Jimmy Speirs

Jimmy Speirs


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James Speirs was born in Govan, Glasgow, on 22nd March, 1886. He worked as a clerk but was a talented footballer and played for Maryhill in the Glasgow Junior league before joining Glasgow Rangers. His debut in the Scottish League came in September 1905. He scored six goals in his first season at the club.

In October, 1906, Speirs married Elizabeth Lennox Maben. He remained at Glasgow Rangers for three years and in 1908, Speirs played for Scotland against Wales. Scotland won 2-1 but Speirs failed to score. Later that year Speirs was transferred to Clyde.

The following year Speirs signed for Bradford City. He became captain and scored the only goal when the team won the FA Cup final against Newcastle United in 1911. The following year Herbert Chapman managed to persuade Leeds City to pay £1,400 for his services. He developed a fine partnership with Billy McCleod and in the 1912-13 season Leeds broke the club record with 70 goals.

On the outbreak of the First World War Speirs enlisted in the Queens Own Cameron Highlanders. He was posted to France in March 1916. After winning the Military Medal for bravery in the field he was promoted to the rank of sergeant.

James Speirs was killed at Passchendaele on 20th August 1917 and is buried at Dochy Farm New British Cemetery in Belgium.


Researching Jimmy Speirs

Investigate the background of Jimmy Speirs using the links below. We hope you find this information useful!

Did you know that in the 1881 UK census there were 1171 people with the Speirs surname? In that year Speirs was ranked number 2436 for popularity in the UK.

The name Jimmy means "Form of JAMES. one who supplants" and is of Hebrew origin.

New to Family History? Check out our Getting Started page. Check out House Of Names to investigate the origins of the Speirs surname or get a copy of the Speirs family Crest (a great gift idea!).


Never Forget – 1916

As I think of the words to construct this article, my mind drifts back one hundred years to the Battle of the Somme. For it was on this day, 01 July 1916, that one of the most famous battles during World War One commenced. It is reported that nearly 20,000 soldiers, mainly from Britain and Ireland along with India and South Africa lost their lives on the first day of this bloody battle. By the time the Battle of the Somme, which took place in northern France, had ended five months later, over one million soldiers from both sides of the war had either lost their lives or been injured. I find it hard to imagine what the conditions must have been like for the soldiers in the trenches.

During the BBC1 news programme which aired at 10pm on 29 June 2016, there was a news feature focussing on the Battle of the Somme. Within this piece, the news reporter highlighted that Evelyn Lintott was one of those who tragically lost their life on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. The news item correctly stated that Evelyn played football for Queens Park Rangers and England, but unfortunately they didn’t mention that Evelyn also played for Bradford City.

Why am I referring to World War One and a former Bradford City player? Well, please let me continue my story. In early 2015, Andrew Ashcroft and Stephen Onions who are also Bradford City supporters, along with me decided that we would try to obtain some tickets for the Euro 2016 tournament. Indeed, Andrew and I had been to Switzerland and Austria in 2008 to attend a couple of matches during the Euro 2008 event. Thanks to the efforts of Andrew, we obtained tickets via the official UEFA website, for a game in Paris which would take place on 13 June 2016. At this point in time, the draw had not been made for Euro 2016 so we didn’t know who we were going to see play. However, in early December 2015 the draw was made and we knew then that we were going to see the Republic of Ireland play Sweden. Ironically, Andrew and I had seen Sweden lose to eventual winners Spain, back in 2008.

As time moved on, Andrew was keen to obtain tickets for another game as he had originally applied for tickets for three games. In 2016, further tickets were released by UEFA and we were fortunate enough to purchase tickets for the Germany verses Ukraine game which would be played in Lille on Sunday 12 June 2016. During the planning stages for our trip, we decided that we would visit Dochy Farm New British Cemetery. As many well informed readers of this article will know, our goal scoring captain from the 1911 FA Cup winning team, Jimmy Speirs, is laid to rest at this cemetery near Ypres in Belgium.

The morning of Saturday 11 June 2016 arrived. Andrew came to pick Stephen and I up then off we headed to Kent. As we were booked on the 8:30am ferry from Dover to Calais on 12 June, we decided that it would be better to stay in Kent on the evening of 11 June. That evening a few pints from the Shepherd Neame brewery were consumed in the Binger’s Finger pub in Canterbury whilst watching England’s first game in Euro 2016. A last minute goal was conceded against Russia and things were only going to end one way for Roy Hodgson’s squad in this tournament!

