On 19th September 1914, less than two months after the outbreak of war, the Herts Advertiser reported that local footballers had been quick to join the ranks of those enlisting for ‘the big push.’
Of the then current St Albans City players, the report recorded the following as having enlisted; H.Smith, W.Flint, K.O’Brien, A.H.Wilks and F.A.Day. It added that the former St Albans player, W.B.Clark, has also joined up.
Goalkeeper Herbert ‘Micker’ Smith joined the club towards the end of the City’s first season, 1908-09, and, after forward Tommy Walker, was the second player to complete 100 games for the Saints. During the two seasons after the 2nd World War, Micker’s son, Harry, kept goal for the City Reserve team.
William Flint, another goalkeeper, did not appear in the First team but was a regular in the Reserve team, where he played 68 times prior to the war.
Ken O’Brien was another not to play for the First team before the Great War, but did score nine times in 47 Reserve team matches. His goals included two hat-tricks. He returned to Clarence Park after the war and appeared in the First team three times.
A.H.Wilks appearances for St Albans City were restricted to one First team match during 1912-13, and one a single appearances for the Reserves during the following season.
Fred Day, as detailed earlier in this publication, appeared in just one Friendly for St Albans City. But he did also turn out in a trial match the day before he enlisted to join the Bedfordshire Regiment. Proceeds from the trial match went to the Mayor’s Relief Fund.
Billy Clark was reported as a ‘former’ St Albans City player, but he did resume his football career with the Saints after the war and took his playing record to 13 goals in 34 matches.
The newspaper stated, ‘It is only natural to expect that ranks of footballers will be very materially depleted for they are a class of men who should make excellent soldiers. A large number of local players have responded to the call.’
The players of other local clubs were not slow in coming forward with the following being amongst the first to join the war effort.
St Peter’s Football Club: W.Foster, S.Broughall, A.Bacon, R.Bacon, R.G. Morrison. St Albans Gas Works Football Club: J.Beech, W.Vass, A.Stratton, M.Folks, G.Parkes.
A large numbers of players associated to St Albans Thursday also signed up. Amongst them was Les Hosier. A resident of Gombards, Hosier appeared in St Albans City’s first competitive game, a 1-1 draw away to Leavesden Asylum, in the Herts County League on 12th September 1908. On 30thNovember 1912, Hosier became the third player to reach 100 games for the club.
Another individual to sign up was Robert Frank Fox, the son of Robert ‘Bob’ William Fox who, along with George Wagstaffe Simmons, played a leading role in the formation of St Albans City. Bob Fox was Hon. Secretary and Treasurer of the club for the first six years of its existence. His son was killed in action in France on 24th April 1918. He is commemorated at the Pozieres Memorial on the Somme. Bob Fox passed away in March 1955.
At the Hertfordshire Football Association AGM in September 1919, the Herts F.A. hon. secretary, George Wagstaffe Simmons, reported that during the first three months of the war three thousand footballers in Hertfordshire enlisted. This worked out at an average of 14 players per club.