In Profile: Everton's 11 Fallen WW1 heroes

Eleven Everton players lost their lives when fighting for their country during the First World War. Here, we profile the Blues who made the ultimate sacrifice. We also feature a series of letters sent by Toffees players while on duty.


Private James Brannick, 11th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers

Born in Manchester in 1889, while working as a dyer’s finisher in a bleaching and dying works, James Brannick played on amateur terms for Atherton before signing for Everton in November 1912.  The forward made an instant impact – scoring the opener as Everton beat against Blackburn Rovers 2-1 on Boxing Day 1912. He repeated the feat in his next appearance against Notts County at Meadow Lane on 4 January 1913, scoring the only goal of the game. He made his third and final appearance for the Blues in a 1-0 home defeat to Sheffield Wednesday on 12 March 1914.  

He continued to play in the reserves, before moving to Scottish club St Mirren in May 1914. He played 38 games in the 1914-15 season until his enlistment into the Lancashire Fusiliers in Cheetham. By then, his elder brother, Richard Brannick had been killed in October 1915 near Ypres and was buried in Ploegsteert Wood. James was killed on 10 August 1917 during the attack on the hamlet of Westhoek, part of the Third Battle of Ypres, better known as Passchendaele. He was 28 years old. James has no known grave and is remembered on the Menin Gate in Ypres.

Private Frederick Collinson, 1st/5th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers

Fred Collinson turned out for Everton reserves as far back as 1892, playing at the then newly-built Goodison Park, before being sold to Bury for 10 pounds. He played for Bury regularly during the 1890’s but missed their greatest period at the turn of the century as he was serving with the Lancashire Fusiliers in the Boer War. He was likely to have been with them when they fought at the battle of Spion Kop. He returned to the colours in 1914 at the start of the First World War and at the age of 41 he was sent out to Gallipoli where he lost his life on 15 May 1915. He has no known grave and is remembered on the Helles Memorial at Gallipoli, Turkey. 

Corporal Thomas Gracie, 16th Battalion, Royal Scots

Tom Gracie travelled with the Scotland team to play against England at Goodison in 1911 and, although the Morton forward did not feature in the game, he signed for Everton immediately after the game. Gracie made 19 appearances for the Toffees before moving to Liverpool. He then went back north of the border, signing for Hearts, and was the Scottish top-flight’s joint top scorer in the 1914-15 season. In 1914, Gracie and his Hearts teammates enlisted en masse in the 16th (McCrae’s) Royal Scots – the first of the footballers’ battalions. However, he did not have a chance to serve overseas as he was diagnosed with leukaemia in March 1915. He passed away aged 26 in Glasgow on 23 October that year, less than a month after his brother John was killed in battle in France. Thomas was laid to rest in Glasgow’s Craigton cemetery.

Private David Bruce Murray, 11th Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders  

After signing from Rangers in 1903, David Murray played two games at left back for Everton. He then moved to Liverpool before enjoying stints at Hull and Leeds City – who then then Leeds’ preeminent club. Research suggests Murray’s career was curtailed by injury, however, and Murray became a miner in Mexborough, South Yorkshire. In early September 1914 he was enlisted and posted to 11th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and after nine months of training he arrived in France on 9 July 1915.  He fought through the Battle of Loos in late September, but on 10 December 1915 he lost his life, killed in action aged 28 on the same battlefield. Private David Murray has no known grave but is remembered on the Loos Memorial to the Missing at Dud Corner.

Corporal Harry Fitzroy Norris, 11th Battalion, The King’s (Liverpool) Regiment 

Harry Norris - whose father Fitzroy was a major figure in early Lancashire football as a referee and later manager and director of Bolton Wanderers - was on Everton’s books around 1906. He did not make a first-team appearance and enjoyed a loan stint at Tranmere Rovers. By 1915, he had joined the 11th (Pioneer) battalion of The King’s (Liverpool) Regiment - troops which not only fought, but specialised in construction and engineering, essential in trench warfare. He landed in France on 19 May 1915 on his way to the Ypres Salient in Belgium.

