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Leyton O’s ‘footballers' regiment’ remembered
Leyton Orient's contribution to the Great War was acknowledged last week as the supporter’s club was invited to Heart of Midlothian in Edinburgh for the unveiling of a new memorial plaque.
The O's, known as Clapton Orient in 1914, were the first full English squad to volunteer, with 41 players, officials and supporters signing joining the army in December 1914.
Heart of Midlothian were the first Scottish club to do the same after players were reportedly booed by supporters for not getting involved in the war effort.
Both clubs lost players at the battle of the Somme and have memorials less than five miles away from each other in France.
The ‘Leyton O 41’ all joined the 17th battalion of the Middlesex regiment, which was known as the ‘footballers' battalion’.
Three O's players were killed in the Great War and many were injured but still returned to the pitch.
Leyton Orient was the only club to be invited to attend the event unveiling a new Great War memorial at Heart of Midlothian on Friday last week, strengthening the historical connection between the two clubs.
Supporters’ club deputy chairman Steve Jenkins, who attended, said: “I felt extremely proud that Leyton Orient had been recognised for their contribution to the Great War.
“It’s a very proud part of the club’s history.”
Mr Jenkins, 56, who has been a O's supporter since 1969, has written a book about the club’s contribution to the Great War called ‘taking the lead’ and, through his research, has contacted the families of the three players who were lost and plans to reunite them next year for a trip to the club’s memorial site at the Somme.
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