The Partick Thistle Fallen
The Partick Thistle Fallen

by Donnie MacIsaac

In 1914 and 1939, when the nation needed men and women to serve in the country’s armed forces, football players were among those that volunteered. Others were called up to serve their country, and there were also civilian casualties directly or indirectly as a result of war. Partick Thistle FC were one of the many clubs whose players and former players became soldiers, sailors and airmen, and not all of them came home.

This is a record of those Jagsmen who paid the ultimate price serving their country. They are listed by war & alphabetical order, with a short introduction outlining their club career, and then information on their war service.


Menin Gate Memorial
● The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing, Ypres.

War was declared on Germany on 4 August 1914. Professional footballers were tied to their clubs, and could only be released with the club’s permission. On 7 August 1914 Lord Kitchener, the Minister of War, initiated a recruitment campaign instigating those men between 19 and 30 to join the British Army. The upper age limit was raised to 35 within the first month, and by mid-September more than 500,000 had answered the call. The author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle made a request on 6 September 1914 for footballers to answer the call. The Bishop of Chelmsford got in on the act, in a sermon at Bethnal Green, where he spoke on how footballers must join up.

William Hicks started the 17 (Service) Football Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment on 12 December 1914, and they were more simply known as the Football Battalion. Initially only amateur players joined up, due to the above mentioned contractual difficulties.

Numerous recruitment campaigns began throughout the UK. In Scotland, on 26 November 1914, every member of the Hearts team joined up. Colonel Sir George McCrae formed a footballer’s battalion, and the 16 Royal Scots had players and supporters from Hearts, Hibs, Raith Rovers and Falkirk. Thirteen hundred and fifty soldiers were recruited in less than a week. Seven members of the Hearts team did not return. In his book “The First 100 Years” Bob Crampsey wrote “..others, especially Celtic and Rangers, were much more cautious in their response to the trumpets of war.

According to a contemporary newspaper report, Glasgow Councillor George Samson spoke to the 15,000 crowd at Firhill, on 12 September 1914, during the half time interval of the Glasgow Cup tie against Third Lanark. He urged volunteers to join up “to do their duty to their country”. Thistle won 1-0. A week previously, on 5 September 1914, a newspaper report stated that handbills had been printed, with Glasgow's 6 senior clubs urging their fans to sign up for military service. These handbills were handed out to the crowds at subsequent home matches in those Glasgow grounds. Furthermore, all of the aforementioned grounds were utilised as sign-up centres. The fascinating accounts of these events can be read over at the Partick Thistle History Archive. external-link.png

The clubs soon felt the pinch, with crowds greatly reduced by fans volunteering, and industry moving to a war footing. Saturday shifts ate into attendances. League games in Scotland continued, but players leaving and reduced wages meant that some teams found it hard to put a full team onto the pitch. Bob Crampsey went on “[In 1915] Partick Thistle old stalwart, Alec Raisbeck, now managing Hamilton Academical, was driven to ask permission to play for his new club in an emergency”. The League said yes. Players had to have a job outside the game, with punishment for non-compliance.

Conscription was introduced in 1916.

William Angus, a one time Celtic player, was the first British player to be awarded the Victoria Cross, for conspicuous gallantry. William served in the 8 Battalion HLI, and a fellow soldier from the same village as William was seriously wounded in front of German trenches. He obtained permission to try to save him, and despite the act as being seen as near suicidal, permission was given for his to try to save his comrade. A rope was tied round him, and he made his way to his comrade. When carrying him back to the British lines, William was hit when he came under heavy fire. The officer he had brought back was dragged to safety, and William struggled back to the trench. He lost his right foot and left eye.

