Words like 'heroic' are so widely used in football these days that it's easy to forget their true meaning. Yet there are some Ma...
Here, with the help of United's museum curator Mark Wylie, we pay tribute to the men who played for our football club and then perished in war...
WORLD WAR I
“Thomas was actually quite old when he joined up so it’s possible he lied about his age. Most of his service was in the UK and he was only abroad for a matter of weeks when he was killed on the Somme.”
His name is one of the 72,000 listed on the Memorial to the Missing in Thiepval.
during the match. Griffiths' death was assumed to have happened on 8 March 1916.
“What confused us was that he was in a London battalion but we then discovered it was the London Scottish. It turns out he became a tailor in London and so we followed the trail and Ayr confirmed he was our player.”
He played for both Manchester clubs: while only representing the reserves for United, he turned out for City’s first team. Although he never really made it at United, McGuire was a well-known player around the Manchester area – representing a number of clubs including Hurst, now Ashton United. He was relatively early to sign up, joining one of the early pals battalions of the Manchester Regiment. Another to die on the Somme, he is commemorated in Thiepval and also at St Chad’s Church in Cheetham Hill.
“He had been desperate to join the army at the outbreak of war and applied for commissions to get in as an officer, eventually getting one with the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. He was shot by a sniper while serving near Armentieres, France, in 1915.”
Part of the 20th Manchesters, Reynolds lost his life on the first day of the Battle of the Somme (1 July 1916). Born in Blackley, Manchester, in 1884, he became a noted athlete and signed for United on 10 August 1907 as an amateur player. Records show he played only three times for United’s reserve team, doing so as an inside-forward in Lancashire Combination matches against Oldham Athletic, Bolton Wanderers and Burnley in April 1909. He volunteered to serve in the army in 1915 and is buried in Dantzig Alley British Cemetery in northern France.
Another Scot, from Perth, he was a baker before he became a footballer and played for a number of non-league clubs in Scotland before joining United in 1908. He never made the first team, however, and returned north of the border. Mark Wylie:
“By 1911, he was back down in England, living in Liverpool as a baker, which explains why he joined the Lancashire Fusiliers rather than the Black Watch in Scotland. He was in a battalion known as the Bury Pals, and was another lost on the Somme.”
The younger brother of famous United winger George Wall, Thomas was at the club briefly and played in the same position as his sibling. Although he was regarded as a good Reds prospect, he didn't progress beyond reserve-team level. Mark Wylie:
“He died at the battle of Passchendaele in Belgium and is commemorated as one of the missing in the nearby Tyne Cot cemetery.”
A graduate of the Manchester United Junior Athletic Club, Curless was not only a young reserve-team player but also part of the ground staff working as a clerk in the offices. From Orrell, he joined the RAF volunteer reserve and underwent pilot training in the United States. He was flying from RAF Kelstern in Lincolnshire when his aircraft disappeared on a bombing raid of the Kiel canal in northern Germany. The squadron war diary recorded ‘no contact’ from his plane; it was his very first mission.
“Fenner served in 98 Squadron, which were doing army co-operation sorties after the invasion of Normandy – such as knocking out strong points, bombing tanks and hitting rail heads The squadron’s war diary states his aircraft as last being seen flying into a cloud over Holland but it’s not known what happened after that.”
“We’re unclear whether he was an Oldham Athletic player who guested for Manchester United or vice versa, he could even have been somebody else’s player who guested for both. A pilot flying North American Mustangs in army close support and photo reconnaissance, he seems to have crashed his aircraft in the UK and died of his wounds. His grave is in Oldham.”
“We have included him here because he lost his life due to enemy action.”
We will remember them all.