On 26 August 1915 the battalion war diary states: “Half of the Battalion continued making dugouts while the remainder were digging and repairing trenches. Casualties: One killed, two wounded.’ Harry Norris was likely one of the two wounded men and Commonwealth War Graves Commission records suggest he died of wounds the following day, 27 August, although his headstone says the 26 August. Aged 30, he was buried in Ypres Reservoir cemetery.

Private Thomas Norse, 1st/4th Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment  

Born in Blackburn in 1880, by the age of 10 Thomas Norse was a child worker in a local cotton mill, while making a name for himself as a prolific striker for local amateur sides. He came to the notice of Everton while playing for Blackburn St Philips and was soon on his way to Goodison. However, after just two reserve games in March 1903 he was released and Thomas returned to his former club.  

When war broke out he enlisted with the East Lancashire Regiment and landed in Gallipoli on 9 May 1915. On 24 June 1915, the battalion war diary notes one fatality by name, that of Private Thomas Norse. Thomas was killed in action aged 34. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Helles Memorial to the Missing at Gallipoli.

Lance-Corporal Leigh Richmond Roose, 9th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers  

Goalkeeper Leigh Roose was the most charismatic footballer of his era. A natural entertainer, the Wales international was responsible for rewriting the goalkeeping rulebook with his adventurous and unorthodox approach. Born in Holt near Wrexham, he was educated by the author H.G. Wells in the village academy.  While at Aberystwyth University he played for the town team, before moving to Stoke City and then signing for Everton in 1904. He was an important figure in the 1904-05 campaign, as the Blues finished second in the division, just one point behind champions Aston Villa.

A sensation as a goalkeeper, he is described in the Dictionary of National Biography as a man who ‘had been thoroughly grounded in the fundamentals of his art and gave interpretation to them in the style and manner of a man of genius.’  Upon the outbreak of war, Roose enlisted with the R.A.M.C. in 1914, before returning to the Western Front in 1916 with the Royal Fusiliers. He was awarded a Military Medal and promoted to lance-corporal his actions on 6 August that year, which a citation describes as follows: "Private Leigh Roose, who had never visited the trenches before, was in the sap when the flammenwerfer attack began. He managed to get back along the trench and, though nearly choked with fumes with his clothes burnt, refused to go to the dressing station. He continued to throw bombs until his arm gave out, and then, joining the covering party, used his rifle with great effect." After a period in action near Arras, Roose returned south to fight during the latter stages of the Battle of the Somme, and was killed in action aged thirty-eight, thought to be on 7 October 1916. He is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.

Private James Roy, 5th/6th Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)  

Edinburgh-born born James Roy signed for Everton in December 1912, having come to the attention of the Club while playing half-back for amateur side Broxburn United. His debut season saw him play in Everton’s reserves, where he earned a Central League championship medal.

Roy continued to play for the reserves as he struggled unable to break into Everton’s first team, with the talented Blues’ side winning the First Division title in 1914-15. It is likely Roy enlisted by the end of 1915 and following a few months of training he was in France by late summer 1916. By April 1917 he was with the Scottish Rifles in their action in the Battle of Arras. He died of wounds in the Hindenburg line near Fontaine-lès-Croisilles on 24 April 1917 and he is remembered on The Arras Memorial to the Missing at Faubourg D‘Amiens, France. Tragically his brother was also killed near Arras in March 1918 and is on the same memorial.
Private Donald Sloan, 8th Battalion, Black Watch (Royal Highlanders) 

Born in 1883 in Rankinston, Ayrshire, goalkeeper David Sloan played for local side Ayr, before moving to Belfast Distillery on 12 August 1903. He soon made a name for himself as a talented goalkeeper and represented the League of Ireland against the English League at Manchester City's Hyde Road ground in October 1905. Six months later he was at Everton, signing for £250 on 17 April 1906.