We departed the Travelodge at 6:30am on 12 June, much to the surprise of the staff member on the desk. Little did they know that later on that day we were going to pay our respects to Jimmy Speirs and many other soldiers at Dochy Farm New British Cemetery.

The ferry crossing passed by without any problems apart from queuing for nearly one hour to get on to the ferry owing to the 700 cyclists who were also travelling on the same ferry as us. So into Calais we arrived and then we travelled across northern France and over the border into Belgium. I hadn’t appreciated how many cemeteries there are in southern Belgium where thousands of soldiers are buried. We eventually saw a road sign for Dochy Farm New British Cemetery. I don’t know what I was quite expecting at the cemetery apart from row after row of headstones. As we drove down a rural road, we came across Dochy Farm New British Cemetery on our left hand side with a stone bearing the words: THEIR NAME LIVETH FOR EVER MORE. To be honest, the cemetery was smaller than I had expected even though there are nearly 1,500 headstones there. What I remember most is how quiet and peaceful the cemetery was. The only noise that the three of us could hear was that of melancholic birdsong. Our research had involved locating the headstone for Jimmy Speirs prior to our visit so we had an idea of where Jimmy had been buried. After a few minutes of walking we found his resting place. For a while, Andrew, Stephen and I didn’t speak to one another and stopped to take in our surroundings. I don’t know what Andrew and Stephen were thinking at that moment in time but I imagined how different this landscape must have been a century ago and how less than seven years after winning the world’s greatest cup competition, Jimmy Speirs was killed serving his country. During these sombre moments, I also thought about my mum along with Andrew’s mum, who had unfortunately both passed away in the previous eight months. I can’t remember exactly how long we stayed at the cemetery for, but prior to leaving we did write a note in the visitors book. We also noticed other individuals who had made reference to Jimmy Speirs in the visitors book. Owing to time constraints we didn’t visit any of the other cemeteries in southern Belgium, however we were pleased that we’d found Dochy Farm New British Cemetery.

During World War One Jimmy Speirs achieved promotion to Sergeant with the Cameron Highlanders and was said to show great leadership qualities. Maybe he took these with him from the football pitch? He was also awarded the Military Medal for his bravery. Aged just 31 years young, Jimmy Speirs was killed in August 1917. He achieved so much in a life that ended far too soon. We should never forget or underestimate the sacrifices that many people made in World War One and as Bradford City supporters, we must never forget Jimmy Speirs.


You've only scratched the surface of Speirs family history.

Between 1953 and 2004, in the United States, Speirs life expectancy was at its lowest point in 1953, and highest in 2001. The average life expectancy for Speirs in 1953 was 30, and 76 in 2004.

An unusually short lifespan might indicate that your Speirs ancestors lived in harsh conditions. A short lifespan might also indicate health problems that were once prevalent in your family. The SSDI is a searchable database of more than 70 million names. You can find birthdates, death dates, addresses and more.


Jimmy Speirs – A Hero of the Football and Battlefield

In the ‘Official History of the Great War’, Brigadier-General J. E. Edmonds records that 244,897 British and Commonwealth soldiers became casualties during the Third Battle of Ypres. Among the dead was an FA Cup winning captain who played more than three hundred games as professional footballer before earning honour on the battlefield. His name was Jimmy Speirs.

Born in the Glasgow district of Govan on 22 March 1886, Speirs was to become a renowned inside-forward who scored more than one hundred goals during a ten-year career in Scottish and English professional football and captained Bradford City to their sole FA Cup triumph in 1911. He would then win the Military Medal during the First World War before ultimately losing his life three weeks into the battle that would later become simply known as Passchendaele.

Scottish Football

James Hamilton Speirs began his football career at hugely-successful local amateur side Maryhill FC, where his impressive performances soon caught the attention of Scottish giants Glasgow Rangers. After completing the 1904/05 season with Maryhill, Speirs moved to Ibrox with teammate John McFie in the summer of 1905 and would make his debut on 25 September 1905 in a 5-0 defeat against Heart of Midlothian.

