a life well lived

Mike Roberts has done a lot of work tracing some way back in his family tree, where he found a professional footballer
who was professional footballer who was a gentleman and an officer, living a life of change and variety.
Thanks very much to Mike for allowing us to reproduce his findings.


George Huntly Badenoch, the oldest son in the family, became a professional footballer !

He was born on 8th April 1882 in Castle Douglas, and first turned out for his local club Douglas Wanderers, and then went on to play for Heart of Midlothian. This was a successful period for Hearts, they won two of only four Scottish League titles they have ever won in 1896 and 1897, and also beat Hibernian in the 1896 and Celtic in the 1901 Scottish Cup Finals. However, George Badenoch, who was a winger, was not in either of the cup final teams, and doesn’t appear in any club histories I have seen, and was therefore probably only a peripheral player, but he was still only a teenager at the time. These were in the days before substitutes, so getting into the first team was always difficult. Hearts, like many other clubs, had long suffered from players moving south to play professionally in England, and even though Scotland finally endorsed professionalism in 1893, very few people could make a full-time career out of the game, and there was still more money to be made in the south.

That’s where George Badenoch went, to Glossop in Derbyshire, the smallest town in England to have had a Football League club. Funded by a man who had made his fortune out of the cotton mills, Sir Samuel Hill-Wood, the club won promotion to the first division for the only time in its history in 1898–99, but only stayed there for one year, before being relegated back to the Second Division. 

George Badenoch joined them in 1901 and made his debut in a home game on 19th October 1901 against Newton Heath, the club that one year later would rebrand itself as Manchester United. That season Glossop finished eighth in the 18-team second division. George Badenoch played there for one more season, 1902-1903, when Glossop finished eleventh. In his two seasons, and still only a very young player, George Badenoch played roughly half the games (28 appearances) and scored four goals.

At the end of the 1902-1903 season, now aged 20, he moved to Watford in the Southern League, which is perhaps where he had his most glittering spell. Nowadays, that would be a big drop in standard, but at the time the Southern League was a project to create a strong professional football league in the south to compete with the Football League, which was formed almost entirely by northern clubs. There were basically two different league systems in England, and the Southern League was almost as competitive as the Football League (Southern League side Tottenham Hotspur, for example, won the FA Cup in 1901). The two rival leagues eventually merged into one national competition in 1920.

When George Badenoch joined them in August 1903, Watford had just been relegated to the Southern League Second Division, but the right half/right-wing was in the side that gained promotion straight back into the First Division without losing a game. Watford stayed in the First Division for the next eleven seasons, and George Badenoch played for the first two of those, when they finished 13th and 14th respectively. Watford went out of the FA Cup to Luton Town, Lincoln City and Woolwich Arsenal (now just Arsenal) in each of George Badenoch’s years at the club, in which he played 89 games and scored 10 goals, so he was obviously a first team regular. At the time, Watford played at a ground in Cassio Road and didn’t move to their present day ground at Vicarage Road until 1922.

The book “Watford On This Day” features at least one reference to George Badenoch on April 4th, 1906, reporting that “Watford’s dominance of a United League game with Southern United was such that goalkeeper Billy Biggar’s only touches of the ball were in placing it for a colleague to take a goal kick. George Badenoch and Wally Eames scored two apiece in an 8-0 victory."

Maybe his uncle, also called George Badenoch, our great, great, great grandfather, who was living in close by in London, went along to watch his nephew play in some of those games.

In May 1906, after three seasons at Watford, George Badenoch moved to another Southern League First Division side and recent champion, Tottenham Hotspur. That was in London of course, a club that had won the FA Cup five years earlier, and that had already been playing at the famous White Hart Lane since 1899.

George Badenoch was only there for one season, and made his debut on 5th September 1906, against his former club Watford. The game ended 1-1, and was watched by 6,000 spectators. But that would be his only game for the first team, because he went down with appendicitis, and only made six appearances for the reserve team in the South Eastern League.

Spurs finished sixth in the Southern League the year, and two years later, in the 1908–09 season, Tottenham would be accepted into the Football League itself – the bigger clubs in the south were starting to turn their backs on the Southern League and were showing an interest in joining the Football League, which was generally stronger.

