11112022 We Will Remember Them

It would be untrue to claim that the First World War had no effect on Bristol Rovers. The massive trail of grief and destruction touched every corner of the world, and at least 4,000 Bristolians died in the conflict.
John Hardman, who had played for Rovers during 1914/15, was killed in action in France in February 1917.
Walter Gerrish, an inside-forward with Rovers between 1905 and 1909 and subsequently the winner of a league championship medal with Aston Villa in 1909/10, was also killed. (Major Frank Buckley described him as ‘a splendid soldier, most willing and brave’), as were Harry Phillips, who had left the club in 1913, Joe Hulme and Albert Rodgers.
Joseph Caddick, a Rovers player in 1914/15, served with the 13th Worcestershire Regiment and witnessed atrocities.
The Memorial Gates outside the rugby ground in Horfield were erected to commemorate the 300 or so local rugby players who lost their lives during the First World War.
Several players who had played against Rovers also lost their lives; among this number Bristol City’s goalkeeper Tommy Ware, killed in June 1915, who had played in the Gloucestershire Cup finals of 1913 and 1914; also Rovers goalkeeper Peter Roney, who suffered the after-effects following the Great War.
Born 4.7.1884 Aston Died JFM 1956 Worcester
Debut: 5.9.14 v Crystal Palace
Career: 13th Worcestershire Regiment; 7.12.08 Worcester City; 28.4.14 Bristol Rovers; January 1915 13th Worcestershire Regiment; 14.8.19 Bristol Rovers; 10.12.19 Worcester City (later Club Steward); May 1925 Worcester Early Closers.
Towards the end of World War One, serving as a Company Sergeant Major in the King’s Own (Royal Lancashire Regiment), as number 28437, Joe Caddick was hit by a sniper’s bullet and spent two years in hospital.
Prior to this, he had captained Worcester City during their hugely successful 1913-14 season, scoring nineteen of their 128 goals in the Birmingham and District League that campaign.
During his spell at Worcester, who had spotted him whilst stationed at Norton Barracks, the side had secured the Worcestershire Senior Cup every season and he was awarded a benefit game against Brierley Hill Alliance in January 1914, City winning 8-1.
The match programme was fulsome in its praise for the outside-right: “Caddick’s fine qualities as a sportsman were too well-known; he plays as usual his unpretentious game, ever active, always in the thick of the battle”. Joe Caddick and his twin sister Mary were the children of Edward Caddick and Lizzie Williams, who both married twice, and were brought up in Wolverhampton at Oxford Street Court and later at 2 Pump Yard in Cleasland Street.
Five feet seven-and-a-half inches in height and weighing eleven stone, his seven goals in 27 Southern League games for Rovers, many alongside Charlie Payne, his erstwhile right-wing partner at Worcester, included a brace at home to Norwich City in October 1914.
A noted header of the ball, he represented Portsmouth in wartime and he scored on his sole appearance for Arsenal in wartime football against Clapton Orient in February 1916, converting Fred Tyler’s fourth-minute cross from close in but, brought down to win a penalty ten minutes from time, subsequently spent six weeks in hospital with a leg injury.
He married Alice Brookes in 1911 (they had a daughter, Stella, before the war and a son, John, afterward) and worked for thirty years as a steward at the Unity Club in Lowesmoor, Worcester.
Born 15.1.1886 Knightswood Hospital, Glasgow Died 25.8.1930 Scotstoun, Clydebank
Debut: 4.9.09 v Portsmouth
Career: Petershill; Strathclyde; Celtic (trial); 1905 Cambuslang Hibernian; 11.10.06 Ayr FC; 8.5.07 Norwich City; 3.5.09 Bristol Rovers; January 1915 17th Middlesex Regiment (Footballers’ Battalion); July 1919 Albion Rovers [10,0]; September 1920 Ayr United; 14.4.21 Ashington.
