Grenoside-born, Arnold Birch began keeping with his local side and Tankersley Colliery before the Great War interrupted a promising career: he had just attended Sheffield Wednesday trials when war broke out. Having joined the Royal Navy he found himself drafted into one of the Naval Divisions raised to make up the shortfall in infantry numbers and, as the Germans swept into Belgium, Arnold was in the trenches near Antwerp. His division was overrun, but he and around fifteen hundred pals marched into Holland to avoid becoming prisoners of war. Being neutral, the Dutch interned them, and Arnold sat out the rest of the war in a camp at Groningen.


To avoid antagonising the Dutch, escape was not officially sanctioned, so the place was fairly relaxed. Football was played between the different naval divisions in the camp and the internees were allowed to visit nearby towns; in this way Arnold found himself between the sticks for a local side named Be Quick, and he helped them to their divisional championship in 1916.


At the war's end Arnold was repatriated and soon found himself in Sheffield Wednesday colours. He played 27 times for the Owls but was not given a decent chance in their side, and Chesterfield moved swiftly to sign him upon his release by Wednesday in 1923. Arnold became an important member of an improving Chesterfield side. In 1923-4 he also became the club's regular penalty taker, and put five spot kicks away during that season. He was ever-present for the first two of his seasons here and remained first choice for most of the rest, until his release in 1927. Arnold moved to non-league Denaby United. He continued to play for works sides in Sheffield well into his forties. Arnold's son was believed to be on the books of Norwich City around the time of the second world war.


The story of the Navy men in the "Engelsecamp" is fascinating in itself - there's a good site here, with English translations of the original Dutch.


For Chesterfield: 141 Football League appearances, 5 goals.