Sgt Edward ‘Ginger’ Mitchell
164 Battery, Royal Field Artillery
Edward ‘Ginger’ Mitchell was born in 1892 in Middlesbrough, the elder son and second of four children to Edward and Jane Mitchell, but little is known of him until he joined the army as soon as he was old enough and by 1911 he was based at Bulford Barracks, Wiltshire with the Royal Field Artillery.
Reading’s secretary manager, Harry Matthews, had built up an unofficial network of scouts across the army barracks in the South of England who tipped him off to promising players. One such player was Mitchell, who had impressed as a right-footed inside or centre forward while playing for his battalion. As a result he signed for Reading in the summer of 1912 when it was likely that the club bought him out of the army, although he remained a reservist.
Ted quickly acquired the nickname ‘Ginger’ and continued to impress during pre-season training to such an extent that he was selected to play in the opening Southern League game of the season, at Brentford on 7th September. Unfortunately, Reading lost that game 1-0 and, with the club boasting two of the best goalscorers in the league, in the shape of Joe Bailey and Allen Foster, Ted’s big chance was gone.
Most of Ted’s season was spent playing in a number of positions for the reserves in the South Eastern League although he finished the season with eight Southern League appearances to his credit and one goal, scored in the penultimate game of the season, a 1-1 home draw against West Ham United on 23rd April 1913. Not selected for the club’s end of season tour of Italy, Ted was released by Reading and in July 1913 he signed for Southern League Second Division club Swansea Town. He helped Swansea become the first Welsh club to reach the First Round of the FA Cup (today’s Third Round) after an eight-match cup run. Ted was so successful in that first season that during the summer of 1914 Millwall offered £250 for his transfer, but the war intervened.
On 4th August 1914 Britain declared war on Germany and Ted, who was spending the summer in his native North East, immediately enlisted at the Scarborough recruiting office before returning to Swansea, from where he left to join his regiment. A large number of Swansea supporters and teammates turned up at the station to give Ted a rousing send off.
As a former professional soldier he was posted to his old unit as a gunner – 117th Battery of the Royal Field Artillery. Within 12 days of the start of the war, Ted was on his way to France to fight in the front line at Mons. In the autumn Ted returned to South Wales on special leave and married Dolly Jones, the daughter of a local publican. After a brief of honeymoon, he returned to France and rejoined his battery, now based at Loos. He stayed in touch with Reading and at Christmas 1915, Ted sent a postcard to the Club stating that he was quite well.
Tragically, on 6th January 1916, Ted – by now a Sergeant – was severely injured during fighting and was taken to No.33 Casualty Clearing Station in Bethune, where he died of his wounds that same day. He is buried in Bethune Town Cemetery Extension.
Ted Mitchell was awarded the 1914 Star with clasp to show that he had seen front line action in the early months of the War, the British War medal and the Allied Victory Medal. In 1919 his wife, Dolly, claimed his war gratuity of £11.
Died of wounds at No.33 Casualty Clearing Station, Bethune, 6th January 1916.
Buried at Bethune Town Cemetery, France.