As communities across the country prepare to remember and honour the war dead, this time of year holds special significance for an east London football club.

Leyton Orient FC, which was known as Clapton Orient at the time of the First World War, contributed dozens of players to the Footballers’ Battalion.

Formed in December 1914, about five months into the war, the Battalion comprised of footballers, club officials and supporters.

The footballing community had been criticised for not sending men to fight at the front while other professions contributed hundreds of thousands of men.

Orient chairman Captain Henry Wells-Holland encouraged his boys to enlist as he was dismayed at the bad name footballers were getting.

First to sign up was club captain Fred ‘Spider’ Parker, who was followed by nine more Orient players.

Eventually the club would add 41 players and staff to the ranks, including Captain Wells-Holland.

Their enthusiastic enlisting, which dwarfed their rival club Arsenal’s three men, was received well, and they were dubbed Clapton's Khaki Team.

After their last game of the 1914-15 season, in which the O’s beat Leicester Fosse 2-0, the players changed into their army uniforms and paraded around the pitch in front of cheering crowds.

They marched off to begin their training and a year later they were sent to fight in the Battle of the Somme which lasted from July to November 1916.

The O’s were to lose three of their players during the Battle – Private William Jonas, a centre-forward who was killed in Delville Wood, Private George Scott, a defender who died of his wounds in a German military hospital, and goal scorer Richard McFadden who was mortally wounded near Serre.

All three are commemorated in the graveyards of Flanders.

Mr McFadden was regarded as a hero well before war, having saved a man from a burning building and on another occasion he rescued a young boy who was drowning, while out running along the River Lea near the O’s grounds.

Mr Jonas was the ‘David Beckham’ of the time, a skilful striker who received up to 50 letters per week from adoring female fans.

The 26-year-old was killed in the battle, and his last words were recorded in a letter written by Mr McFadden, 27, who was alongside him at the front.

It read: "Willie turned to me and said Goodbye Mac, best of love to my sweetheart Mary Jane and best regards to the lads at Orient'.

"Before I could reply to him, he was up and over.

"No sooner had he jumped up out of the trench, my best friend of nearly 20 years was killed before my eyes.

"Words cannot express my feelings at this time."

Three years after one of the bloodiest battles of the Great War, competitive football resumed but only five O’s players remained out of those who had signed up.