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Battle of the Somme: Leyton Orient visit the Somme

23 July 2016

This weekend, more than 200 Leyton Orient supporters and friends of the club will visit the battlefields of northern France.

They will be paying their respects, not only to the countless thousands who lost their lives in the Great War, but in particular the three Clapton Orient players who were killed during the Battle of The Somme in 1916 - William Jonas, George Scott and Richard McFadden.

Family descendants of George Scott and Richard McFadden will be travelling over with the O's contingent on what promises to be very special journey of remembrance to commemorate the Somme Centenary.

The iconic story of professional footballers being encouraged to join up to do their bit for King and Country is now widely known, but it was Clapton Orient's example by joining up en masse which went some way to encourage players of other teams to enlist.

At a special meeting held at Fulham Town Hall in December 1914 to raise the 17th Bn Middlesex Battalion - which was to be more commonly known as the Footballers' Battalion - 10 Clapton Orient footballers put pen-to-paper when the call to join-up was made, with O's captain Fred 'Spider' Parker setting an example by being the first footballer in the hall to step up onto the stage.

Leyton Orient supporters marked the centenary of this historic meeting by arranging a memorial service at Fulham Town Hall in December 2014, during which a wreath was laid and the playing of 'Last Post' and 'Reveille' by the Leyton Orient Buglers. Representatives from the EFL and the Football Association were present, as were a number of supporters from other clubs who also joined up at the meeting 100 years ago to the day.

In due course, 41 players, staff and supporters from Clapton Orient were to sign on the dotted line with the club's patriotic example being recognised after the war when the Prince of Wales became the first member of royalty to attend a football league match, when he came to O's Millfields Road stadium in April 1921 to see Orient beat Notts County.

Leyton Orient supporters have been commemorating their club's service and sacrifice for many years, with the first O's Somme trip having taken place in 2006. This year's will be the fifth with more than 1,000 Orient fans having now made the pilgrimage over the channel.

The first visit to France took place following the success of Supporters Club deputy-chairman Stephen Jenkins' book They Took the Lead, which tells the amazing and proud story of Clapton Orient's major contribution to the Footballers' Battalion. Steve's book has now been made into a play titled The Greater Game, which is being staged at the Southwark Playhouse on a four-week run from 15th September until 15th October - tickets are on sale now at www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk.

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