Acting Sergeant Johnny Houston of the Royal Irish Rifles, who would become a post-war Thistle player, won a Military Medal for conspicuous gallantry in 1917, when he took command of his platoon under heavy fire at Mouscron in Flanders. Despite there being no officers present, they took their objective and held it for 36 hours until relieved. He was awarded a bar to his MM later in the war. In World War two, Johnny was commissioned in the field as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Tank Corps. The Star Green ‘Un of 8 December 1917 wrote of him “It was good reading that Johnny Houston the Irish International and Everton player has won a Military Medal. He’s hot stuff and we can imagine him giving the Germans a few foul moments!” The Northern Whig of 28 September 1918 wrote “I [former Secretary of Everton] got him from under the noses of Glasgow Rangers and I consider Houston was one of the best forwards ever to have stepped onto a football field.” Johnny is just one example of the many past, current or future Thistle players who served during the wars and survived.

Unsurprisingly, most of the Jags military deaths were on the Western Front, James Chalmers death in Gallipoli being the notable exception.

During the 1914-18 conflict, at least 295 British footballers were killed serving their country. As well as the 7 Hearts players, 6 Brechin City footballers lost their lives. Queen’s Park have a war memorial at Hampden with the names of 216 club members who served. Twenty nine of these men lost their lives.



1885 ↔ 14-Mar-1916 (aged 30/31)
Midfielder George was born in Mauchline in Ayrshire in 1885, and became a Jag in October 1905. His first known match was on 16 December 1905 against Queen’s Park in the SFL First Division. George played a known 64 matches for Thistle, with his last known match against Port Glasgow Athletic in the SFL First Division on 7 March 1908. The match ended in a 1-1 draw. George scored 3 goals during his time with Thistle. His career at Thistle spanned the 1905-06; 1906-07 and 1907-08 seasons. In the 1905-06 season he appeared on 9 competitive occasions. In 1906-07 George played 29 competitive matches, and in his final season at Thistle on 24 occasions. These three seasons were the final Thistle years at Meadowside. George subsequently joined Ayr United.

George was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the London Regiment. When training in the use of a spring gun, which was a catapult type gun used to lob grenades into enemy trenches, the practice projectile failed to fire. George leaned over the trench to check it, at which point the gun activated. The test projectile hit George in the face, and he died from his injuries a short while later. George died on 14 March 1916.



25-Nov-1883 ↔ 20-Feb-1917 (aged 33)
Outside right Tom was born in Birmingham in 1883 and started playing with local sides Small Heath and Halesowen Town before quickly moving to Glossop in the Peak District, where his career took off. Described as a “pacy winger”, Tom spent the 1904-05 and 1905-06 seasons at North Road. He moved onto Manchester City, and then onto Firhill in August 1909. Tom’s first goal of 11 scored during his Jags’ career was during the 3-1 win against Dumbarton Harp on 18 September 1909. If this Scottish Qualifying Cup game rings a bell, it’s because this was the first match at Firhill Stadium. Alec Raisbeck scored Thistle’s first goal at Firhill, a penalty after Harp had gone 1-0 up. Tom put the Jags 2-1 up in 55 minutes, with Raisbeck scoring a second penalty to wrap up the game. Tom went on to play for Thistle on 98 occasions. He spent the 1909-10 and 1910-11 seasons at Firhill, moved to St Mirren for the 1911-12 season, but returned to Firhill for the 1912/13 season.

He enlisted in the Somerset Light Infantry, but moved to 1/20 London Regiment (Blackheath and Woolwich). This regiment saw action at Aubers Ridge, Festubert, Loos and Vimy Ridge, where Canadian forces were heavily involved in a hard won victory. There is an elegant memorial to the Canadians at the Ridge, which can be seen for miles around. The regiment moved to the Ypres Salient, and during a trench raid at Hill 60 on 20 February 1917, Tom was killed by shellfire during what was regarded as a successful raid.



03-Dec-1877 ↔ 12-Jul-1915 (aged 37)
Forward James was born in Old Luce in Wigtownshire on 3 December 1877. He started his football career playing for Beith, and left for Morton in 1896. A well travelled footballer, after a season Morton where he made 18 appearances, with 8 goals, he moved on to have successive seasons with Sunderland (26 appearances 6 goals); Preston North End (10 appearances 2 goals); Notts County for 1899-1900 season (25 appearances 2 goals). He had a second spell at Beith before joining Thistle in October1900. Three days after signing he made his debut in 3-1 away win at Hearts in the SFL First Division. James played 7 matches for the Jags, his final game also being against Hearts, but on this occasion a 1-0 defeat at home. James moved on to Watford for the 1901-02 season, and made 30 appearances with 5 goals. He next spent two seasons at Tottenham Hotspur before going to Swindon Town for the 1904-05 and 1905-06 seasons. It was here that he was at his most successful with 62 appearances and 13 goals. After a spell at Norwich City, James returned to Beith for a third time.