Undeniably one in a long line of great goalkeepers who have represented Rovers, Peter Roney is the only one to have scored for the club. In 178 Southern League appearances over six seasons, his goal came on the final day of the season in April 1910, when Rovers were awarded a dubious penalty ten minutes from time for a trip on Adam McCall in a 2-1 defeat at QPR.
Five feet nine inches and twelve stone seven pounds, he was not a particularly tall goalkeeper, but he was a brave one. Roney made his Ayr FC début before a 2,000 crowd at Logie Green two days after signing and lost to a first-half penalty to Leith Athletic, the club’s fifth goalkeeper in consecutive fixtures; he became a regular for the Scottish Second Division side, “fine saving by Roney” being a feature of the game against Dumbarton.
Fifty-three Southern League games in goal for Norwich City, including four appearances against Rovers, brought him to Rovers’ attention and his signing in 1909 heralded the start of a strong defensive line at Eastville. He was a member of the Rovers side which shocked the footballing world by defeating Football League side Grimsby Town 2-0 away from home in the FA Cup in January 1910; in addition, he was in the Rovers side which defeated First Division Notts County in an emotional FA Cup-tie at Eastville in January 1913.
He and his wife Violet, whom he had married in Scotland, settled at 7 Cottrell Road, Eastville. With the Machine Gun Corps as F/306 and, sensitive by nature, “a broken man” after his experiences in the trenches, he developed severe rheumatism on his return from the war.
He had suffered psychologically in wartime when “all you could hear were cries of agony; I have nearly turned grey listening to the groans of the wounded”, as he wrote in March 1917, and he was reported to have undergone “such experiences during the war that he is unlikely to be heard of again in professional football”.
In November 1919 he was reported to be seriously ill at home in Ashington and, whilst Rovers’ directors sent him ten guineas, a collection was taken when Rovers played his former club, Norwich City; he moved back to Scotland but was dead before his forty-fifth birthday, poignantly still listed on his death certificate as “professional footballer”.
Born 28.12.1884 Bristol Died 8.8.1916 Guillemont, France
Debut: 21.4.06 v Fulham
Career: Eastville Board School; Freemantle; 1.5.05 Bristol Rovers; 14.4.09 Aston Villa (£200) [55,17]; 25.5.12 Preston North End (£250) [3,0]; 30.11.12 Chesterfield Town.
Pam and Ken Linge’s 2015 book Missing but not Forgotten and Alexandra Churchill’s 2016 offering Somme: 141 Days, 141 Lives both feature chapters on the life of Billy Gerrish, who lost his life in the theatre of war.
The dashing forward, a Bristol boy, had left Rovers to win a League championship medal with Aston Villa in 1909-10, for whom he scored a hat-trick against Chelsea in Division One in September 1909. Unable to retain his place in the side the following season, his career took him to Preston and Chesterfield, where he suffered a broken leg, before enlisting as F/936 in the Footballers’ Battalion, the 17th Middlesex Regiment.
The former England international Frank Buckley (1882-1964), who coached the Footballers’ Battalion team, described Gerrish as “a splendid soldier, most willing and brave”. In February 1915, when in military hospital, he had heard another patient was dying through blood loss and offered to have some of his blood pumped into the patient “who was ever after grateful for the extension of his own life by about a year”, as his former Rovers team-mate Peter Roney wrote from the trenches.
Sent to The Somme on 17th November 1915, he survived Delville Wood, but was shot in the legs on the morning of 8th June 1916. He was last seen, casually smoking a cigarette whilst waiting in vain for stretcher-bearers; his body was never recovered or identified.
One of 52 soldiers in his regiment killed that morning, Gerrish is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on Pier and Face 12d/13b. Prior to this sad end, he had broken into Rovers’ side at the age of twenty-one, establishing himself in the side and becoming a lynchpin during the 1908-09 season, when his two goals set up a 4-1 victory over a very strong Southampton side.
These were but two of eleven goals in 49 Southern League appearances for the Eastville side; he is said to have once smashed a shot into the Eastville net so hard that it broke through the back and careered out onto the main road.
