Those Early Days Of Town Soccer Club (7 September 1973)
No recent news item has evoked happier memories for me than the appointment of Bruce Hardwick as secretary of Bletchley Town Football Club. Bruce was the club’s secretary from 1948-1956 and as I personally covered the club’s activities from their very first league match in 1946 to about 1960 we saw a good deal of each other.
If the club make as much progress in the next seven years as they made in the first seven then they will find themselves in the First Division. Later, the club fell on hard times, but this piece is about the earlier days.
I think the club can be said to have been born as a section of the comprehensive Bletchley Town Sports Club, which was formed in late 1945 or early 1946. At that club’s preliminary meetings the soccer interests were represented by Peter Gladwin and Grev. Trunkfield (now registrar at Newport Pagnell), the latter becoming the soccer club’s first secretary.
The first meeting of the soccer club as such was held in July, 1946. It was decided to apply for membership to the North Bucks League (which was granted) and to enter teams in its first and second divisions.
Although the Gazette began calling the club Bletchley Town during their first season, they played as “Bletchley Sports”.
However that may be, Bletchley Sports-cum-Town played their first league match (there had been a local “friendly” or two) on September 14, 1946, when they beat Winslow United 6-1.
Team: Jim Fraser (the “vet”) in goal, L. Wick, G. Bates, A. French, A. Thurlow, S. Allen, H. Harris, E (“Ted”) Stevens, R. Eggleton, V. Cheshire and W. Eaton.
This was at Bletchley Park, which was let to the general sports club for about four years before Manor Fields came into use. About 400 spectators were present, although some had also gone there to watch a town cricket match which was in progress on the same afternoon.
At that time, there were two works clubs who included good “outside” players as associated or honorary members: Bletchley LBC (in the South Midlands League) and Bletchley LMS (in the North Bucks League).
Gazette pictures of these teams shortly after the start of the 1946-47 season show:
LBC: J. Ansell (subsequently Northampton Town’s ‘keeper) as goalie, with J. Clarke, R. Tink, V. Bowden, G. Howard, R. Seamer, C. Gurnett, D. Burridge, R. Sharpe, E. (“Ted”) Read and C. Burridge.
LMS: A. Johnson (goalie), I. Bond, A. Barnett, W. Happell, B. Lewis, W. Gee, G. Stockley, W. Read, E. Skipper (who later captained Dulwich Hamlet), R. Varney and H. Cobb.
These teams were nobody’s chopping blocks. In fact, I would say that they were much better than the average in those two leagues today. LMS in particular drew good crowds: the LBC ground was a bit far out.
Nevertheless, the Sports-cum Town made progress. Cecil Hands was chairman, Jack Wise became secretary after Grev. Trunkfield (who played one season). Ron. Dickinson became a further goalkeeper and Pete Gladwin also played. Committee members and trainers included G. Nalton, C. Bates, H. Hancock and C. Chambers, all in the first season.
For the 1948-49 season Town were accepted to the South Midlands League and from that point for a good number of seasons they went from strength to strength. Bob Storey was now secretary with Bruce Hardwick as assistant. Players were joining from other clubs and the strength was also greatly increased by players such as Jimmy Whammond, Tommy Thompson and Paddy Crawley from the Bletchley RAF camp.
Alfie Root began his many years as chairman either that year or the next and put his heart and soul and not a little of his pocket into it.
Good support was forthcoming while still at the park. Over 800 people, including a special train-load, went to Buckingham and saw the team lose to Maidenhead Reserves in the final of the Berks and Bucks Junior Cup in the 1949-50 season. Fancy that! And for only a junior final!
With promotion to the South Midlands premier division in 1950 many things were happening. The RAF boys were beginning to leave but players like Len May and Tom Clarke had already joined to make up a solid body of local men.
Dick Riley arrived in Bletchley in 1950 and became player-coach. Another event was the advent of George Malster (Prudential’s branch Superintendent) as team manager.
So successful were Town in the premier division that by April, 1951, with five matches still to play, they had already won the championship. Possibly even more impressive was their performance the previous December, when they beat Spartan Leaguers, Amersham, 6-1 at Amersham in the county senior cup.
But the Spartan League had more shocks coming. I well remember the occasion in the park pavilion when Mr. Malster called the players together and asked them what they thought about entering that league. At least one, Len May, had had experience in the Spartan League and the answer was a unanimous “yes”.
Although a games lay-out for Manor fields had been agreed in 1949 by both the council and the general sports club, it was not until the 1951-52 season that the soccer club settled there permanently.
The Spartan League accepted Town and the very next season Town won the Spartan League Cup fielding: West (in goal), Ted Read, Roy Tink, Alwyn Harris, Nigel Webb, Bernard (“Taffy”) Lewis, Tom Clarke, Albert Hurley, Dick Riley, Len May, and Chris Birtle.
In 1950 a supporters’ club was formed and for a time it was very successful. It was through the supporters’ efforts that the stand on the river side of the field was built. It was intended to be only half a stand. The other half was to be added later, but that never happened. One or two coaches were run to each away game and the club’s colours of burgundy and white and its discus-thrower badge were well in evidence on “foreign” grounds as well as its war cry of “Up the Town!”