James served as a private in the Royal Scots Fusiliers, and was killed in action at Gallipoli on 12 July 1915.



14-Jun-1882 ↔ 23-Apr-1915 (aged 32)
William Eadie, a goalkeeper, was born in Dunblane in June 1882. He was the youngest of four brothers, all of whom played football to a decent standard. William started his career with Queen’s Park in 1900, and played intermittently for the Spiders until 1903. Being an amateur he played for Dunblane for a period, and was part of the Perthshire Cup winning team in 1906. William didn’t stay long at St Mirren, who he signed for next, and played 1 match before moving onto the Jags in December 1908, aged 26. William made 6 appearances for the Jags, getting his chance as a result of an injury to Lee Massey. His final game was a 4-2 defeat away to Hamilton Academical on 13 March 1909.

William did sign for East Fife, but didn’t play any games for them. It’s claimed that he appeared on their team sheet the day he emigrated to Canada! He sailed on 20 March 1913. When war broke out, William enlisted in 10 Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He enlisted under the name of William Prince. It’s not known why he used this name. This was the nom de guerre he used when he signed his attestation paper. Sergeant William Eadie, known as Prince was killed in action on 23 April 1915 at Gravenstafel Ridge, St Julien, during the 2nd Battle of Ypres. He is commemorated on the St-Julian Memorial, and on the Menin Gate.

William was one of 12 players or officials who had been involved with Dunblane FC and who never came home, a heavy price to pay for a small community. There are two excellent articles in the Scottish Sport History website, on William and on the Dunblane FC sacrifice.



16-Jun-1880 ↔ 01-Jul-1916 (aged 36)
A man of many clubs, forward George joined Thistle from Blackpool. He made his first team debut as a 30 year old, in a 2-1 home win against Motherwell in the SFL Division 1. For the 1910-11 season, George played 36 matches, and scored 16 competitive goals, top scorer ahead of Willie Gardiner. Thistle finished 4th in the 18 team Division 1. The following season saw George play on 28 competitive occasions, scoring 6 goals. Thistle again finished in a respectable joint 4th position in the league. He scored 1 hat trick when with the club, in a 7-2 1st round Scottish Cup victory against St Bernard’s, a club he would later join. George scored a brace of goals on three occasions. All in all George scored 23 goals for Thistle, and played on 69 occasions.

In an article in the Altrincham FC website, they note that George was born in the Witton district of Northwich, now a town to the south west of Manchester. George was described as “quick and skilful with fast feet”. He worked as a labourer in the local salt trade, and many of his initial clubs were in the local area. When he played for Altrincham, George was the club captain for the seasons 1906-07 and 1907-08. He moved on to Glossop, scoring 8 goals in 24 league games in his first season there. The 1909-10 season found George at Blackpool, playing in 34 league games for the club, with 6 goals. As mentioned above, George then came north to Thistle.

George enlisted in 15th Battalion Royal Scots in December 1914. The Battalion were sometimes known as the “Manchester Scottish”, with 550 men recruited from the area around the city. On 1 July 1916, Lance corporal George Elmore was with the 15th Royal Scots when they attacked La Bosseille, a village not far from Thiepval, by tackling the village from each side, as opposed to head on. George, at the age of 36 was one of 513 Battalion casualties. This action was part of the opening offensive on the Somme. Around 60,000 British soldiers died on this day. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.