But George Badenoch was gone. In May 1907, he left for Northampton Town.  Northampton had just finished bottom of the Southern League for two seasons in a row, so it was hardly a glittering move, but somebody at Tottenham had obviously spotted his potential and that man was one of the greatest masterminds of English football history: Herbert Chapman. Chapman had had three spells as a Northampton player in what was a generally unremarkable football career, hopping between clubs and ending his playing days with two seasons (19 appearances and 16 goals) for Tottenham Hotspur. But the second of those two seasons was particularly average, and declaring he had had “a good innings”, he decided to retire from football and concentrate on his engineering career. 

However, Northampton Town felt Chapman had something more to offer the game, and offered him a job as manager, which he accepted.  In his five seasons at Northampton, Chapman completely turned the club around, and then went to Leeds City, where he was involved in a financial scandal which saw the club fold and Chapman banned from the game. But he successfully appealed and went on to guide Huddersfield Town to two League titles and one FA Cup in four years. He would go to Arsenal in 1925, a club that had never won a trophy ever, and who would win the FA Cup and two Leagues under Chapman.   He died of pneumonia in 1834, but is generally accredited with being the man who made Arsenal into the big club that it is today, and which dominated English football in the 1830s. As well as revolutionising football tactics, Chapman was also one of the brains behind floodlighting, European club competitions and numbered shirts, and is remembered as one of the most influential figures of early 20th century football.

On arrival at Northampton, Chapman felt that “no attempt was made to organise victory. The most that I remember was the occasional chat between, say two men playing on the same wing.” Football at the time was almost all about out-and-out attack, with at least five forwards, and Chapman’s idea was to draw play backwards, and also draw out the opposition’s defence to create more space. This systematic approach, which involved playing the ball between defenders and using counter attack tactics would eventually transform football into the modern game. And it all started at Northampton Town.

He immediately signed a series of new players, and spent what was is reputed to be the first ever transfer fee in football, £200 to buy Welsh international Edwin Lloyd-Davies. Another of the players he brought in was somebody he had spotted at Tottenham – George Badenoch. Northampton Town finished eighth in their first season under Herbert Chapman. After losing 4-1 at home to Northampton, Swindon Town's England international Harold Fleming, remarked to Chapman: "You have something more than a team: you have a machine.”

To follow the fortunes of the Cobblers, many locals no doubt listened out for the local town crier, Charles Walker, who along with his wife Sarah had at least twelve kids, one of which was Ellen Henrietta Walker, who George Badenoch married in late 1908. George was 26 by this time, and his wife 23.

It was going to a great and a tragic season for him though, because although Northampton Town crowned a terrific season by winning the Southern League title by six points, just two years after finishing bottom of it, George Badenoch’s season came to a premature end due to a knee injury, and he ultimately retired from professional football because of it. He left the club after playing 47 games in two years, scoring one goal, and taking a Southern League championship medal away with him.

At the end of the season, he and his wife decided to leave England for good.  They left for Canada in January 1910 and joined the rest of the Badenoch family in Indian Head. “Wisden Cricketers' Almanack” for 1917 it says that he “Played for the Indian Head C.C., of Saskatchewan”, so it seems that in his time in England, the Scotsman also developed a fondness for cricket.

He also had his first two children, Alexander Huntly Badenoch and Dorothy Maude Badenoch. The Indian Head book confirms all of this, and also that shortly before World War I, George and the family returned to Northampton to visit Ellen’s family. On September 3, 1913, George, an ‘agent’ and his family are recorded as arriving in Liverpool on board a ship from Montreal, and they are heading for Northampton (at ‘Newhaven’ in Kingsley’s Park Terrace). Just how long they really planned to stay there is not clear, but what was probably just a short visit ended up being eight years.

The outbreak of the First World War was the reason, and George enlisted for the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force directly in England, and went to train in Aldershot, and also declared previous military experience with the Galloway Rifle Volunteers, who had a base in Castle Douglas.

