Club historian chronicles Albion's links to the Great War

With Albion set to play their Remembrance fixture against Norwich City this afternoon, we caught up with club historian Tim Carder, who recently compiled a book about Albion and the First World War.

By James Hilsum • 02 November 2019

By Paul Hazlewood
Tim Carder with his book, Albion and the First World War.

Published by the Albion Heritage Society, the work recounts the tales of Albion players and supporters that were involved in the Great War, along with a good deal of social history concerning the towns of Brighton and Hove.

Carder revealed the motivation behind his decision to write it. “It all came about because a friend of mine, John Wells, suggested we should have a war memorial at the stadium, which I thought was a good idea,” he explained.

“I then had to consider the names to put on it. I did some research into the matter which got me interested in not just the names, but the people behind them too.

“The more I looked into it, the more I became intrigued by the whole subject. Originally, I just thought I would write a series of articles in the programme, and I did one or two on the subject, but then it occurred to me that it wasn’t just about the players, it was also about the fans.

“There were perhaps 2000 supporters that went off to war, mostly in the army, and maybe 250 of them never returned. Unfortunately, we have no idea who the vast majority of them were.”

By Paul Hazlewood
Tim Carder

Albion’s club historian spoke about the challenges involved in putting the book together, and spoke in more detail about a particularly sad story.

“information about supporters in 1914 is hard to come by, because there are no official club records of who was a supporter back then.

“It’s quite hard to nail down who to include in the book, but I’ve done the best I can. There are some very interesting stories in there – tales of gallantry, prisoners-of-war, and the poignant fate of players like goalkeeper Bob Whiting.

“His story is particularly heartrending because he went absent without leave when his wife fell pregnant. Subsequently recaptured, he was court-martialled and sentenced to nine months’ hard labour – on the very day his son was born.

“He was given a reprieve and sent back to the front, only to be killed by a German shell within a few weeks of returning.

“His grieving widow, with three children to raise on her own, then had to dispel rumours that he’d been shot as a deserter.”

Tim has enjoyed a positive response to his book, and it has very much been a labour of love after taking more than four years to research, write and publish.

“The feedback has been very good. People have enjoyed it, and one or two have said they intend to visit some of the sites featured. I’m very pleased with it, and hopefully more and more people will read it.

“I missed it being published on the 100th anniversary of the end of the war because it actually took me longer to compile and research it than the war itself took! That’s the nature of these things.”

Brighton & Hove Albion and the First World War is available exclusively from the Seagulls Superstore or Churchill Square shop, or online, priced at £14.99.