30-Aug-1874 ↔ 02-Jun-1915 (aged 40)
The forward known as Walter joined Thistle aged 25 in June 1900, having had a lengthy career with Dalry Primrose, Glasgow Perthshire, as well as trials at Liverpool and Everton. He played at Southampton, Luton Town and Hibernian. The much-travelled forward had his most successful spell at Luton Town, with 15 appearances and 5 goals. Walter was a Scottish Junior international, and represented Glasgow. He made his debut against Celtic away on 15 August 1900. The match ended 3-3. Robert played on 9 occasions for the Jags, including a friendly against King’s Park. He also played in the 2-0 Glasgow Cup tie against Normal Athletic. His final match for Thistle was a 1-0 defeat away to Third Lanark on 20 October 1900.

Walter went on to play for Hearts on leaving Thistle. He worked as a wood turner, and enlisted at the outbreak of war in 15 Battalion Royal Scots. On 2 June 1915, when the Battalion were training for active service, Walter suffered an attack of Angina Pectoris, and passed away aged 40.



05-Mar-1882 ↔ 18-Nov-1916 (aged 34)
Bill Gray was born on 5 March 1882 in Inverness. The defender joined the Jags in August 1902 as a 20 year old, and he played his first match against Third Lanark, which ended with the Jags winning 4-0, on 19 August 1902 at Meadowside. Bill played 9 competitive games in the 1902-03 season, scoring 3 goals. In 1903-04 season he appeared on 9 competitive occasions, with 1 goal and notched up 13 appearances with 5 goals in 1904-05. Twenty eight appearances with 4 goals in the 1905-06 season, saw Thistle finishing 5th in a 16 team league. Bill had a short spell in Southampton in 1907, but returned to Thistle where he played 27 competitive matches and managed 3 goals for the season. His final season was in 1908-09, with him making 31 competitive appearances, scoring 2 goals. Overall the player played on 131 occasions.

Bill returned to Inverness, where he worked on the railways, and played for Inverness Thistle. In September 1915 he enlisted in the 4th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders. He became a corporal, but was wounded in the Battle of Ancre. Bill died of his wounds on 18 November 1916, and is buried at Abbeville Cemetery.

Bill’s story doesn’t end there. His son William Gray was born on 21 December 1915 in Inverness. William joined Thistle on 23 September 1936, and played for the Jags on 27 occasions. They were one of our early Father and Son pairings.



28-Jul-1888 ↔ 09-May-1915 (aged 26)
Goalkeeper Robert Houston was born on 28 July 1888 in Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire. Robert played for his local side Kilbarchan Athletic. He played in a representative match in Belfast between the Scottish Junior League and the Irish Reserve League. He subsequently moved to Thistle in January 1912, playing his first match 3 days after joining, keeping a clean-sheet in a 3-0 win away to St Mirren in the SFL Division 1 game on 6 January 1912. He went on to play in 14 matches in the 1911-12 season, with all 6 of his clean sheets in that season. He played on 12 occasions in the 1912-13 season, his final match being a 3-2 defeat against Third Lanark at Cathkin Park on 1 April 1913. All of Robert’s games were competitive matches. In 1913 Robert did appear for Abercorn on loan from Thistle. He made 14 appearances for the club. He went on to play for Johnstone FC in 1914.

Robert joined the Royal Artillery, but served with 1 Battalion Seaforth Highlanders in France. He was killed on 9 May 1915 at Pas de Calais aged 26. Robert is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial in France.



09-Nov-1879 ↔ 15-Feb-1917 (aged 37)
Alec Kay, defender, was born on 9 November 1879 in Edinburgh. He started his career with Dalry Primrose, moving to St Bernard’s for seasons 1898-99 and 1899-1900. He played on 31 occasions for St Bernard’s over the 2 seasons. He joined Thistle in June 1900, and made his debut in a SFL League 1 game away to Celtic on 15 August 1900. The match ended in a high scoring 3-3 draw. Alec went on to make 33 competitive appearances for the club for the season, second only to Tom Harvey, who appeared on 34 occasions. Sadly the Jags finished bottom of the 11 team First Division, and were not re-elected. He made a total of 39 club appearances, and moved on to Sheffield United. When war came Alec joined the 11 Battalion of the Rifle Brigade. He was killed in action on 15 February 1917. This was in all probability at Ancre, close to the end of the 1916 Somme offensive. Alec, 37 years old when he died, is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.



