A Call to Arms – by Trevor Clydesdale
At this time of the year the thoughts of the nation turn to remembrance and at Portadown FC we recall those associated with the club that paid the ultimate sacrifice.
In the summer of 1914 war was declared, and the young men of Britain rallied to the cause. It was a war they were told would be over by Christmas, but no-one had any idea of the hell that lay ahead for them. Football continued as those at home waited for the war to end and the lads to come back home. The reality though was a different matter.
In the early days of the war players were given leave from camp at Clandeboye and from the Victoria Barracks in Dublin, to turn out for the Ports. Indeed the 9th Battalion RIF had a very good football team, helped in no small measure by Portadown players such as Davy Mercer, Jack Cochrane, Albert Lindsay, Robert Milligan and James Holmes.
By the start of the 1915-16 season however, Portadown FC were finding it virtually impossible to field a team, with 20 players having answered the call. Ten men were already at the front: A. Moore, J.Lamb, J.Hughes, J.Vennard, J.Reavey, W.Steenson, R.Currie, A.Hayes, T.Liggett and J. Jenkinson. A further ten were at Seaford training camp in East Sussex: A.Lindsay, E.Barr, S.Johnston, H.Jones, R.Milligan, D.Mercer, E.Larmour, J.Cochrane, W.Henry and J.Holmes.
By that time, five Ports players had already been wounded including Joshua Jenkinson who had been serving in the Dardanelles and was wounded in the fight for ‘Chocolate Hill’. In the same theatre of war, Richard Currie had also been wounded.
The following year the 36th Ulster Division went ‘over the top’ at the Somme and the men of Portadown FC in the 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers, ‘Blackers Boys’, were to the fore. The Battalion suffered great losses with 240 killed on the 1st July including Corporal William Robb. A number of Reds player were wounded including Sergeant Eddie Barr and Private Robert Milligan.
The men from Shamrock Park fought bravely throughout the Great War and several were decorated for their gallantry. Quartermaster-Sergeant Edward Larmour was awarded the Meritorious Service medal and Sergeant-Major James Hughes, wounded in the face October 1916, was awarded the Military Medal for his actions in April/May 1917 during the fighting at the Chemical Works, Roeux. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for gallantry under fire 23rd March 1918 during the retreat from St Quentin. James Hughes paid the ultimate price for his actions on that day.
The Portadown News of 14th September 1918 reported:
“The King has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of Distinguished Conduct Medal to the undermentioned:
4517 Sergeant J. Hughes, M.M., Royal Irish Fusiliers, (Portadown). For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He went forward with a Lewis gun and knocked out an enemy machine gun, which was firing on our right flank. When his team were disabled, although wounded himself, he kept the gun in action until reinforcements came up.”
This was to be ‘The war to end all wars’ but we know only too well that was not to be.
During World War 2 members of all three services with a connection to Portadown FC lost their lives. Joe Rooney, a defender with Wolverhampton Wanderers was on the Portadown retained list while stationed in Northern Ireland during Word War II. He was killed in the Belfast blitz in 1941. Harry Kane who had been a trainer and player with the Reds was killed while serving with the Royal Navy Reserve. Robert Montgomery, who had been transferred to Leeds United before the war was killed while serving with Bomber Command.
This year has been difficult for all our supporters and players at Shamrock Park with a worldwide pandemic, but it is nothing compared to what the young men of the 20th century faced in conflicts across the world and at home.
As we pause to remember all those who give their lives for our freedom, take a moment to remember all those young men that had pulled on the Red shirt for Portadown FC.
The Portadown FC Roll of Honour
World War I
14626, Corporal William Robb, 9th (Service)Battalion, Princess Victoria’s (Royal Irish Fusiliers),
4626, Private James Lamb, 1st Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers
11990, Private Richard Currie, 6th Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers
419113, Private George McFadden, 42 Bn Canadian Infantry
29/714, Private Alexander Hayes, 2nd (Garrison) Bn Royal Irish Regiment
4517, Sergeant-Major James Hughes DCM,MM, 9th Bn.(North Irish Horse) Royal Irish Fusiliers
A 22 year old from Portadown by the name of Joseph Vennard died of his wounds on 14th June 1918 but we have no further detail as to whether or not this was the Joe Vennard of Portadown FC. Any further information greatly received.
World War II
4036188, Corporal Joe Rooney, 9th Battalion Gloucester
Signalman Harry Kane, Royal Fleet Reserve
170961, Robert Montgomery, RAF Volunteer Reserve
Constable Robert ‘Roy’ Leslie, Royal Ulster Constabulary