CROYDON COMMON FOOTBALL CLUB
More than 200 players appeared for the Croydon Common first team during its professional life (1907-1916) and it is reasonable to assume that several of these must have been killed during the Great War. However, many players only played a small number of games for the club and so it is almost impossible to gather information on them - particularly if they did not also play for other professional clubs - and to discover whether they lost their lives during the war. Of the 120 or so players recorded in the Biographies page of this website, at least five who had appeared for the club's first team lost their lives in the Great War. This page is dedicated to them and to any other Robins who also died serving their country.
Click on the thumbnails to see photographs of the gravestones/memorials and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission certificates.
THOMAS ELLISON played for the club during the 1912-1913 and 1913-1914 seasons as a forward, scoring twice in six appearances. He joined up at the outbreak of war, becoming Gunner 37654 in the 13th Battalion of the 32nd Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery. He was killed on 20 October 1914 and is buried in the Bailleul Communal Cemetery in France. Unfortunately, his was one of several graves destroyed when a shell hit the cemetery in 1918, with the result that his headstone merely records that he is "known to be buried in this cemetery". He also played for Colchester Town and Grays Athletic, but it appears that Croydon Common was his only senior club.
On Saturday 11 October 2014, before an F.A. Cup 3rd Qualifying Round match with Bromley, the players, supporters and officials of Grays Athletic F.C. marked the 100th anniversary of his death by holding a minute's silence, while the club captain laid a wreath on the pitch and a bugler sounded the last post.
FRANK HESHAM was on the books of a number of senior clubs (Manchester City, Crewe Alexandra, Accrington Stanley, Stoke, Leyton, Oldham Athletic and Preston North End) before joining Croydon Common for the 1909-1910 and 1910-1911 seasons. A forward, he scored 27 times in 55 appearances for the Robins and was the club's top scorer in his first season. He died on active service as Gunner 53546 with the 21st Siege Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery on 17 November 1915 and is buried in La Clytte Military Cemetery in Heuvelland, Belgium. He was awarded the 1914-1915 Star.
ROBERT HEWITSON played for Croydon Common in the 1909-10 season, its first in Division One of the Southern League. A goalkeeper, he played for Barnsley, Crystal Palace, Oldham Athletic and Tottenham Hotspur before joining the Robins and Doncaster Rovers afterwards. He won a Southern League Division Two championship medal with Crystal Palace in 1905-06 and played in the first ever Football League match played by both Oldham Athletic and Tottenham Hostpur. He served as Private S/43291 with the Black Watch (Royal Highlanders) and was killed in action on 18 September 1916 during the Battle of the Somme. He is buried in Contalmaison Chateau Cemetery in France.
WILLIAM KIRBY played for Croydon Common during the 1915-1916 season, when the club was in the London Combination after the outbreak of war. He also played for Brentford in the same competition the following season. Earlier in his career, he had spells at Preston North End (twice), Swindon Town (twice) and West Ham United, but his main club was Portsmouth, where he played for seven seasons. He made 277 appearances for the club and scored 107 goals; an impressive strike rate. He originally joined the Royal Engineers, but was invalided out and went to work at the Woolwich Arsenal. However, he apparently did not like the conditions there and so re-enlisted with the Royal Engineers and was killed at Ypres shortly afterwards on 3 October 1917 at the age of 35. He is buried in the Bard Cottage Cemetery near Ypres.
NORMAN WOOD played for Croydon Common in the 1911-1912 season, scoring 18 goals in his 38 games as an inside forward. His display against Chelsea Reserves so impressed the Football League side that they immediately put in a transfer bid and he moved across London, but he did not make any first team appearance for his new club. He was also on the books of Tottenham Hotspur early in his career, featuring on a Taddy Prominent Footballers cigarette card in 1908 in the club's kit, but he played no first team games there either. However, he made four representative appearances for the London Select XI around that time. He later played for Crystal Palace and Plymouth Argyle before joining the Robins and his last club was Stockport County. Oddly, he played in goal for the Robins in their record away win (12-2 v. Chesham Town in the Southern League on New Year's Day 1912) when the selected goalkeeper failed to arrive. At the outbreak of war, he enlisted in Chester and joined the 17th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment, famously known as The Footballers' Battalion. As Serjeant F/663 in No. 3 Company, he was killed on 28 July 1916. Unfortunately, he has no known grave and so his name is listed on the Thiepval Memorial in France, along with 72,000 others.
According to "The Greater Game" by Clive Harris and Julian Whippy, which provides details of footballers who died during the war, F/28 L/Cpl HERBERT DERSLEY of the 17th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment (the Footballers' Battalion), who was living in Upper Norwood, Croydon when he was killed in action on 1 June 1916, was a player with Croydon Common. This may indeed be the case, but there is no record of him making any appearances for the club's first eleven. He is recorded on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's website as HERBERT DERSLEY. However, it would appear that his surname was actually DERISLEY. "When the Whistle Blows" by Andrew Riddoch, which sets out a history of the Footballers' Battalion, records that he was the nephew of a Crystal Palace F.C. director and "The Final Season" by Nigel McCrery records that he was an honorary steward for that club. He was born in Hillingdon in Norfolk and is buried in Cabaret-Rouge Cemetery in Souchez. A photograph of his name on the war memorial in Old Buckenham in Norfolk appears here.