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How Wolves battled on at the height of the Great War

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: August 02, 2014

By Gavin Jones

  • The Reverend Kenneth Hunt, who turned out for Wolves on the Tuesday

  • Billy Halligan, of Wolves and Hull City

  • You are missing the chance of a lifetime if you don't get down to Molineux!

  • Above:

  • The full line-ups for both of Wolves' Easter matches, 1916

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IT'S common knowledge that when the two World Wars broke out, domestic league football ground to a halt for the duration of each conflict. The players were called up to fight, and the vast majority of the audience too.

But there was still a bit of football going on whenever there were enough players around to cobble together a couple of teams, and this rare old find from Wolves' retired (but still working) historian Graham Hughes offers a fascinating peek into how the game was struggling on even in the darkest days of the First World War; 1916.

During one week in Easter 1916, a specially assembled Wolverhampton XI played two charity matches for the Express and Star Hospital Fund; one against Birmingham FC on Saturday April 22, and the other against a team entitled W. Halligan's XI the following Tuesday.

Billy Halligan was an Irish international who was at this point a Hull City player, but he was far better known as a former Wolves man. He had signed for the Wanderers from Derby County in the summer of 1911, scoring 19 goals in his first season, and 15 the next. In 1913, Wolves were offered £600 for him by Hull, and made £150 profit on the deal.

Wartime football was characterised by players making guest appearances for whichever clubs offered them a game or very often the closest one to where they found themselves stationed with the the forces, and Halligan guested for several northern clubs during the First World War.

But Halligan's XI appears to be a specially assembled side organised by Billy himself, perhaps at the request of his former employers. His eleven were:

Goodchild (Manchester City) in goal, Barlow (Man United); Fletcher (Man City); Fay (Bolton Wanderers); Chris Buckley (Arsenal); Abrams (Chelsea); Meredith (Man Utd); Taylor (Man City); Stevens (Hull City); Halligan himself, and Cartwright (Man City). An almost exclusively northern line-up, with a heavy Manchester flavour.

The fact that one player, Chris Buckley, is given a first name, suggests he was considered something of a gentleman, in the old-fashioned sense of the word. A former pupil of a Roman Catholic grammar school, he had played for both Aston Villa and Arsenal, eventually becoming director and chairman of Villa. His older brother Major Frank Buckley would later become manager of Wolves.

The Wolves line up they faced were: Peers; Collins; Garratley; the Reverend K.R.G. Hunt; Price; S.Brooks; Needham; Curtis or Griffiths; Dunn and Harrison.

This was a slight change from the Saturday match, when Smart had taken the place of the Reverend Kenneth – perhaps the FA Cup winner had a wedding to conduct.

The Blues line-up for the Saturday was: Pearson; Ball; Womack; Gardner; McClure; Edwards; Gibson; Hall; Montgomery; Mercer and Morgan.

We're always looking for nostalgic sporting items and stories from games of old. If you have anything you'd like to see in the Bugle, write to us, give us a ring, or email gjones@blackcountrybugle.co.uk.

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