With our country having this year marked the centenary of the start of the First World War, and with today marking Remembrance Day, we delve into the All the Saints book and take a look back at the impact the conflict had on the club...

August 4, 1914, was a defining day in our history, as Great Britain declared war on Germany.

Despite the seismic nature of this event, however, for the Saints players of the time very little actually changed.

While first-class cricket in England was quickly suspended, the Football League had no intention of following the MCC’s suit, insisting that “our great winter game should pursue its natural course”.

The Southern League, which housed Saints, followed their lead and, on Wednesday, September 2, the 1914/15 football season kicked off.

A total of 23 players would be used by the club during the campaign, as they earned a sixth-place finish in their division.

The sport’s decision-makers had reasoned that, by continuing, they would boost not only the morale of those at home, but also the men in the trenches, who would momentarily have their minds taken off the horror unfolding around them as a result of receiving the football news.

It was also hoped that the matches could be used to encourage donations to the war funds – although with many fans away serving their country, this was not simple.

Additionally, the fact uniformed men were admitted free-of-charge heaped further pressure on clubs’ finances, to the point where they could not afford their players’ wages, leading to squad members having to accept a reduction in their income.

Still, there was some evidence to suggest the first two points had merit, but, by the end of the season, that argument had been severely chipped away at, and League football was officially halted in July 1915.

That freed up players from Saints to enlist or join the war-time effort on home soil, particularly by working in the shipyards.

Inevitably, the fighting led to the loss of many men associated with the club.

Curiously, though, the first death, three months into the conflict, had nothing to do with the war, as George Mounsey – a centre-half, who made one Southern League appearance for Saints – passed away.

He had received a heavy blow from a ball to the stomach during a reserve fixture at Watford, requiring him to receive artificial respiration, and he died three days later, officially from heart failure.

Mounsey’s death had come a full six weeks before the first ex-Saint – some of whom were, of course, already away fighting – died on the Western Front.

That was Fred Costello, who had played for the club from 1907 to 1909 and helped them reach the FA Cup semi-final in his first season, scoring twice in the quarters to knock-out holders Everton.

Having finished in football, Private Costello had enlisted at the age of 32, in the Royal Warwickshires, perishing on December 19, 1914, in Belgium. He is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial.

Costello was one of 19 men to have played for Saints who died as a result of the conflict.

Each story is tragic, and all are chronicled in the incredible book, All the Saints, produced by the club’s official historians and from which the details on this page are sourced.

In among some are tales of tremendous bravery, notably Edward Inkerman Jordan Bell, who made eight first-team appearances for Saints, from 1907 to 1908.

Captain Bell, who played for the 17th Middlesex, also known as the Footballers’ Battalion, received a Military Cross award “for conspicuous gallantry” after assuming command from wounded Major Frank Buckley at the Battle of Delville Wood in July 1916.

Bell, who was killed by an enemy shell, near Albert, in 1918, would later be gazetted a Bar to his Military Cross “for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty”.

He was not the only ex-Saint to receive the award, with Peter Desbrow, who made a single Western League appearance in 1901, awarded a Military Cross after returning to conduct “distinguished work” in France and Flanders, despite having been badly gassed in one of the conflict’s first gas attacks.

Desbrow would survive the war, dying in Salisbury in 1971, at the age of 89.

He was not the ‘longest’ survivor, however. That was Len Butt, who left Saints to serve four years in India with the 5th Hampshire Regiment, before later rejoining the club and living into his 100th year.

Of those killed in action, Cecil Christmas has a particularly notable story, dying on October 7, 1916, in the final phase of the Battle of the Somme, on the same battlefield that a certain Adolf Hitler had been wounded two days previously.

Back home, the football did not completely stop, though, as regional competitions were established, with Saints featuring in three different leagues over the course of four seasons.

Firstly, they competed with six other sides in a South Western Combination, before joining a London Combination in 1916.

They were subsequently kicked out of that, along with all the other provincial teams, after sides in the capital complained about problems with travelling to those opponents.

