Chesterfield FC's Roll of Honour

The Chesterfield Supporters Club set out in 2014 to build a Memorial Garden at the Proact Stadium. One purpose of this was to honour those former Chesterfield players who gave their lives in the service of their country. To find out more about the Memorial Garden and how you can help it come to fruition, please follow this link.


There isn't a family in this country which hasn't been shaped in some way by the loss of loved ones in war, and the family that is our football club has given up its share of players and officials to the greater good. In tribute, we list them here.

1914-18:

Lieutenant Vernon Bowmer, of Crich, played once for the Chesterfield Town side. He served with the 16th Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters. He survived the shooting war but was badly wounded, and died in a military hospital at Bath on October 9th, 1919. He was awarded the Military Cross in 1917 for conspicuous gallantry in action, having organised bombing parties that, according to his citation, "accounted for a large number of Germans."


Fred Bulcock was a clogger from Stonegravels who joined the Royal Scots Fusiliers and lost his life in action around Albert, on July 8th, 1916. He played with Chesterfield Town’s reserve team in the 1911-12 season.


Perhaps no great lover of authority, the bustling inside-right Billy Gerrish clashed with directors at Aston Villa and Preston North End, and was in the last chance saloon when he joined Chesterfield Town in 1912. His ability was far above that required in the Midland League but he had the misfortune to break a leg on his debut, and went on to make only 8 appearances before leaving the club (and leaving only good memories, it seems) in the summer of 1913. He turned up as a war guest at Reading but joined the 17th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment, the famous Footballers' Battalion, not long after its inception.


Gerrish helped save the life of a another man by volunteering to give blood - a thing tremendously rare, in those days - while in hospital himself in February 1915, and it was this sort of spirit that led Major Frank Buckley, the regiment’s senior officer, to describe Gerrish as “…a splendid soldier, most willing and brave.”


Billy was killed in the early part of the Battle of the Somme, one of 51 members of the 17th Middlesex who lost their lives on August 8th, 1916, at Guillemont. The battalion’s “B” Company, normally 200 or so strong, had only ten fit fighting men left under the command of a lance-corporal at the end of that day. Billy’s legs were shattered by a nearby shell burst and he is remembered laying quietly, smoking a cigarette, while waiting for stretcher bearers. Billy Gerrish is remembered with 72,000 other officers and men on the Thipeval Memorial.


Gerald Graham played for the old Town side in the Midland League during the 1910-11 season. Little is known of this Brampton-born moulder's football career beyond spells with the Town club and Rotherham County, but we know that he served with the 21st West Yorkshire regiment (Wool Service Pioneers) and was wounded three times in the space of ten days in 1917; after recuperation at home he returned to France and took part in the Battle of Valenciennes, losing his life on November 1st 1918, just days before the armistice. He left four young children.


Another Brampton man, forward Jimmy Knowles, played a few times for the first team in 1914-15 and scored with remarkable freedom for the reserves. He joined the 5th battalion of the Sherwood Foresters and saw service in Ireland before being posted to France. He was wounded in the advance to the Hindenburg Line in 1917 and died of those wounds at Boulogne on May 1st of that year.

Lieutenant Charles Newcombe was a former Head Boy at the Chesterfield Grammar School and a Derbyshire cricketer, and  played for Chesterfield Town as an amateur in 1911 and 1912. His football career took him to Glossop, Rotherham Town and Manchester United but he was learning the trade of a mining engineer at Bolsover Colliery when he answered his nation’s call by joining the 7th battalion of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. Charles was killed by sniper fire two days after Christmas Day 1915, and is buried at Fleuraix.


Chesterfield-born Arthur Revill saw service with the Grenadier Guards before the war and was called back to the colours in 1914, joining the second battalion. Posted to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force, he was wounded in action during the Battle of Loos, and died of his wounds on 29th September 1915. Arthur is buried at Lapugnoy, in France.


Lance Corporal Jimmy Revill was a Sheffield United man who guested for the wartime Chesterfield Town club and was posted to the 104th Field Company, Royal Engineers. He was grievously wounded on the first day of the Arras offensive, at the Battle of the Scarpe, on April 9th, 1917, and succumbed to those wounds later that day. Jimmy is buried with 3,000 other British soldiers at Bethune.


Sergeant Major Joe Smith was a powerful centre-half and joined up halfway through the 1914-15 season, along with his pals in Chesterfield's half-back line. He too chose to join the Footballers' Battalion and died at Serre, in France, on November 13th, 1916 - the last action in the Battle of the Somme. He was mentioned in dispatches for bravery that saw fall, wounded, only to get up and  continue the rush into battle before being shot down again.


Albert Edward Tye  was a decent wing-half with a decent Chesterfield Town side between 1904 and 1906, who also played for Burton United and Leicester Fosse. After football Arthur settled in Burton and followed the trade of a painter. On the outbreak of war he joined the 4th Battalion of the North Staffordshires and was posted to Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) in 1916. Rising to the rank of lance-corporal, Albert was listed as "Missing, presumed dead" after the battle for the Hai Salient, near Kut, on January 25th, 1917. Albert is remembered on the memorial at Basra.

