The Great War & Its Impact 1915 – 1920
With the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914, football in Guernsey had an uncertain future and there were no meetings of Council between December of that year and 2nd March 1915, when the Council convened with the sole purpose to:
“ask all affiliated clubs to forward names of all players serving with either service apart from the militia serving in the island.”
The Minutes of this meeting, were not signed until the Council next met on 14th March 1916, with this meeting being held in response to the Secretary, Mr. J. J. Eveson sending a letter to the Chairman stating that he had:
“joined the Army and was shortly leaving the island and he thought it best that somebody be elected to carry out the duties of Secretary to the Association.”
It was agreed that the GFA Treasurer, H. F Sallin would assume the role of Secretary during Mr Eveson’s absence who would be a Gunner in the Army.
The Council met again the following week to present Gunner Eveson with a clock with the President stating that:
“It is my privilege to be able to perform this duty this evening. You have done your duty in offering your services for your country, although personally I think it is what every man ought to do in a crisis of this sort. At the same time, I believe in your case , you had a reasonable excuse for medical reasons and therefore it is all the more credit for offering your services.”
Gunner Eveson responded:
“Personally I fail to see why my absence should be rewarded in this manner. I think it is anyone’s duty who can do so to come forward. I must sincerely thank you. I hope the War will soon be over when I hope once more to come back to Guernsey.”
Only one other Council meeting was held during the War, which was to agree to donate the Muratti shirts to the 1st Battalion, Royal Guernsey Light Infantry. When the Council next met in May 1919, after the War had ended, it was to discuss the impact of the War and the future of football in Guernsey. The Minutes record that:
“a general discussion took place on the future of football. Grave doubts being expressed by several delegates as to the advisability of resuming as in pre-war days owing to labour shortages, grounds, and high prices, and whether under the circumstances would it be advisable as a start to confine league football to First and Junior leagues.”
Subsequent to that meeting, the Council approved the re-introduction of the First, Second and Youth Leagues, whilst it was reported that Gunner Eveson, now Lieutenant Eveson, had survived the War but would not be resuming the role of Association Secretary.
The report by the acting Secretary, Mr. H. F Sallin, at the 1919 annual general meeting offered an insight into the emotions of not only the football community, but also the wider island community and the impact that the Great War had on the island:
“This Association has every reason to be proud of its record in the War. From the early days its members flocked to the colours and played the game on the battlefields in the same spirit in which they had played the game on our football grounds. Many have won distinction and honours. Many have returned and will figure again on the field. Others have returned, but, through injuries, will no longer be able to take part in our great winter game. The remainder, too many alas, have played for the last time and have fallen in the service of King and Country. All died in the same cause; officer or private, all did their duty and did it nobly. Though they are no longer with us, their memory shall not perish and when we are playing or watching our games their names will recur to us and we shall feel their presence. We know their sacrifices have not been in vain. As to the future of football, we hope for the best but only as the season progresses can we ascertain how matters stand.”
In addition to the return of local league football in 1919/20, the inter insular competitions returned and the 1920 Final would prove to be a historical occasion that is yet to be repeated.
Ahead of the Muratti semi-final against Jersey that year, the GFA Council had cause to record the following Minute in response to rumours of coupon betting:
It was brought to the notice of the Council that coupon betting has been organised in connection with the forthcoming Muratti match. It was resolved to notify the public that under the FA rules, betting on the result of matches is prohibited. Infringement of these rules renders any official or player liable to permanent suspension.”
This controversy failed to distract the Guernsey team, which beat Jersey at The Track Cycling Ground and progressed to play Alderney in the Final. It was the Final that provided a significant moment in history when Alderney surprised all football followers when winning the Muratti Vase for the first, and to date only, time with J. Lihou scoring the most important goal in Alderney’s history before setting off to emigrate to America the following day.
For Belgrave Wanderers, the 1919/20 season became a highlight as the club lift the Priaulx trophy for the first time.