Preston Soccer Club in World War One

During the 1st World War large numbers of people volunteered to enlist in the armed forces to defend ‘King and Empire’ including many sportspeople. Among those were a significant number from soccer clubs, or what were called ‘British Association Football Clubs’ at the time. Preston Soccer Team were forefront in the effort with many players enlisting. Towards the start of 1915 the club held a special meeting at their headquarters, the Prince Alfred Hotel in High Street, Preston, to consider ‘the advisability or otherwise of continuing the club’ due to the large numbers of members taking up arms.

Being on the verge of disbanding due to the sacrifices of its members, the club did manage to continue and in May 1915 an article stated that ‘if any single club under the auspices of the V.B.F.A. deserve encouragement it is the Preston organisation.’ An article in The Herald in 1915 pointed out that, ‘truly there is no lack of patriotism in the ranks of Victoria soccer and when the honour roll is finally completed it will be in keeping with the traditions of the especial winter sport.’

By April 1915 those enlisted included, H. Phelps, T. Williams, P. Minter and Hutton (forwards), G. Hewitt (full back), C. May, G. Latimer and G. Rumbol. By July, members of the management committee, Bert Knight and Sydney Fawkes also joined the volunteers. Sadly, some members did not return after the war and were killed in action, including Corporal H. Traynor and Sapper Humphreys. Corporal Traynor was described as a well-known Soccerite of the Preston team and one of the most versatile players in the ranks of the Victorian Amateur British Football Association. Sapper Humphreys travelled to England, joined the Yorkshire engineers but was killed in action in France. A newspaper article claims he was largely responsible for the success of the Preston team in its cup-winning year.

Soccer: Preston club meets. Herald (Melbourne, Vic. :1861 – 1954) 29 January 1915, p.2

Soccer and war: Corporal H. Traynor. Winner (Melbourne, Vic. : 1914 –1917) 15 December 1916, p.8

Soccer: players who responded to country’s call. Winner (Melbourne, Vic.: 1914 - 1917), 28 April 1915, page 6

Soccer player killed. Winner (Melbourne, Vic. : 1914 - 1917), 31 May1916, page 8