09-Nov-1882 ↔ 10-Oct-1918 (aged 35)
Alec Logan was registered as a Thistle player when war broke out, having signed from Kilmarnock on 14 January 1913. There is no record of the forward having played for the Thistle 1st team, as he had joined the Jags in the twilight years of his football career. He was included in the list of football players who joined up at the outbreak of war, in the list completed by the Secretary of the SFL William McAndrew. This record was published in the Scotsman newspaper in April 1915. By the time he joined Thistle, Alec (born in 1882) had played with Hibernian; Arthurlie; Falkirk (where he was a prolific goalscorer); Aston Villa; Bristol City and Kilmarnock in a career starting in 1902, and spanning 11 years. Although not selected for the Scotland International team, he did represent the Scottish Football League XI on 2 occasions. He was in the Scotland League side that drew 0-0 with England in 1907, and was in the Scotland League XI that beat Ireland 3-1 in Belfast in 1910.

He joined the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, and played for their regimental football team. He was subsequently transferred to the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, the regiment where his younger brother Tommy, also a respected professional footballer, served in the war. Alec served with the 2nd Battalion A&SH in 1918 and was wounded at the 2nd Battle of Cambrai, but died of his wounds at 30 Casualty Clearing Station on 10 October 1918, with the Armistice ending the war being signed just over a month later. He was commemorated at Selridge British Cemetery at Montay in Department du Nord-Pas-de-Calais in France and on the family headstone at Neilston Cemetery. The village of Neilston lost 164 of its young men between 1914 and 1918. Alec’s brothers Tommy and James were also professional players. Tommy listed Falkirk and Chelsea among his clubs, and James played for Aston Villa.



05-Mar-1890 ↔ 03-Feb-1919 (aged 28)
John joined Thistle in August 1910, and made his debut later that month in a benefit game against the Glasgow and District Police on 24 August 1910. The Jags won the home match 4-1, and it was a fundraiser for the Scottish Police Federation team. John played on 8 occasions for Thistle, with 3 of those matches being competitive contests. He played in a 1-0 SFL Division 1 away win against Hamilton Academical on 24 April 1911. He was also in the team for the Glasgow Charity Cup quarter final match away to Third Lanark on 1 May 1911, which the Jags lost 2-1. John’s final first team appearance was a SFL League 1 match at home to Motherwell on 20 April 1912, which Thistle lost 1-0. John moved on to play for Abercorn FC.

John’s record shows him as being a lance corporal in the Queen’s Own Royal Glasgow Yeomanry, and his Glasgow address was in Jordanhill. He died in Flanders, Belgium, on the 3rd February 1919 due to pneumonia and was buried locally in the Belgrade Namur Cemetery. John is recorded in the Roll of Honour of the Citizens of Glasgow who died in the Great War. This is a record of Glasgow’s citizens who perished in the conflict, and there are almost 18,000 names on the list. A copy is held it the City Chambers, with a 2nd copy at the Mitchell Library.



26-Jul-1887 ↔ 21-Apr-1917 (aged 29)
Born at 22, West Shaw Street, Kilmarnock, the youngest of eleven children in the John Maxwell (c1839-1908) and Mary Beaton (c1843-1916) family. The youngster got serious with his football with his hometown team, Kilmarnock Shawburn, with whom he played in in the Kilmarnock & District Junior League. Marking his ambitions early, his stature was improved just before he turned 17, when he signed for Petershill in June, 1904. Even greater ambitions were soon apparent within several weeks when he tried for Partick Thistle of the Scottish top-flight. James was known as a right winger whose speed and flair stood him apart, and that is where he played for Thistle in his one-off game on 15th August 1904; 2,500 were at Meadowside for the season opener versus Port Glasgow Athletic, lost by 2 goals to 1. James spent more than 10 years as a footballer, his most significant spells coming with Kilmarnock and The Wednesday.

