Hackney Gazette archives shed light on war’s soccer stars

PUBLISHED: 12:23 30 January 2016 | UPDATED: 12:23 30 January 2016

Clapton Orient

Clapton Orient


The stories of a group of footballers who served in the First World War are being brought to life by researchers who are scouring old editions of the Hackney Gazette.

Dick Upex Dick Upex

The footballers, who played for Clapton Orient before departing for the trenches of northern France in 1915, are being researched as part of They Took the Lead, which aims to tell the story of the 41 former players and staff who served in the Great War to a wider audience.

Since the launch of the project, led by Leyton Orient Trust and research charity Eastside Community Heritage last April – which coincided with the 100th anniversary of the players leaving to join the war effort – a group of 30 local volunteers between the ages of 17 and 75 have been busy uncovering their backgrounds using records held at the Hackney Archive in Dalston’s CLR James Library and by delving into copies of the Gazette from the time.

Lifelong Orient supporter Alan Thomas, from Hackney, has been researching three of the players.One, Dick Upex, returned from the trenches several times to play for the club and became a successful businessman after also playing for Tottenham Hotspur and Charlton Athletic.

Mr Thomas, 75, said: “As genealogy and supporting Leyton Orient are two of my favourite pastimes I jumped at the chance to join the project when it advertised for volunteer researchers.

“The First World War is now at least three generations ago so I wanted to make a small contribution to ensuring current generations remain aware of it.

“Using football is a good way to do it. Finding Dick’s grandchildren and speaking to them to get to know more about him has been a real highlight so far.”

The research will be turned into a touring exhibition and workshops will be run in Hackney schools later this year, alongside a website featuring stories about the players and the club, who were based in Hackney between 1881 and 1937.

The group of younger volunteers, all college students, are also making a short film about the project.

Paul Beard, projects manager at Eastside Community Heritage, added: “Going through old editions of the Hackney Gazette has given us a fascinating insight into the lives of footballers and the people living in Hackney during the Great War. “Hackney has such a rich sporting history and Clapton Orient, who were based in the borough at the time, are a key part of that history.”

The group wants to hear from anyone who has a story to share about the club’s involvement in the First World War or football in Hackney during that time. Email


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Hackney Gazette visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Hackney Gazette staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Hackney Gazette account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest Hackney Stories

Yesterday, 23:06

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is hoping Danny Welbeck will sign a new deal at the club after a ‘torrid time’ with injuries has seen him lose confidence.

Yesterday, 21:56

In the week of the Carabao Cup final read our series detailing previous Arsenal League Cup finals by talking to the people who were there. We spoke to Gunners legend Bob Wilson who kindly shared his memories of one of the biggest giantkilling acts in the history of English football as third division Swindon Town upset the odds by beating the North Londoners 3-1 in the 1969 Wembley showpiece.

Yesterday, 16:30

Archant’s Neil Metcalfe cast an eye over Scott Parker’s Spurs youngsters at Stevenage FC’s Lamex Stadium earlier today

UEFA Youth League last-16: Tottenham Hotspur 1 AS Monaco 1 (Tottenham Hotspur won 3-1 on penalties)

Yesterday, 15:00

Ex-West Ham United full-back discusses the situation at Victoria Road and backs the younger players at the club to take their opportunity

Yesterday, 19:38

Police officers are appealing to trace a missing 74-year-old man from Hackney who suffers from dementia.

Yesterday, 19:26

The legendary vegan Rastafarian chef and MC, Jah Spirit has died aged 71.

Yesterday, 14:30

Free football kit and equipment is being made available to primary schools across England and Wales, as the Premier League Primary Stars Kit and Equipment Scheme opens for applications on Monday, February 19.


To celebrate LGBT history month, Hackney resident Amanda talks about her journey to becoming a foster carer, with the council’s support and training.

Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most read news

Show Job Lists