Today on Remembrance Day, and every day, we will honour those that served their country during conflict. Here, we pay tribute to those serviceman that also played for Crystal Palace.
During World War I, a number of footballers who played, had played for or were contracted to Palace travelled to Europe to serve their country on the battlefields of Belgium or France, as the nation was swept up in a great wave of patriotism as most of the country’s male population travelled to be part of the conflict.
A meeting was held at Fulham Town Hall in early December 1914 to recruit players for what would be known as the 'Football Battalion', with the unit’s official name being the Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex) Regiment, 17th Battalion.
Players from many clubs in the south were present, as were other personnel associated with the sport such as the first chairman of Crystal Palace, Sydney Bourne. At this meeting, William Middleton from Tyne and Wear and James Bowler, who hailed from Staffordshire, became the first Palace players to enlist out of the 30 from clubs in London that were represented that night.
Both men would return home safely at the end of the war, despite the battalion suffering heavy losses, including at the Battle of Delville Wood and during the Battle of the Somme.
After that meeting, any other players that would go on to serve in the army, or indeed the navy, would usually simply walk into a local recruitment office and then eventually be posted to a division.
Many footballers who had (or would) play for Palace signed up for service in the army, but sadly not all would return home. Eight players that are known to have played for the Glaziers tragically perished during the conflict, including Richard Hawker and Joseph Bullock who would both receive the Victory and Bristol medals for their bravery. There were also others associated with the club who would also lose their lives, but who weren’t involved in a footballing capacity - for example one of Palace’s directors at the time lost a son.