Five-feet-nine-inches in height and weighing thirteen stone, he later represented Chesterfield in eight Midland League games without scoring, as his club finished second in the table, and breaking his leg in his first appearance, a 6-0 victory over Grimsby Town reserves in December 1912.
The extended Gerrish family lived for many years on the corner of Whitehall Road and Gordon Road, in a house demolished in 1925, and nearby Gerrish Avenue bears their name; Billy Gerrish was one of twelve children born to Wesley Charles Gerrish (1848-1916) and Florence Webber (1854-1940) of 664 Stapleton Road and fathered a son called Horace (1911-39).
His brother Howard Gerrish (1885-1969) was on Rovers’ books during the 1904-05 Southern League championship season but, unable to break into the side, moved away and was reported to be at 6 Cardiff Road, Glanllyn, Taffs Well in 1953.
Born 18.12.1877 Leek, Staffordshire Died 3.10.1916 France
Debut: 7.9.01 v West Ham United
Career: 2.11.96 Macclesfield; 23.6.97 Lincoln City [29,12]; 13.5.98 Gravesend United; April 1899 Wellingborough; 24.4.01 Bristol Rovers; 11.8.02 Brighton; 1907 Denton; 3.7.08 Macclesfield; 1910 Hooley Hill.  
A Corporal in the 7th Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment (G/4581), Joe Hulme was one of over a million men of all nationalities killed during the Battle of the Somme and is one of the 72,195 names to those whose bodies were never found, inscribed on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. His name is inscribed on Pier and Face 7c.
Ostensibly a defender, his Southern League return had been 22 games for Gravesend, top scoring for the club in 1898-99 with nine goals, two goals in 101 matches at Brighton and, unable to break into the side at Wellingborough, four games with Rovers.
He was in the Brighton side which faced Rovers in seven separate Southern League encounters. Having played in twelve Combination matches, scoring four times, in his first stint with Macclesfield, he scored nine times in 29 Manchester League games during his second spell at the club, including the penultimate goal in his final game as Newton Heath were defeated 6-0 in February 1910.
“A dashing player who did fine work”, as a contemporary handbook described him, he stood five feet seven inches tall and weighed in at eleven stone four pounds. Joe Hulme married Mary Ellen Lilley (1877-1955) in 1905 and they had two daughters, Doris and Ethel and a son, Joseph and lived at 5 Copley Street, Tunstall.
Born 4.6.1881 Langley Green, Worcestershire Died 3.5.1917 Bullecourt, France
Debut: 4.9.09 v Portsmouth
Career: Aston Villa; 4.5.09 Bristol Rovers; 25.5.14 Mexborough Town; 13.10.14 Shrewsbury Town; February 1915 Rotherham County; April 1915 Mexborough Town.
Apparently unrelated to his namesake at Eastville Bill Westwood had worked as a coal mine pony driver at Denaby and Conisborough before moving to Bristol. Arriving as a teenager, he appeared in 98 Southern League fixtures for Rovers, without scoring, becoming a fixed name on the team-sheet, before returning north.
He lodged with David Harvie at Ernest and Rhoda Millier’s house, 38 Colston Road, Easton and was in the Rovers side which shocked the footballing world by defeating Football League side Grimsby Town 2-0 away from home in the FA Cup in January 1910.
Subsequently, his ten Birmingham League goals with Shrewsbury had included a hat-trick in the 4-1 victory over Wellington Town in December 1914. Rotherham were Midland League champions in 1914-15, but ceased playing in wartime from the summer of 1915.
Married to Annie Eliza Denham (1882-1971) in 1909, he fathered four children, Elizabeth, Rose, Emily and Willie and, along with most of his team-mates, enlisted at the end of the final game of the 1914-15 season at Gainsborough, into the 2/5th King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry as 241454, rising to the rank of Corporal.
He was killed in action during the Second Battle of Bullecourt and is commemorated on Bay 7 of the Arras Memorial.
His grandson Dennis Priestley became Darts World Champion in 1991.
Words: Mike Jay
Bristol Rovers History Group 
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