Back in 2010, Reading Football Club paid special tribute to some of the men who played for our club and then went on to fight in the First World War.
The story of these men had never previously been told and a comprehensive list of these gentlemen’s names had not previously been compiled, but thanks to a lot of research from military historian Jon Cooksey and BBC Radio Berkshire’s Graham McKechnie, the tales of some of these former Reading players' incredible bravery were shared with our supporters via BBC Radio Berkshire's 'Mud, Blood & Biscuitmen' documentary a club-run documentary and matchday programme feature as well as an eight-minute feature filmed for the BBC Inside Out programme.
Eight years on and those eight minutes were broadcast once more on BBC 1 last night - following the visit to northern France made by then Royals boss Brian McDermott and three former Royals heroes in Ady Williams, Trevor Senior and Mick Gooding.
If you missed it last night, it is well worth a watch for any football fan. And you can revisit the programme via the BBC iPlayer here (the feature runs from the start of the Inside Out show).
The experience was one which the four Royals admitted they would never forget as they paid their respects to true heroes.
“Everything about it was very, very touching," Ady said in the matchday programme after the trip to the grave of Ben Butler. "In many ways he was similar to myself which brings it home – he had real Reading connections, he’s got dark hair, dark eyes, quite a thick-set jaw. It’s strange to talk about and it gets you. It clearly wasn’t a happy ending and he had ten days of suffering. I can’t even imagine the ten days he had.
“On the wreath I just wrote ‘From one average defender to a very brave one. Much respect, Ady Williams’ - and it’s an honour to lay the wreath at his resting place. That will live with me for the rest of my life.”
McDermott said, standing in Delville Wood to follow in Ted Hanney's footsteps, “It’s very difficult to listen to. This may be a lovely wood to look at but it’s certainly very eerie and there’s a sense of something here. It feels much colder than it should. There are thousands of bodies around us and we’ve heard such stories today - the fighting was indiscriminate and what went on in that battle, you can’t really comprehend it all.”
Our all-time leading goalscorer, Trevor Senior, honoured swashbuckling forward Allen Foster and said, “None of it really bears thinking about. When you talk about going over the top, you’re going out in the open to be shot and killed. It’s literally pot luck but these guys like Allen Foster, they didn’t think about it, they went.
"You feel so much for the families, great grandchildren who are perhaps alive still today. So I am privileged to come across, lay this wreath and it is very moving.”
Mick Gooding, meanwhile, spoke about Joe Bailey - “I didn’t know how his story was going to end, so personally I’m so pleased I haven’t got to put a wreath here. My dad was in World War II and he never wanted to talk about it. This gives me some idea of what he went through. Just unimaginable. I thought I had it rough in my life when I worked in the shipyards for four years. People like that….I’m speechless. I’d just love to have met him.”
STAR and a number of Royals fans have since embarked on a number of excursions back to the Western Front and our Supporters' Trust have undertaken further research to identify more Reading Football Club men who fought and fell for our country in WWI. It is an important story to tell to every generation of Royals fan.
There will be a host of Remembrance activities taking place at the Madejski this weekend ahead of our fixture against Ipswich Town. But to learn more about some of our heroes from more than 100 years ago, revisit the BBC's feature via the BBC iPlayer. Because we will remember them.
Remembrance Activities – Reading vs Ipswich Town, Saturday 10th November 2018
- 12.30pm Volunteers from The Royal British Legion selling poppies and collecting donations around the ground
- 1.30pm Supporters invited to gather at the Remembrance Wall next to Gate 1; Reading Scottish Pipe Band performing in advance of the service
- 1.45pm The Act of Remembrance will begin, led by Rev. Barry Kirk
- 1.50pm Following 'The Last Post', wreaths will be laid
- 2pm Individual tributes will be laid for the 15 former Reading players killed in the First World War
- 2.40pm A 'Royals Remembered' video will be shown on the big screen inside Madejski Stadium
- 2.47pm The Reading Scottish Pipe Band march onto the pitch, playing in front of the East Stand
- 2.55pm Players emerge from the tunnel with poppies on their shirts (to be auctioned for Royal British Legion)
- 2.56pm Coin toss with bespoke commemorative coin
- 2.57pm Turnstiles around Madejski Stadium temporarily halted for Remembrance activity
- 2.58pm Supporters will be asked to fall silent as bugler Mark Dallas perform the Last Post
- 2.59pm Madejski Stadium observes a minute's silence
- 3pm Kick-off; turnstiles will re-open upon the conclusion of the minute's silence