In his personal life, James was married with two children. His son of the same name was nicknamed 'Bud', and he also became a footballer of some renown in the 1930s, clocking up more than 250 League appearances with Kilmarnock and Preston North End. At the outbreak of The Great War, 'Bud' was just a year old when his Dad enlisted, at Kilmarnock, in the Seaforth Highlanders, 1st Battalion. Some time during his service he was promoted to Lance Corporal. The 1st. Battalion Seaforth's were regular troops and had been attached to the Indian Army 7th (Meerut) Division. At the outbreak of the war they were in India and despatched thereafter to France disembarking in Marseilles on 12th October, 1914.

In 1917, James was involved in the British campaign against the Turks. It was hard going and they were met with fierce and determined opposition. Like Gallipoli, conditions in Mesopotamia (Iraq) defy description. Extremes of temperature (120 degrees F was common); arid desert and regular flooding; flies, mosquitoes and other vermin; all led to appalling levels of sickness and death through disease. Under these incredible conditions, units fell short of officers and men, and all too often the reinforcements were half-trained and ill-equipped. Medical arrangements were quite shocking, with wounded men spending up to two weeks on boats before reaching any kind of hospital. These factors all contributed to high casualty rates.

To consolidate their position in newly taken Baghdad and to drive home the initiative by seizing control of the Samarrah railway, some 130km north of Baghdad, Commander-in-Chief, Sir Frederick Stanley Maude, on 13th March, 1917, launched the Samarrah Offensive with 45,000 allied troops at his disposal facing 10,000 Turks with 15,000 reserves newly retreating from setbacks against Russian forces. Fallujah, an important objective of the offensive, was taken on 19th March. James was killed on Saturday, 21st April, 1917 at The Battle of Istabulat, the result of wounds suffered. He was one of the estimated 18,000 British casualties of the Samarrah Offensive, although a further 40,000 were lost to sickness. His body was not recovered. He left a widow and, as we know, two young children.

Continuing British attacks, and with more reserves on the way, persuaded the Turks to cede Samarrah on 23rd April, leaving the town, and its railway, in British hands. James is commemorated on the Basra Memorial. His elder brother, Thomas (Royal Scots Fusiliers), was killed in Pas-de-Calais, France, a year later. James is remembered on three War Memorials; Kilmarnock (where he was born and brought up), Dundonald (where his wife and family lived with her relatives during the war), and on Panel 38 of the Basra War Memorial, Al-Zubair, Iraq. This impressive memorial was erected in remembrance of over 40,000 British Empire identified casualties, who died in operations in Mesopotamia from Autumn, 1914, to the end of August, 1921, and whose graves are not known.



18-Oct-1892 ↔ 08-Aug-1918 (aged 25)
George was born in Clydebank on 18 October 1892. He attended Allan Glen’s School. He became an apprentice marine engineer. Inside forward George became a Queen’s Park player, and made 49 competitive appearances for the club during the seasons 1910-11 and 1911-12. The 1912-13 season found George at Rangers, and he moved on to Ayr United and Third Lanark before joining Thistle in May 1914. His senior debut came on 22 August 1914 when, as a 21-year-old, he appeared in a 4-1 home win against Dundee in the SFL First Division. All in all George appeared on 49 occasions during the 1914-15; 1915-16 and 1916-17 seasons.

He scored 7 goals, but his most important was in the SFL First Division match at home to Kilmarnock on 12 February 1916. George scored 3 first half goals, and when he scored his third for a first half hat trick, he became the scorer of Thistle’s 1,000th SFL goal – a milestone for the club. He went on to score a fourth goal in the second half.

In 1915 the SFL Secretary W. McAndrew prepared a list of players from clubs who joined up, and those who worked in war industry. From 33 First and Second Division clubs 202 were listed on active service, and 114 on government work. Thistle had 2 on active service and 4 on government work. One of the “other Government work” players was George Ramsay. In view of his training, it is likely that George worked in shipbuilding.

George left Thistle and joined the armed forces. He was seconded from the Duke of Cornwall Regiment to the Royal Air Force in June 1918. [The RAF had been formed from the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service in April 1918.] Lieutenant George Ramsay of 49 Squadron was a pilot engaged in low level bombing operations on the Somme, when his plane was shot down by enemy aircraft near Albert on 8 August 1918, and George was killed. This was on the first day of the Battle of Amiens.

