On April 24 1915, Clapton Orient fans packed into the club's ground to watch 41 soldiers on parade before their departure for the hellish trenches of France

Author Steve Jenkins with the revised centenary edition (credit: Karon Jenkins)

William Jonas (credit: Steven Jenkins)

Richard McFadden (credit: Steven Jenkins)

George Scott (credit: Steven Jenkins)

Somme memorial adorned with tributes (credit: Steven Jenkins)

First published in News East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter - Waltham Forest

A book telling the moving story of how footballers, fans and club officials made the ultimate sacrifice for their country has been revised to coincide with the centenary of the start of the First World War.

Steven Jenkins spent 15 years uncovering the role of 41 players and fans of Clapton Orient, the club which became Leyton Orient, in the Great War which began on July 28 1914.

They were the first English Football League club to volunteer en masse to serve in the 17th Middlesex – known as the Footballers' Battalion.

The new updated edition features nine additional chapters and eighty new pictures.

It includes contributions from relatives of the men who served at the Battle of Somme from 1915 to 1918. 

Company Sgt Major Richard McFadden, a prolific goalscorer for the O's, and teammates Private William Jonas and Private George Scott were killed in 1916.

Mr Jenkins said: "The three Clapton Orient players who lost their lives were all larger than life characters.

"William Jonas - centre forward, was the David Beckham of the time, being a favourite with the ladies at the O's even though he was happily married to his sweetheart Mary Jane.

"McFadden, who played inside forward, was a life saver, both in civil life as well as on the battlefield.

"He saved a man from a burning building prior to moving to London, a boy from drowning in the River Lea whilst on a training run along Lea Bridge Road, and a baby that was trapped in a bedroom of a house that was on fire in Clapton Park.

"Centre half George Scott was one of the most loyal and dependable players you could wish to meet.

“He scored the winning goal against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane in 1909 and would always give one hundred per cent.”

Mr Scott was wounded and captured by the Germans and later died in a military hospital in St Quentin.

Of the 41 soldiers who served, 38 returned, including wounded goalkeeper Jimmy Huggall, who went on to play for the club again. However, the majority of those who returned retired from football due to injury or the psychological impact of war.  

Mr Jenkins, whose book was first published in 2005, added: "It is an amazing true story and it was important for me to publish my addition in time for the forthcoming O’s Somme trip."

“They were the first English football club to have a memorial erected on the Somme in the Village of Flers and, on June 27, Mr Jenkins will lead 200 supporters and friends to the war graves.

It will be the first time since 1916, family members of the three aforementioned soldiers killed will be re-united.

They Took the Lead costs £14.99 and is available from the Leyton Orient Club shop, Leyton Orient Supporters' Club and Mr Jenkins directly.

For further details please email stevejenkins1881@btinternet.com

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