Today marks the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day and the country comes together, albeit in lockdown, in celebration.
We would like to take this opportunity to remember some of the tales of World War II which involved those connected to our club all those years ago.
And, most poignantly, we would like to begin by honouring the only known Reading player on the books at the time to die in conflict during World War II…on D-Day in fact.
Frank Ibbotson, according to Royals historian Alan Sedunary’s ‘Royals Remembered’ book, is described as ‘probably the least known player in Reading’s history.’ However, since that was published, STAR and the club have collectively researched many of our fallen heroes so we hope Frank is now a little better known than some of his contemporaries.
Frank was born in Barnsley in September 1919, the son of George and Margaret, and was a promising schoolboy footballer as well as, apparently, being a keen long distance runner.
An outside left, Frank, standing 5’9” and weighing 11st, joined Leeds United in the summer of 1937, around the same time as future Reading post-War player, Les Goldberg (Gaunt).
Unlike Les, Frank failed to make it to the first team at Elland Road before moving on to Portsmouth the following summer. Pompey were to go on and win the FA Cup that season and the success of the first team meant that Frank never got any further than their reserves.
Determined to play League football, Frank signed for Reading on 10th May 1939 – almost 81 years to the day - but two months later he was called up and posted to Birkenhead with the Royal Army Service Corps in July 1939.
He never got to attend a training session at Elm Park, as he was signed at the club offices situated in Arcade Cambers, off Friar Street, and it is thought that he may never even have visited the ground.
He first went to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force in September 1939 and was finally evacuated on 23rd June 1940 from Saint Jean de Luz (near the French/Spanish border), which would have made him one of the last troops to be evacuated - as that was the day after the Franco German Armistice.
While back in England after that escape, Frank played a few games for Bradford City as a guest, at last enjoying a spell of first team football.
By 1944 Frank was a lance-corporal and went back to France on 11th July 1944, serving with 53 Tipper Company RASC but, sadly, just four days later he died of injuries sustained during the follow-up to the D Day invasion.
He was aged 24 and is buried in the Delivrande War Cemetery, near Caen. Frank left a widow, Dylis, whom he had married in Liverpool in June 1943.
Frank signed for Reading, but never featured in the club’s colours. And yet our Supporters’ Trust visited his grave during one of a number of trips over the last decade which has seen our fans trace the footsteps of some of our war heroes and learn more about the heroic acts they encountered off the pitch.
And the club also paid tribute to all those who fought and fell in World War II with Frank Ibbotson's name added to the back of one of our Under-12s' shirts as they planted trees at Bearwood to mark the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day in 2018.