Back in Canada, his brothers Alexander and William filled in similar documents and would soon be in Europe too - only

Thomas stayed in Canada. George Badenoch gives his wife as his next of kin and gives his profession as ‘sales manager’. With George off fighting, Ellen and the children stayed in Northampton for the duration of the war. That was normal enough, after all, Ellen’s family were all in England, not Canada.   

George was enlisted to the 1st Battalion of the Western Ontario Regiment, and it is possible to at least roughly work out what movements he would have been involved in. In the winter of 1914, George would have undergone the harsh training conditions on Salisbury Plain, and a Royal Inspection of the Division early in 1914 foretold a move to France, which occurred in February 1915.  After a period in reserve near Hazebrouck, the Division relieved the 7th (British) Division in the Fleurbaix sector during the first three says of March, taking over 6,400 yards of front line trenches on the left flank of General Sir Douglas Haig's First British Army.

The Division moved to the Ypres Salient in April, and faced its first real test during the defence of St. Julien beginning on 22 April.  This formed part of what was known as the Second Battle of Ypres, which was the first time Germany used poison gas on a large scale on the Western Front in the First World War and the first time a former colonial force (Canadians) pushed back a major European power (Germans) on European soil, which occurred in the battle of St. Julien-Kitcheners' Wood.  The village of St. Julien had been comfortably in the rear of the 1st Canadian Division until the poison gas attack of 22 April, whereupon it became the front line. On the morning of 24 April 1915 the Germans released another cloud of chlorine gas, this time directly towards the re-formed Canadian lines just west of the village of St. Julien.  On seeing the approach of the greenish-grey gas cloud, word was passed among the Canadian troops to urinate on their handkerchiefs and place these over their noses and mouths.

The Canadians withstood German attacks and finally retired to secondary positions on 26 April, where they held on until 4 May. The Second Battle of Ypres, as the overall action came to be known, cost the infantry brigades some 5,506 men.

It was during the Second Battle of Ypres that Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae M.D. of Guelph, Ontario, Canada wrote the memorable poem In Flanders Fields in the voice of those who perished in the war.  Two weeks later, the division was in action again at Festubert.   Aiding in a diversionary offensive by the British armies, the Canadians suffered 2,204 casualties for gains of only 600 yards.

George Badenoch survived all this, but in what was called the Second Action of Givenchy, of 15-16 June 1915, he would not be so fortunate.

This line was proving very difficult line to hold, being subject to constant mining, sniping and trench mortar activity. A decision was taken to make a large-scale British-Canadian-French attack on the German front between a point East of Givenchy to just South of Rue d'Ouvert, to capture some key points. The Canadians were to attack a strong point called 'Dorchester' and forming a defensive flank near the Canal. After several postponements, the attack was fixed for the evening of 15 June 1915.  It would be a complete and costly failure.

The infantry assault was preceded by 48 hours slow bombardment, aimed at destroying trenches and wire; a heavier 12-hour fire would precede the actual attack. But the German line in this area was formidable, with very deep trenches and dugouts that the weak British bombardment (not helped by poor observation through long grass and poor light) barely touched. Even before the artillery fire lifted, once the Germans saw the 2nd Yorkshires and 2nd Wiltshires advancing they manned the parapets.

Machine gun and rifle fire cut down most of the attacking troops.  The attack was a complete failure, but even so, some men of A Coy under 2/Lt. Belcher got into the German front line, but without support could not hold on.

The second attack was similar. The Canadians would once again go for 'Dorchester', the RSF on the Brigade right and the Bedfords on the left. The attack began at 4.45pm, after a thin British barrage throughout the day which ceased two minutes before the infantry attack, giving the Germans plenty of time once again to man the parapet. The results were the same: more than half of the attacking companies were down before they even got through their own wire. The attack was called off immediately. The Bedfords did inflict heavy losses on the Germans there. Those would could do so crawled back during the night, and reported that during the attack the Germans had been two or three deep in their front trench, with those at the back acting as loaders for those firing.

The action was abandoned. The Canadian division moved to Ploegsteert. George Badenoch was not with them. The former professional footballer was killed during those futile attacks.


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