According to an article in the Scotsman of 8 August 2018, a service had been held in Amiens Cathedral with The First Minister of Scotland, The British Prime Minister and Prince William in attendance to celebrate the anniversary of the Battle of Amiens. The Battle of Amiens was seen as the turning point of the war against Germany The article goes on to say “Among those killed on the first day was fighter pilot George Ramsay, 25, from Queen’s Park Football Club (sic) in Glasgow on a low level bombing mission with the RAF. Ramsay gave up a promising football career to join his team mates at the Western Front.

George is commemorated at the Arras Flying Services Memorial in France.



1894 ↔ 28-Sep-1915 (aged 20/21)
This full-back from Neilston signed for Thistle in November 1913, but his appearances were limited to the reserves in his one season of action. He had previously played for Neilston Victoria, his home town club. Thistle held his registration papers until 1915-16, but when war came he joined 1st Battalion of the Cameron Highlanders, as did others from Neilston. Thomas lost his life in the autumn of 1915, in an attack on Hill 70 in the battle of Loos. All in all, 16 Neilston men died in the initial attack on Loos which started on 25th September 1915, and went on till 16 October 1915. The British suffered around 21,000 dead during the battle, and around one third of those men were from Scottish regiments – a sad toll. Thomas was 20 or 21 when he was killed, and he was buried at Ninth Avenue Cemetry, Haisnes in France.

In a poem to the Neilston men who died at the start of the battle, otherwise known as “The Big Push”, the Reverend F.D. Langlands of Eastwood Parish Church (attached to the 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders) eulogized the men who died that night. Of Thomas he said:-

O’ the bold men of Neilston so eager and strong
They ran to the encounter and joined in the throng
Fair Shemwell of Thistle, a bright darting lad
He took to the front as often he had
Once forceful with Victoria, a kind caring lad
Gliding past people, so happy and glad…

This poem is quite lengthy and can be seen on the Neilston Memorial website. Neilston lost 164 men in the war, from a population of 3,000.


Bomber Command Memorial
● Bomber Command Memorial, Green Park, London.

The Second World War was a predictable event that many saw coming years before. The swingeing terms of the Versailles Treaty imposed reparations on Germany that were resented and seen as unfair. When Adolf Hitler started his policy of Lebensraum, annexing territories, for France and Britain it was a step too far. Hitler’s forces invaded Poland on 1 September 1939, and Britain and France declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939, two days later.

As a result, first class football was suspended in Scotland between 1939 and 1946. Because players left to help the war effort, many clubs were depleted, and guest players played for clubs. Although national competitions were suspended, regional leagues and competitions were organised. With smaller crowds, again, the maximum wage was drastically reduced. The SFA initially wanted to have clubs play friendlies, but the SFL insisted on a league based structure, causing ill feeling between the organisations. The SFA then started a Cup for all the Regional League teams (the Scottish War Emergency Cup) – without consulting the Scottish League! Future Thistle manager Willie Thornton, a Rangers player at the time, did serve in the Territorial unit the Scottish Horse, which was part of the Royal Artillery. In World War Two the regiment served in Sicily and Italy, and North West Europe. Willie was awarded a Military Medal. Again, he was just one of many Thistle player / manager connections who served and survived during the wars.



07-Apr-1913 ↔ 15-Sep-1943 (aged 30)
Johnny was born in Larne, County Antrim on 7 April 1913. The Larne FC defender signed for Thistle on 25 February 1936.

He worked in a weaving factory while playing junior football for Carrickfergus and Larne Harriers, winning the Larne Junior League with the latter in 1933. That year he joined Larne FC, playing most of the 1933/34 season in the Olympic (Larne reserves) team, scoring 3 hat-tricks. He became a first team regular in 1934/35, losing after 2 Replays in the 1935 Irish Cup Final against Glentoran.