That led to the creation of the South Hants War League, featuring Saints, Pompey, Cowes, two shipyard sides – Thornycrofts and Harland & Wolff – and two military teams, who were dropped after the 1917/18 season, making it a five-team division.

One of the most bizarre aspects of this league was that Saints often found themselves taking on some of their “own” players, who had helped the war effort by joining the shipyards and were, therefore, turning out for their rather formidable sides.

Notably, there was Arthur Dominy – who would make 392 peace-time appearances for Southampton and score 155 goals – but for two seasons was playing against them as a key man in the Harland & Wolff side.

So strong were these teams that, in each campaign, Saints finished below both Thornycrofts and Harland & Wolff.

Having honed his skills, Dominy, who could have ranked alongside Terry Paine and Mick Channon in the 550-appearance category for Saints had war not broken out, would return to the club after the conflict ended to establish a brilliant strike partnership with Bill Rawlings, who had served with the Wessex Field Ambulance.

In fact, Saints actually emerged from the First World War with a stronger team, thanks in part to the quality of players who had come to the city to work in the shipyards and who were signed after the conflict.

There were others who also developed as players despite the war, such as Bert Shelley, who, encouraged by his older brother, actually enlisted at 15, serving with the Hampshire Territorials in India, where he was a member of the battalion side, before winning the Divisional Cup in Egypt, with the 1st/4th Wiltshires in 1918.

That may have delayed his football career, but he would return home, where he was soon spotted by Saints, going on to make 465 appearances for the club – a record that stood until Tommy Traynor surpassed it in the 1960s.

Outside of those who were tragically killed, arguably the biggest impact the war had on Saints came when a young sergeant was posted to a rest camp in Norfolk, in 1917.

The Royal Engineer never played for Saints, but was a former Bolton and Leeds player.

While recuperating, he would meet and marry a young local woman, before having a son together.

In 1935, that lad would come to the attention of the Norwich manager, Tom Parker, who had been one of Saints’ finest ever full-backs.

Two years later, Parker would head back to The Dell as manager, and take the sergeant’s son with him.

The sergeant? W.E. Bates.

His son? Well, that was a certain individual named Ted...

All the Saints: A Complete Players’ Who’s Who of Southampton FC profiles every single one of the thousand-plus men to have played for the club, and can be purchased, along with Hagiology Publishing’s other works, by visiting hagiologists.com.

THE FALLEN – where 19 ex-Saints died in the First World War

19 Dec 1914    Frederick Costello    Royal Warwickshire Regiment   

25 Jan 1915    Arthur Herbert Coleman    Royal Fusiliers   
26 Nov 1915    Harold Walley Bamford    King’s Shropshire Light Infantry   
12 Sep 1916    William Durham    Hampshire Regiment   
7 Oct 1916    Edwin Cecil Russell Christmas    King’s Royal Rifles   
18 Nov 1916    William John Gray    Seaforth Highlanders   
2 May 1917    Wilfred Toman    King's (Liverpool Regiment)   
3 May 1917    William George    Royal Sussex Regiment   
5 Nov 1917    Harry Hunter    Royal Flying Corps
20 Nov 1917    Tom Hargreaves    Machine Gun Corps
24 Mar 1918    Edward Inkerman Jordan Bell    Middlesex Regiment   
21 Aug 1917    Owen Richard Thomas    Welsh Horse Yeomanry  

East Africa
23 May 1917    William Crabb    Army Service Corps

2 Jan 1918    Frederick William Wheeler    Royal Engineers     

At sea
10 Feb 1915    Albert Hartshorne    South Staffordshire Regiment   
24 Nov 1918    John Robert Sibley    Mercantile Marine

At ‘home’

2 Jun 1915    Walter Robert Fairgrieve    Royal Scots Regiment
7 Dec 1915    Charles George Ireland    Hampshire Regiment  
30 Apr 1917    Harrison Eke    Royal Fusiliers