13 July 2018

1st Battalion Rifle Brigade - Football team 1907-08

In a week when the England football team has fallen at another World Cup hurdle, here's a team photo from another era. As the caption states, these men all belong to the 1st Battalion, Rifle Brigade football team, and they won the Irish Army Cup by beating the 2nd Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers 3.0 at Dublin in April 1908.

Helpfully, the photo names the players and I have added more details to some of these men, as follows:

Sgt William James Jelley (subsequently commissioned)
5111 Acting Corporal John Mears
3408 Acting Corporal George Vaughan Laidler
7423 Acting Corporal Walter Kempton
Lieutenant Christopher William Cookson
Rifleman A Knott
Acting Corporal T Smith
Sergeant Major Leonard Eastmead
7375 Acting Sergeant Fred Midlane
9578 Bandsman Joseph Gilbert
6180 Rifleman Frank Horrocks
6158 Rifleman Sylvester Carey
6926 Acting Corporal Arthur Patrick
Corporal T Gregory

In each case I searched for the men on my British Army Ancestors website and was able to identify the men from their regimental numbers or surviving records in various series. The longest serving man here was George Laidler who enlisted in 1894. Joseph Gilbert was the most recent recruit, enlisting in January 1903.

Incidentally the "Acting" ranks were, as far as I know, peculiar to the Rifle Brigade at this time. "Acting" in the Rifle Brigade would have been "Lance" in other regiments.

Tragically, Lieutenant Cookson died the year after this photogrpah was taken. His obituary appears in the Rifle Brigade Chronicle for 1909:

Christopher William Cookson joined the Regiment from the Militia, 20 May 1905, and served with the 1st Battalion in Malta and Ireland.

The tragic circumstances of  his deatrh are still fresh in the minds of Riflemen. On 7 April 1909 he went with a brother officer to fish in Maine Water, Randalstown, which had been rented by the battalion from Lord O'Neill. He appears to have fallen into a deep hole and the water in his wading boots rendered swimming impossible, there was also a very swift current running, and his companion was powerless to help him, nearly losing his own life in his efforts to save his friend.

He was only 26 years of age, and was a very popular and promising officer.

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