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West Ham United and the First World War

John Simkin

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One possible school project is to look at West Ham and the First World War. My research suggests that four West Ham players were killed in action during the war.

Fred Griffiths, 6ft 2ins and 15 stone, was one of the largest goalkeepers in football. He was also one of the best and in 1900 played for Wales against both Scotland and England. Griffiths had spells with Millwall, Preston North End and Spurs before joining West Ham in 1902. Griffiths kept 13 clean sheets in 48 league appearances. After his retirement he worked as a coalminer at Shirebrook. He also trained the local football team before joining the British Army during the First World War. Griffiths was killed on the Western Front on 30th October, 1917.


William James Jones was another Welshman who played for West Ham and his country. He was a highly regarded wing half and won two international caps while captain of Aberdare. In September, 1901, Jones moved to Kettering Town. At the same time West Ham signed Peter Kyle, a very talented centre forward from Scotland. Both men failed to settle with their new clubs and Kyle was exchanged with Jones. On 3rd March, 1902, Jones became the first West Ham player to be capped for his country when he represented Wales against England at Wrexham. Jones joined the British Army during the First World War and while serving with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers he was killed in Serbia on 6th May, 1918.


Frank Cannon became a solicitor's clerk in Hitchin after leaving school. He also played football for Hitchen Town. Described as a "dashing player and good dribbler with a fine shot" he joined Queens Park Rangers in 1907. He continued to work as a solicitor and after getting married lived at 87, Walsworth Road, Hitchin. He played at centre forward and scored a hat trick in a game against West Ham United in April 1908. His performance impressed Syd King and in 1909 he was persuaded to join West Ham. Cannon made his debut against New Brompton on 1st January, 1910. He scored in his next game against Norwich. However, he was only to play in another two games for the club. On the outbreak of the First World War Cannon joined the British Army and quickly reached the rank of sergeant major. Cannon, a member of the Essex Regiment, was killed on the Western Front on 15th February 1916 and is buried at Potijze Cemetery in Belgium.


William Kennedy was a school teacher who played amateur football for local club Grays. He also appeared for Northfleet before joining West Ham United in 1910. He scored on his debut against Brighton & Hove Albion. Playing alongside Danny Shea he scored 4 goals in 10 league games that season. He also did well the following year scoring a hat trick against Brentford on 21st October, 1911. Unfortunately he suffered a serious knee injury in a FA Cup tie against Middlesbrough on 8th February, 1912. Kennedy was unable to play professional football again. On the outbreak of the First World War Kennedy joined the British Army. Lance Corporal William Kennedy, a member of the London Scottish Regiment, was killed on the Western Front on 13th October 1915. His body was never found and his name appears on the Loos Memorial.


Details of the deaths of these four men can be found at the Commonwealth Graves Commission website:





West Ham also had two players, George Hilsdon and Fred Harrison, who were badly gassed during the war and this brought their football careers to an end.



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