Reading Football Club have come together with The Woodland Trust and the Football Remembers campaign to commemorate the former Reading footballers who fought and fell in the First World War.
Yesterday, on the eve of Armistice Day - 100 years on from the end of hostilities - our Academy’s Under-12s helped to commemorate the centenary of the First World War and remember 15 men who fought on our behalf and paid the ultimate sacrifice.
In partnership with the Woodland Trust and National Football Museum’s ‘For Club and Country project’, the young budding footballers helped to plant 15 trees at our new Bearwood training ground complex to create a living legacy to those men and all who fought in the First World War.
Players became so much more than just heroes on the football pitch, with so many footballers of the time bravely joining up and heading off to war. As they left the hallowed turf of professional football pitches for the trenches of the front line, football and families were changed forever.
Almost every team in the league today sent players to the front between 1914 and 1918 and many never returned. The Woodland Trust project ‘For Club and Country’ also remembers the women, who single-handedly kept the national game alive during the conflict, playing in front of hundreds of thousands of supporters.
England and West Ham legend, Sir Trevor Brooking, CBE said, “The Woodland Trust’s For Club and Country project is the perfect way to commemorate football’s important role in the First World War. By planting trees for players who bravely fought for their country we are creating something beautiful and long lasting for future generations.”
That future generation was at the forefront of the planting ceremony on Saturday morning in the form of our Under-12s side, each wearing Reading shirts which bore the name of one of our 15 fallen heroes.
Reading Football Club’s Former Players’ Association were also lending a hand at Bearwood - former Royals Kit Manager Ron Grant and Board Member with the Association represented every player who has since sported the Reading colours.
The direct effects of the First World War are still felt on today’s landscape, with the UK having the least woodland cover in Europe. During and after the First World War, trees were planted in remembrance, marking the loss of life and the sacrifices made.
The 15 trees at Bearwood, donated by the Woodland Trust and planted this weekend, will grow strong and tall at Bearwood in honour of Jack Huggins, Joe Dickenson, Herbert Stevens, Len Hawes, Edward 'Ginger' Mitchell, Charles West, Ben Butler, Alfred Hall, Norman Wood, Allen Foster, James Comrie, Alexander McCurdie, Fred Wheatcroft, Walter Tull and Heber Slatter. We also paid tribute to all those who fought and fell in World War II with former Reading player Frank Ibbotson's name also added to a shirt for the photo call.
‘For Club and Country’ aims to plant 100 additional trees for each of the clubs that were professional when war broke out in 1914, at a newly created national woodland memorial at the Woodland Trust’s flagship Centenary Wood at Langley Vale in Epsom.
Supporters of clubs across the Premier League and English Football League are being encouraged to join their club heroes by planting trees to create a lasting living legacy across football.
Supporters can find out more about their club’s history and football’s involvement in the war by visiting www.forclubandcountry.org.uk/Reading
All clubs down to grassroots and community group level can be part of the First World War Centenary Woods project and plant trees to remember their members, players, friends and family involved in the conflict. Find out more about the Free Tree Pack offer at www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/freetrees.
Finally, good luck to our Under-12s who will compete in a Christmas Truce tournament, wearing the shirts of those 15 fallen heroes, at Aldershot Town this morning.