However, with Billy Scott firmly entrenched in the Goodison goal, chances would be few and far between, and after just six games as his understudy he left for Liverpool on 4 May 1908 for £300. By July 1909 he had returned to Distillery as player/trainer where was an Irish Cup winner in 1909-10, before a move home to Scotland in August 1912, signing for Bathgate and East Stirlingshire.   

The war devastated the Sloan family. Donald was one of five brothers fighting and the last of four of them to be killed. In fact, he received two telegrams on the same day about the deaths of brothers William and Thomas. Donald was killed when a heavy German mortar hit the dugout he was in near St Laurent-Blagny, Arras on New Year's Day 1917. He was laid to rest in Faubourg D'Amiens Cemetery, next to the Memorial to the Missing that bears the names of the Roy brothers.

Lance Corporal Wilfred Toman, 2nd/10th Battalion, The King's (Liverpool) Regiment  

Bishop Auckland-born centre-forward Wilfred Toman started his career north of the border with Aberdeen and Dundee before returning south to play for Burnley in 1896. In 60 appearances for the Turf Moor side, he averaged a goal every other game, and by 1899 he had moved to Everton for a record fee of £100. Toman scored nine goals in 27 games before switching to Southampton for the 1900-01 season. There, he played alongside former-Evertonians Edgar Chadwick, Alf Milward and George Molyneux, winning the Southern League title. On his return to Goodison the following season he scored in his first game but in the following match he sustained a career-ending injury.  

He found work as a purser with White Star Line to Australia but in 1916 at the age of 42, he was conscripted into the King's (Liverpool) Regiment. Quickly promoted to lance corporal, he was in France by 22 February 1917. While on the front line near Bois Grenier, near Armentières, he was badly wounded by enemy shelling and died shortly afterwards on 2 May 1917.  He was laid to rest in Erquinghem-Lys Communal Extension Cemetery. 
Sergeant Richard C Wynn, 12th Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment 

Born in 1892, and brought up in the shadow of Goodison Park, by his late teens Richard Wynn was working in a local rubber works while playing centre-forward for Sterling FC in the Liverpool & District League. He signed amateur forms for Everton for the 1911-12 season and played as an outside-left and, although he was retained for a further year, by June 1912 he was loaned to Chester where he lined up alongside his brother, Robert. Officially released by Everton in April 1913, he was quickly rated as the best half-back in the Lancashire Combination, and was snapped up by Middlesbrough in April 1914, scoring on his debut against Spurs. 

By the summer of 1915 he had volunteered for the 12th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment (Teesside Pioneers), while brother Robert enlisted with the Grenadier Guards. Robert later secured a transfer to the 12th Yorks on 11 May 1915 to be with his brother. After a year in training they landed in France in June 1916. During his periods of leave Richard had time to make 22 guest appearances for Brentford, scoring eight goals. While Robert was discharged home on 23 Feb 1919, Richard, now a sergeant, was transferred to the 17th Company Labour Corps and remained in France during post-war clear up work. Although he survived the conflict and was due to return to Middlesbrough for the 1919-20 season, he died on 9 August 1919 aged 27 from injuries suffered in an accident while still serving in France. He was laid to rest in Etaples Military Cemetery.



Everton legend Sam Chedgzoy made 300 appearances for Everton, scoring 36 goals. He served as a private in the Scots Guards during the First World War, and wrote this letter to the Liverpool Echo on 6 November 1917...

We have not had a game of football for more than a month, the battalion being engaged in other ways. We are playing the Somersets tomorrow (Sunday).
We have been looking forward to a game with Charlie Buchan’s team (3rd Grenadiers) but have not managed to get together up to now; we are hoping we shall meet them in the final round of the Div. Cup. I am living in hopes of getting a couple of games with the Blues before the season closes, for I have a good chance of getting leave in that time. I would just love another game at Goodison Park.