1939-45:

Arthur Bacon

 

Given his scoring record for Third Division (South) teams, Arthur might be described as 'one that got away'.  Manager Harry Parkes was keen to sign him from Birdholme Rovers in September 1923 after a trial in which Arthur played under an assumed name to protect his identity, but club policy stipulated that the manager had to get the board's approval before being allowed to get anyone’s signature.  In the time between the trial game and the next board meeting, Derby County nipped in. 

 

Born on Jawbones Hill, Arthur enjoyed a wandering career that was nevertheless productive wherever he went. The scorer of five goals in one game for Coventry and six in one match for Reading, his career came to an abrupt end after he was struck in the face by a ball during his time at Highfield Road, leaving him partially blinded. He had joined Coventry from Chesterfield in 1933, after a single season with his hometown club that produced six goals from 30 appearances.

 

Arthur had no less an admirer of his play than the distinguished journalist John Arlott, who once described him as "A tall man with a shaving brush tuft of hair growing out from a shallow forehead above a mighty jaw. His chest was like a drum, his thighs hugely tapering and he had two shooting feet which he threw at footballs as if with intent to burst them."

 

The exact nature of his war service is still being researched: it is thought that he served as a Special Constable, although his death certificate gives his occupation as “Fireman at Aero Works,” those works being the Rolls Royce plant in Derby, maker of the Merlin engines that powered the allies to victory in the skies over Europe. We are certain that Arthur gave his life in the service of his country, being on duty when he and twenty-two others were killed in a single-bomber raid on the plant on July 27th, 1942, and thus merits his place among those remembered here.

 

Albert Bonass

 

Albert Bonass emerged from local football in his native York to make occasional appearances for Darlington and York City, before joining Hartlepools United in 1934. A sturdy wingman with a keen eye for cutting in and shooting for goal, Albert netted 31 goals from 77 Hartlepool starts before moving on to Chesterfield in April 1936.

 

Chesterfield had just won promotion to division two but such was Albert’s impact on his new club that Joe Miller, the side’s regular outside-left, never made the first team again, after Albert’s debut. A steady supply of goals and good crosses from the left helped establish The Spireites as a second division side in the run-up to World War Two, but when Norman Bullock took over and sought to take the club to the next level, Albert was judged surplus to requirements, being allowed to move to Queen’s Park Rangers in the summer of 1939. By the end of his Chesterfield career Albert had made 98 Football League appearances and scored 26 goals.

 

Albert joined the Metropolitan Police as a reserve constable shortly after war broke out, and joined the RAF as a radio operator in 1943, “guesting” with seven teams close to wherever he happened to be based. Serving in Wellington bombers, he was forced to bale out of an aircraft over Manchester, but his luck ran out when a Stirling in which he was a crew member crashed on a training flight at Tockwith, in Yorkshire, in October 1945. Albert lost his life in the crash, along with the rest of his crew and a civilian in the village.

 

Fred Fisher

 

Barnsley-born outside-right Fred joined Chesterfield from his home-town team in February 1938 for £500, but never quite cemented a place in Chesterfield’s line-up. He slipped further down the pecking order after a change of manager and was sold to Millwall at a healthy profit  less than a year after joining The Spireites. He represented England in a wartime international against Wales, in 1941.  During the Second World War, Fred served as an air gunner with the 166th Squadron of the RAF, but was killed on active service.  Fred is buried with the rest of his crew at Taingy, in France.

 

Allan Sliman

A fine, stylish, defensive pivot, Allan Sliman began with Arthurlie, a Scottish Division Three side, before Bristol City brought him south in 1928. Ashton Gate became a regular calling-point for scouts who filled notebooks with stuff about Allan. Perceived weaknesses in his attacking game caused First division sides to hesitate and Chesterfield were the first to make a conclusive move, despite not having scouted him prior to signing.

Allan's performance against them at Saltergate in February 1932 persuaded The Spireites to lay down £1738 to secure his signature, being a £1500 transfer fee and the player's share of benefit payments due from City. It was a bold, ambitious move by Chesterfield, but Sliman's recruitment paid off handsomely for the club. He was also the only player on the League's maximum wage at Saltergate for much of his time here.

Allan's fee was the highest paid by Chesterfield for a player at the time, but it was money well spent. Tall, imposing and with the presence to dominate opponents without recourse to the physical stuff, he was the foundation on which a side was built to win the Northern Section in '35-6 and establish a place as a Second Division team.

When age began to reduce his effectiveness he moved to Chelmsford City, an ambitious Southern League outfit, becoming their Player/manager in October 1938, and the club enjoyed a fine FA Cup run under his stewardship.

On the outbreak of war he resumed his former trade of carpenter before returning to Scotland in 1943 and joining the RAF. Promoted to Flight Sergeant, He became a flight engineer with the 75th. (NZ) Squadron. Posted to RAF Mepal, in Cambridgeshire, Allan and his crew arrived on April 1st, 1945, and flew their first operational mission on the night of 14th/15th April, with Potsdam as the target. For Allan, it would be his only mission; on the way back his aircraft was set upon by fighters and he was mortally wounded. He passed away that night in a Cambridgeshire hospital and is buried in Chelmsford.