He moved to Partick Thistle in February 1936, having scored 18 goals in 108 appearances for both first team and the Olympic team. Having spent 3 years with the Jags, he returned to Northern Ireland to play for Ballymena United in July 1939. He finally won an Irish Cup Winners medal in 1940 when United defeated Glenavon 2-0. The following season he returned to Larne FC and was a first team regular between October 1940 and March 1941 when he enlisted as a Volunteer Reserve in 107 Squadron Royal Air Force.

On 2 July 1941 he married Rosetta Brown and the couple lived in Castle Street, Glenarm, County Antrim.

He was serving (with the rank of Sergeant) as a member of a bomber crew when he died on active service due to war operations, at Cambridge Hospital, Aldershot on 15 September 1943. He was buried in Glenarm New Cemetery, County Antrim.

An act of remembrance took place at his graveside on 15 September 2018 (covered by the local newspaper, The Larne Times), marking the 75th Anniversary of his death.



02-Nov-1910 ↔ 25-Sep-1944
Andrew's grandson, Craig, got in touch early in 2024 stating that it was his honour to provide a photo of Andrew (click here to see the full version), and to confirm his date of birth. We Archivists had goosebumps in receiving it; the honour is for all of Jagskind.

A plumber to trade, Andrew started out with his local team, Newburgh West End, and, in 1936, impressed enough to be capped for Scotland's amateur team. He gave up the plumbing for the Army, but left in early March, 1938, his eyes fixed on the football as a possible career path. After a short trial period at Firhill, he signed for Donald Turner's Thistle later that same month. He registration spanned two seasons in all, but Andrew never made the breakthrough to the first team, playing his last games for the reserves at the end of season 1938-39. He could play in a number of positions, but was mainly regarded as an inside right.

We speculate that Andrew's next move was to answer the call of duty, for his fledgling footballing career seems to have come to an end at that point. Sadly, it was reported that Sergeant-Major Andrew Walker of the mortar platoon of 156 Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, was killed in action in the Netherlands on 25 September 1944. Andrew is commemorated on the Grosebeek Memorial to the Missing. He was survived by his Glasgow-based wife and daughter.



28-May-1914 ↔ 12-Jun-1944 (aged 30)
Edwin was born in Pittenweem on 28 May 1914. He joined Thistle from Crossgates Primrose in April 1936. The forward made his first team debut in a 2-2 draw away to Dundee on 12 April 1937 in an SFL First Division match. Edwin played for the Jags on 14 occasions, scoring 6 goals, all in competitive matches. He moved on to Huddersfield Town, where he played for them on 3 occasions in the 1937-38 season. He also played for Bradford Park Avenue and East Fife.

Prior to joining the RAF, Edwin worked in the National Steel Foundry in Leven. When war came Edwin joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve, and joined 201 Squadron in RAF Coastal Command.

Edwin was a gunner on the Short Sunderland aircraft ML760 code NS-S, according to, with the archive report setting out the aircraft’s final flight. The Sunderland left RAF Pembroke Dock on 12 June 1944 on an anti-submarine patrol in the Bay of Biscay. The aircraft is thought to have engaged a U boat (U-333) and was shot down by anti aircraft fire from the U boat. None of the 12 crew members survived.

Previously, on 7 June 1944, the Sunderland attacked and sank the U-995 off Northern Spain.

Edwin was survived by his wife and two children, the youngest born eight months after he was killed. Edwin is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial.

World War 1 and World War 2 combined military British deaths came to more than 1,000,000, with more than 800,000 of these in World War 1. Civilians also died of course, like Jags player Bill McCrindle, who died from injuries suffered when his home was bombed during the Clydebank blitz. Bill died in hospital in Knightswood, Glasgow on 14 March 1941. Football continued in the 1945-46 season with the wartime regional leagues. Nobody expected the sudden Japanese surrender. In 1946-47, the SFL reconvened and 3 Divisions were formed, with Thistle in Division A. Post-war rationing continuing for a further decade before life returned to "normal". This was thanks to the sacrifice made by men like those listed above.

Publishing date An original Thistle Archive publication, 10-Nov-2021.
Latest edit date Latest edit version 03-Feb-2024.

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