Looking back at: The Imps on September 2nd 1939

Eighty years ago today Britain, along with France, was waiting for Germany to reply to the demands made for the withdrawal of troops from Poland following their invasion of the country on September 1st.   Australia, New Zealand and Canada had confirmed their support for any action the British and French would take in the event of the Germans refusing to withdraw.

In Lincoln children evacuated from Leeds had arrived both on the 1st and again on the 2nd, some bringing buckets and spades in the belief that Lincoln was near the seaside. The Echo reported “a seaside bucket formed an incongruous addition to gas-mask and other luggage” Schools in Lincoln were opened to enable locals to collect their gas masks and Town Clerk G.Banwell, who was now also Air Raid Precautions Controller, advised on the warnings that would be sounded in the event of an air raid, what and where people should go on hearing the warnings and how the all-clear would be sounded.

Lincoln City Police Chief Constable William Hughes issued instructions that all windows, skylights, glazed doors and other openings be completely screened after dark stressing that “one unobscured light may be a source of great danger to the City” Lincolnshire Road Car cancelled all private hire bookings due to their buses being required to transport evacuees whilst the Clayton-Babcock AOS dance planned for the Drill Hall on Friday night had to be cancelled owing to the Drill Hall being required for emergency purposes.

Whilst the world waited to see what Hitler’s response would be to the demand to withdraw the football season had begun and page two of the Echo on September 1st reminded readers that:


City had started the new FL season with a 2-2 draw at Hull City a week earlier but had suffered a 2-0 home defeat to Darlington on Monday night prompting fears that the struggles of the previous season (City had finished 17th) were going to be repeated with “bitter disappointment” being the main response of many of the 5344 present.

Heavy rain plus the effect of the international situation were according to Echo football writer Jason the main reasons why the gate at the start of the game was one of the smallest ever seen at Sincil Bank although it did eventually reach a recorded figure of 2856. City made two changes to the side that had lost to Darlington as Jack Hartshorne and Maxey Holmes were injured with Billy Bean moving from the half back line to right back to replace Hartshorne, Ernie Hoyland returning after missing the Darlington game to replace Holmes whilst summer signing John Hardy was given his Imps debut. Gateshead, who had lost 3-0 at home to Crewe then beaten Hartlepools also at home by the same score, included former Imp Jack Callender and former Scottish International Hugh Gallacher in their team.

A see-saw first half saw City took the lead through Walter Ponting to head home only for Callender to equalise shortly after and the visitors took the lead three minutes before half time through Peter Spooner but just before the interval Ponting scored his second to make it 2-2 at halftime. Ponting completed his hat trick in the second half before Joe Clare added a fourth but Bob Birtley made for a nervy final few minutes by making it 4-3 which was the final score.

Victory moved Lincoln to ninth in the table but the following day war was declared on Germany and, unlike during WW1, the football authorities immediately suspended all competitions with players contracts ceased automatically with no liability on the clubs to pay wages.

The aborted 1939/40 season saw City use 13 players in the three games played and whilst eight of those (Bean, Tom Callender, Clare, Richard Deacon, Hardy, Hartshorne, Holmes and Ponting) played in the FL for City either before or after the war the other five William Askew, Rex Clayton, Bill Gormlie, Hoyland and Jack Rix made no further appearances in the FL for City and as an excellent 2008 book about that season was titled those five players became “The men who never were

Football did eventually continue with a series of regionalised competitions during the conflict but it wasn’t until August 1946 that the FL resumed with the 1939/40 fixture list being reused although numerous postponements for bad weather in February and March meant the season didn’t finish until June 1947

To read more on about that: https://staceywest.net/2019/06/05/summer-football-the-imps-have-been-there-done-that


  1. Think the Chairman then was my Great Uncle, George Wright, who down the family line was the reason for my long support of LCFC. I blame him !!

  2. Correct he was. A director since 1923 he was appointed Chairman in May 1939 and held the post until November 1948 when he was voted off the board by a show of hands at an EGM. Ten shareholders though demanded a poll be carried out and after initially declaring he would stand for re-election he withdraw his nomination a few days before it was to be carried out in December.

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