On Sunday morning, the Eccles RFC Duke of Edinburgh Gold group will set off on an epic expedition to the Somme, France. 103 years ago, players from Eccles were about to take the very same journey themselves.
This amazing document is an invitation to the club’s Annual General Meeting, September 3rd 1914. Little could they know what lay ahead of them. A month previously on 4th August, Britain had declared war on Germany and within a few weeks rugby in Lancashire was abandoned and Army recruitment began. Those 1914-1915 fixtures were never played. The Manchester Regiment formed their 1st Pals battalion on 28th August and the Lancashire Fusilier’s 1st Salford Pals Battalion formed on the 11th September.
Before the First World War Eccles were a successful club who played at a ground to the rear of the Rock House Hotel on Peel Green Road, Barton. Spectators in 1912 were recorded in the thousands. In the 1913/1914 season the first team won 17 of their 26 games, scoring 55 tries and losing only 3 games one of which was at home to Broughton Park by a single drop goal to nil.
Renowned Forward Harold Bowker and Half-Back Reginald Lightbrown Bolton both contributed 9 tries each that season and represented their county. On the outbreak of war those two gentlemen and many of their team mates were amongst the first local heroes to enlist and serve their country. Many of them became officers. Many achieved recognition on the batttlefield. Sadly many of them would not return to play again.
It was to be 5 years before Eccles recommenced rugby activity in October 1919 when they faced a Fylde XV at a ground on Stott Lane with a team composed in the main of discharged soldiers, many of whom had suffered wounds.
For the past 12 months the DofE Gold group have attempted to research the lives of the Eccles players who went to war. On Saturday 1st July they will be at Theipval to lay wealths and tributes on behalf of the club and the city of Salford, to the memory of those who sacrificed their lives in WWI. If you or your relatives have any information to offer them on any of the names below please do get in touch.
1913/14 Eccles First Team
T.L. Whitehead (Capt.), A.H. Fawcett, H. Bowker, J. Bolton, R.L. Bolton, W. Laxton, B. Prax, T. Sibley, T. McPherson, W.H. Eidsforth, C.E. Forsyth, A.N. Tongue, H.H. Whitehead, R.N. Rawlinson, T.S. Stephens (Vice Capt.), F. Halliday, E. Bateson, F.L.H. Oakley, P. Cash, H. Barber, H. Plevin, J. Hudson, R.H. Quine, F.W. Wilson, C.E.Owen, W.C. Scholes, P.G. Bradford, W.H. Hardman, T.J. Bradburn.
1913/14 Eccles “A” Team
E. Bateson (Capt.), F.A. Murdock, S.T. McCabe, G.W. Wood, J. Musgrave, H. Quine, F. Hope, F.M. Mc Conechy, H. Keynon, H. Brine, C.P. Wild (Vice Capt.), H. Plevin, P.G. Bradford, E. Mallinson, H.J. B. Reynolds, F. Binnion, A. Monks, E. Kenyon, W.A. Spencer, C. Goulden, T.W. Whitehead, J.H.F. Kendall, H. Fletcher.