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Lest We Forget

Club historian Paul Joannou remembers the five United players on the club’s books in 1915 who lost their lives in The Great War.

Today, the nation will mark Remembrance Day in this special year of the centenary of the start of The Great War. At the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month, respect will be given to the millions killed during the First World War.

Over 100 Newcastle United players and officials of that era served in the conflict, 15 to be killed in action – 13 in the tranches and fields of Flanders. Five players on the club’s staff for season 1914-15 as war began, were killed in the fighting. All were from the North country, all living around Tyneside and in their twenties.

Tommy Goodwill, from Bates Cottages near Cramlington, was the only regular first-teamer, a potent outside-left and crowd favourite. Much has been written on Tommy who joined the Northumberland Fusiliers and died with the Newcastle Commercials on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916. But what of the others who gave the ‘ultimate sacrifice’?

Four young reserves Dan Dunglinson, Tom Cairns, Richard McGough and George Rivers were all budding footballers in United’s reserve ranks. Dan Dunglinson was a promising and highly rated amateur centre-forward from Hexham, appearing in England trial fixtures. One of three brothers to join up with the Commercials Pals unit of the Fusiliers, Dan was prominent in creating a football eleven with the  battalion. Sadly he died on the same day as Goodwill, as the Commercials attacked the German line. One of his brothers also lost his life.

Geordie lad Tom Cairns was one of the very first of United’s players to respond to Lord Kitchener’s call for men to arms, joining the Royal Field Artillery and reaching the rank of corporal. Serving in a Trench Mortar Battery around Arras, he fell fighting in the trenches of France and is remembered on the Arras Memorial. Raised in Chopwell, Cairns earned a good reputation as a schemer playing in the local Northern Combination League and was signed by the Magpies. Tommy deputised for Curtis Booth for the concluding fixture of the 1914-15 season, the last before war enforced a close-down to football, and played his part in a fine 3-0 victory over Aston Villa.

Cumbrian Richard McGough arrived at St James’ Park from Carlisle United’s pre-league outfit. He was a compact and skilful midfielder and showed Newcastle directors he was worth an opportunity. McGough operated in the middle of the park in the old fashioned centre-half role and was called into the side for Wilf Low in Newcastle’s first-eleven during season 1914-15 before he joined up to do battle in World War One. He was killed in action serving as a bombardier in the Royal Garrison Artillery on a siege battery; his name is remembered at the Feuchy British Cemetery, Pas de Calais.

George Rivers, like Dunglinson, never saw first-team duty for United and but for the conflict could well have graduated to Newcastle’s senior team. A school-teacher, he came to United’s attention when playing local football with Birtley and joined the black-and-whites in May 1914 for the sum of £50. Hailing from Tudhoe near Durham, he joined the Durham Light Infantry in the Army Service Corps, being killed in August 1916 as the Somme battles raged.

In season 1919-20 when peace had been restored, the club unveiled a War Memorial which still survives today, 95 years later. Situated in the Milburn Stand covered walkway, it commemorates those players and officials at the outbreak of the war and to serve in the conflict. 


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