeant in the RAF Volunteer Reserve. He survived the war but was killed on a training flight at Tockwith in October 1945
Jack Howe (1934-40)
The only Hartlepool-born player to represent England at full international level, Jack served his country in the Cameron Highlanders in India and Burma during WW2.
Bob Love (1938-39)
Bob enrolled with the Auxiliary Fire Brigade at the outbreak of war, and later served in the Middle East and Western Europe with the Royal Corps of Signals.
Harry Race (1938)
Harry played as an inside forward for Liverpool, Manchester City and Nottingham Forest before having a brief spell at Pools in his early 30s. He was a corporal in the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders5th Battalion, and lost his life in service at El Alamein in October 1942.
Joe Robinson (1938-45)
Goalkeeper Joe Robinson was already a member of the Territorial Army when war was declared, and was called up in September 1939 shortly after his last competitive Pools appearance. He served in the Northumberland Fusiliers and was held as a POW until the war’s end after being captured in Dunkirk. He later returned to football and was on the losing side with Blackpool in the 1948 FA Cup Final.