A permanent tribute is to be unveiled to more than 20 Linfield players who served during the First and Second World Wars – with many never returning to home soil.
The band of brothers, who shared the common background of playing for the Blues, are listed on a memorial which will be dedicated this Saturday at Windsor Park.
Over the past three years the club has been working on a permanent tribute to the club’s brave players who fought for king and country.
Chairman Roy McGivern explained how a trip to the battlefields of WWI with some of Linfield FC’s young players brought about the project which has culminated in a new war memorial for the Irish League club.
He said: “We’ve had a number of trips over to Flanders and the Somme with some of our academy teams and that had fuelled a lot of interest.
“We’ve done that three times now and played football games out there while we’ve been there.
“We’ve actually gone to the graves of some of these players who are listed on the memorial.
“There are two Linfield players are remembered on the Menin Gate Memorial.”
The Ypres Menin Gate Memorial in Belgium includes the names of more than 54,000 soldiers who died before August 16, 1917, and have no known grave.
Mr McGivern continued: “There’s been a lot of people at the club involved in the compiling of this (Linfield FC) memorial.
“I’ve been involved myself and one of the coaches at the club – a guy called Jonny Jamison – has been heavily involved.”
Mr Jamison is the son of the former Crusaders and Glentoran player of the same name, who earned a cap for Northern Ireland.
Mr McGivern said: “Jonny has been the driving force behind the memorial.
“He’s been assisted by Andy Conn, our secretary, who has access to all the club records meticulously compiled by our former chairman David Crawford.
“There are over 20 players on this list who served in the First and Second World Wars and died.
“There’s also the names of five players who served and came home again.
“We’re not even sure if this is the final list. It’s a final as it can be at this stage but we have provision to add to it in the future if people come forward with other names.
“It’s taken a while to get to this stage, around three years, since our first trip to Flanders with the academy.”
The Irish League was suspended from 1915 to 1919 as a consequence of the First World War, and again from 1940 to 1947 because of the Second World War.
On both occasions Belfast Celtic were the last club to win the league trophy prior to the war-enforced suspension.
Linfield themselves had picked up 18 titles before the league resumed in 1948 after both conflicts. They now boast 52 league wins.
Mr McGivern explained the memorial would be a permanent one that would be located in Linfield’s offices at the new look Windsor Park.
It will be dedicated this Saturday before Linfield’s game against league leaders Coleraine, the first home game since Remembrance Day.
He said: “We could have had the memorial up earlier but with the ground being redeveloped we held back so that we didn’t put something up that we’d then have to move.”
JUST ONE OF THE NAMES ON THE MEMORIAL:
Linfield player lieutenant Wesley Maultsaid of the 11th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles was promoted in the field and was killed in action on November 12, 1916 in Belgium, aged 28. He is buried in Sanctuary Wood Cemetery near Ypres.
The YCV Battalion underwent training at Davidson’s engineering company in east Belfast before undertaking formal military training at Randalstown and Finner Camp in Donegal. Lt Maultsaid and his cousin Jim both played football for their respective battalions at the camp. Jim’s brother, Arthur, played in Linfield’s seven trophy team in 1921/22.
DO YOU WANT TO ATTEND?:
The new Linfield FC War Memorial will be unveiled and dedicated at a special service to be held in the club offices at Windsor Park this Saturday from 12.30pm to 1pm.
Wreaths will be laid at the service and the club chaplain will dedicate the memorial.
Chairman Roy McGivern said all supporters are warmly invited to attend this event, and any supporters’ clubs wishing to lay wreaths at the memorial are welcome to do so, but should notify the club in advance on 02890 244198.