 

 

Alec Campbell

 

Alastair Kenyon “Alec” Campbell was born in Southampton on May 29th, 1890. His father worked for the Ordnance Survey and mapped out a future for Alec that included attendance at the prestigious King Edward’s School, in the city. While at school, Alec’s sporting prowess came to the fore; he skippered the school team and played for England’s powerful Amateur side in 1908 - the same year that they won Olympic gold in football. He remains the only schoolboy ever to play at such a high level, as far as records show.  

1908-9 saw him play first-class cricket for Hampshire and debut for Southampton. Described as “Tall, with telescopic legs,” Campbell soon attracted the scouts and a move to Glossop came in 1913. After they left the League he had a short spell with West Ham before returning to Southampton. He skippered the side from the centre-half position as they made the transformation from Southern League to Football League, and ended an 18-year association with The Saints in 1926, when joining Poole Town as player/manager. 

Under his management, Poole consolidated a place in the Southern League and reached the third round of the Cup, going out to Everton at Goodison Park to a Dixie Dean hat-trick. All this came to the attention of Chesterfield’s directors and, when they elected to dispense with Harry Hadley, Campbell was interviewed and appointed from April 25th 1927 at £500 per annum – the most a manager had ever been paid here. 

Jimmy Cookson was sold from under him within a fortnight or so of his starting the job but £2,500 of West Brom’s money paid a lot of debts and allowed Campbell some change to rebuild. He brought Ralph Williams – a prolific scorer at non-league level – from Poole and went back to The Dell to bring Frank Matthews up, too. Manchester City provided John Elwood and Bill Turnbull. These were all fair players and would have embellished a decent squad but the club, in its wisdom, introduced a “residential” clause to playing contracts and good players like Arnold Birch, Jacky Fisher and Sam Hopkinson left, rather than move house. 

The end product was a disjointed playing staff that was also perhaps a little dispirited by the departure of the popular Harry Parkes. The last two games of 1926-7 were both lost, but this was written off as the new man got his feet under the table; a home defeat to Wrexham on the opening day of 1927-8, however, set a low standard that the club barely rose above during Campbell’s ultimately short tenure. Barrow were beaten six-nil as the side hit 11th place but this was the highest they reached under Campbell. The forwards were functioning well enough, but the defence was hopeless, with a lack of tactical awareness leading to the team conceding 27 goals in the season’s opening 14 games. 

When only 2,354 were tempted through the turnstiles by the visit of Wigan Borough in November 1927, the alarm bells went off in the boardroom. An emergency board meeting took place in Harold Shentall’s Glumangate office on November 23rd 1927. Six directors, the financial secretary and the club’s solicitor, a Mr Wakeley, crammed into the room to discuss Campbell’s fate. Mr Wakeley was instructed to go up to Saltergate and negotiate a severance package. The speed with which Campbell agreed to go suggests relief on his part that his ordeal had come to an end. Mr Black, the financial secretary, was appointed caretaker manager, pending the appointment of a successor to Campbell. 

It is too easy to dismiss Campbell’s time as a mistake, from start to finish. Many of the players he brought in were rushed out after Campbell left, and one or two good ones were lost in the haste to exorcise his memory from the club. Campbell saw the value of youth and promoted  Bernard Oxley, Charlie Bicknell and George Beeson to the professional ranks, all of whom would bring in handsome fees when their turn came to move upwards. 

The brevity of Campbell’s period of office makes the man difficult to assess. He was still just young enough to return to playing, as an amateur with Basingstoke Town and the Green Waves club, in Plymouth, but he never re-entered the world of senior football management. As an educated man he might have appeared aloof to the average player or supporter but there was no questioning his commitment to the job or bravery in taking the task on.

His departure had consequences that rang through the club's organisation since his arrival and costly departure can be seen as the trigger-point for Harold Shentall, whose family by now held the majority of shares, to begin the process of becoming Chairman. At the end of the 1927-8 season Harry Cropper was persuaded to stand down and Shentall took his place - one that he would occupy until his death in April 1971. 

Campbell had a keen sense of duty and did his “bit” with the Royal Artillery in World War One, being commissioned as a 2nd. Lieutenant. He retained this rank with the RA in the Second World War, but lost his life in June 1943 near Portsmouth, while on active service.

Bob Wrigglesworth

Bob’s brother Billy came through Chesterfield’s “A” and reserve teams to make his mark, and the same was expected of Bob when the seventeen-year-old joined the club in December 1935. The club was a better one than his brother had joined, though, and Bob was unable to make sufficient progress to be kept on beyond the end of the 1937-8 season. Bob joined 38 Squaron, RAF, serving as an air gunner in  Wellington bombers around the Mediterranean theatre; he lost his life over Greece on January 23rd 1943 and it buried at the Phaleron Cemetery, near Athens.