The West Ham Pals: A Remembrance Day Tribute

West Ham and everyone part of the Green Street Hammers team remembers those who have lost their lives serving our country.

Remembrance Day is an important day in many countries across the world. It is a time of reflection and appreciation for those who gave their lives to protect the freedoms that many take for granted.

When the clock strikes 11:00 A.M, a two-minute silence falls throughout the country as people simply stand to honour members of the armed forces. Footballs stadiums also held silences over the weekend as a way of paying tribute.

West Ham and Liverpool showed their respects when the two teams faced each other at the London Stadium last weekend. Sir Trevor Brooking read “In Flanders Fields” and a bugle was played. The club has always shown its gratitude to the armed forces, not at least because many West Ham supporters fought in the First and Second World War.

LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 07: A general view inside the stadium as the LED screen displays a poppy alongside the badge of West Ham United prior to the Premier League match between West Ham United and Liverpool at London Stadium on November 07, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

The West Ham Pals were formed as the 13th Battalion of the Essex Regiment in December 1914, three months after the First World War broke out. Recruits trained at Salisbury Plain, while others worked as shipbuilders or engineers. The Pals consisted of 1,000 volunteers, many of whom grew up in East London and signed up with the intention to “give the Germans a good smacking.”  

Many members of the battalion landed in France in 1915 and fought for three years. The war came at a huge cost for the Pals; around one-quarter of the battalion was killed, and around half of the soldiers were left with life-changing injuries. The Pals did not receive a victory parade in honour of their bravery, but West Ham continue to remember them every November.

The Second World War broke out in Europe in 1939, and British football was greatly disrupted.

Many West Ham players had signed up for military service before the war was declared and had gained some experience with the Reserve Police, including veteran captain Charlie Bicknell. Others players – such as Ted Fenton and Archie Macauley – worked as fitness instructors. Meanwhile, the club had to borrow players from other teams to fill the squad and to play matches.

The Boleyn Ground was bombed in 1944, causing damage to the stadium’s structure. Therefore, West Ham had to play away from home. This did not hurt the team’s performances, and the Hammers won nine games in a row. The stadium was not completely rebuilt until after the war had ended due to a shortage of materials, with the full football league’s structure returning to normal in 1946.

West Ham United can be proud of its fans and former players who served in two major conflicts, as well as those who are still fighting today. Their efforts and courage have helped to protect the country, and West Ham supporters join in thanking them. The West Ham Pals’ memory lives on, as does the memories of the players who chose to fight. We will remember them.