Below is a letter from Everton striker Bobby Parker, who hit a remarkable 36 in 35 games goals for the Blues in the 1914-15 title-winning season. In total, he scored a 70 goals in 96 games for the Club. Parker was wounded in war and had been in hospital for just over three months when he wrote this letter to the Echo on 14 August 1917… 

Many letters I have received did much to buck up my spirits. If people at home could only realise how eager the mail is looked forward to by all the boys they would never tire of writing.  At home we don’t understand what war is. When I left Blighty for the front, I had impressions in my mind and plans of what it was like, and what I would do, but, alas, the real thing was so different from my dreams. The cheerfulness of the boys under all kinds of hardships is wonderful.  When I was up the desert with my battalion, after a hard day’s digging men turned their thoughts to pleasure.  Football is always first favourite. I am alright, but still in bed after fourteen weeks.  I shall be glad to get on my feet again, which I expect to do this week.  I shall be able to play football again, so that is some thing to be thankful for.

Forward John Cameron made 48 appearances for Everton, scoring 15 goals. Following his playing career, he took up a position as football coach at Dresdner Sports Club in Germany and was there at the outbreak of World War One. He was then taken in to custody, along with around 4,000 other British Subjects, and interned at Ruhleben Civilian Prison Camp on the outskirts of Berlin. Among the inmates were several other ex-professional football players who had also been coaching in Germany. In September 2015, a letter from Cameron appeared in the national newspapers under the heading of ‘A Letter from an Interned Footballer’…

All lovers of football here, send you greetings. I am glad to say that things are now better now than in the early days of our captivity, a time I will not dwell on. The first gleam of sunshine came about the middle of March, when we were allowed a part of the racecourse for recreational purposes; we quickly made two pitches and formed Ruhleben Football Club... of which Fred Pentland, Small Heath, became president and I was made secretary. We had a hurricane season of six weeks – two league games and one cup competition, with friendlies etc. We played over three hundred games in that short time, I fancy that is record. 

he following are two letters from Tim Coleman, who made 71 Everton appearances and scored 30 goals. Coleman joined up with the 17th (Service) Battalion, Middlesex Regiment for the war, the core of which consisted of professional footballers. Its most commonly used name was the Footballers’ Battalion. The letters were published in the Liverpool Echo.

28 November 1916

Just a few lines, to let you know we are still in the land of the living, and thankful to be so, I assure you. We have just come out of another push, and we have had a long time of it. We have had a few casualties, which of course, is inevitable. Ruby Martin of Grimsby has been wounded; but I am glad to say not seriously. Peg Evans, of Clayton Orient, has also had a bullet in the knee. I don't know how bad it is, but I hope he will get over it, so that he can play again. Houston, of Woolwich, also had been wounded. 

4 January 1917

Just a few lines during the festive season just to let you know we are still going strong. We have been having a great time lately - all sorts of sports -boxing, cross-country running, sprints and nearly everything in sport you can mention. We had a splendid Christmas, thanks to our colonel, who spared no expense so that the boys should enjoy themselves. Our second in command Major Walsh, who came from the King's has also been splendid, officiating in the boxing tournament and being really good in his judgement. He also amused the boys by donning the mittens in a real slam, and he showed he is quite adept in the art of self-defence. As a matter of fact, all the officers vied with one another in doing the best for the comfort of the ‘boys’.

The battalion team has reached the final in the Divisional Cup, and I think they will pull it off. They beat the King's 10 to nil, Stratfords by 6 to 1, and the Oxford and Bucks by 1 goal to nil. Have just heard that Peg Evans, the Clapton full back, will not play football again owing to the wound to his knee, and that he is in Blackburn Hospital. "Bunny" Martin (Grimsby) is having some trouble with his wound, having to go through another operation. Just missed Sandy Turnbull the other day when we went to play a match in the "Ham and Egg" League. They tell me he is playing for the battalion team, and they had reached the semi-final of their brigade. I should have loved to have exchanged a few Christmas greetings with him. I suppose that's about all we could have exchanged. This is all this time. Wishing you and all my Liverpool friends a Merry Christmas -if it's not too late -and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

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