Despite the disappointing start to life at Rangers, Speirs soon settled into the first-team and would go on to score nine times in 21 games by the end his debut season at the club. Furthermore, Speirs would also win his first piece of silverware as Rangers beat Queens Park 3-2 in the final of the Glasgow Merchants’ Charity Cup. The following season was to prove even more productive for Speirs, if not for Rangers, as he struck what would prove to be a career-best 13 goals in 22 league games for the club. Despite this impressive contribution from Speirs however, Rangers could only manage a disappointing third-place finish, languishing some 10 points behind champions, and arch rivals, Celtic.

The 1907/08 campaign would prove similarly underwhelming for Rangers as they again finished two places behind Celtic, who finished as champions of Scotland for the fourth successive season. For Speirs, the season would also represent his last at Ibrox and in the summer of 1908, he moved across Glasgow to join Clyde, then based in Rutherglen. Speirs made his debut in a 1-0 victory over Hamilton Academical on 15 August 1908, and would go on to hit score a respectable 10 goals in 20 league and cup games. For Clyde, Speirs’ debut season proved to be arguably the most successful in the club’s entire history as they finished third, just three points behind champions, Rangers. The club also performed well in the cup, progressing to the semi-final before eventually losing out to Celtic.

Bradford City

After just one season at Shawfield Park, Speirs was persuaded to quit Scottish football and made his way south to join English First Division side Bradford City. The Bantams had only just avoided relegation during the 1908/09 season and were again expected to be among the strugglers during the 1909/10 campaign. Speirs made his debut in a 1-0 defeat at Manchester United on 1 September 1909, before playing his first home game at three days later in a 4-1 victory over Bristol City. Despite having to wait 16 games to score his first goal for his new club, Speirs made an immediate impact at Valley Parade and would be an ever-present as City finished seventh in the league and reached the second round of the FA Cup.

The following season saw City secure a highly-respectable fifth-placed finish, with Speirs contributing seven goals from 25 games played. It was an impressive campaign from the Yorkshire side, further enhanced when they beat Newcastle United 1-0 in the the FA Cup Final Replay at Old Trafford to win the illustrious competition for the first and only time in their history. For Speirs, the triumph was yet more memorable as he not only captained the side, but also scored the goal that won the game. It was the pinnacle of Speirs playing career and City were greeted by more than 100,000 fans on their return to Bradford with the trophy after the final.

After the highs of the 1910/11 campaign, the following season proved to be one of frustration for both Speirs and his club. After starting the season well, the City skipper picked up an injury in late September and was be forced to sit on the sidelines until mid-March 1912. In his absence, City struggled with consistency and would eventually finish mid-table in the First Division. In the FA Cup, they beat neighbours Bradford Park Avenue in the third round but were eliminated in the quarter-final by eventual winners, Barnsley.

Despite his injury problems, Speirs began the 1912/13 season well. Having played 13 of his side’s opening 15 games, the Scot struck nine times and was back in top form. In December 1912, however, Speirs ended his three and a half season stay at Bradford City when ambitious Second Division side Leeds City paid £1400 to take him to Elland Road. It was something of a coup for Leeds, by now coached by Herbert Chapman, and was one which they hoped would see them break into the top tier of English football.

In his first season at Leeds, Speirs scored ten goals in 20 games to help them to sixth spot. It was a solid start but one which Leeds and Speirs bettered the following season as they finished fourth, five points behind champions, Notts County. Captaining the side, Speirs scored 12 goals in 29 games and formed a potent partnership with the club’s top-scorer, Billy McLeod, who hit 27.

Heading into the 1914/15 season, which was to be played against the backdrop of World War One, many believed Leeds were good enough to finally secure a place at the top table of English football and confidence was high at the club. Yet Leeds began the season in the worse possible manner, losing their opening four games of the season, and would eventually finish in a lowly 15th spot. It was a disappointing campaign for the club and one which was compounded by a poor showing in the FA Cup. For Speirs, it would also prove to be his last season in English football.

Having played his final game for Leeds in a 2-0 home loss to Barnsley on 24 April 1915, Speirs made the decision to return home to Glasgow to enlist in the British Army. In his ten-year career as a professional footballer, Speirs had played a total of 256 games in all competitions and had scored 104 goals. He had also picked up an FA Cup winners’ medal and had been capped once by his country.

Jimmy Speirs arrived back in Glasgow soon after the culmination of the 1914/15 football season and enlisted in the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders on 17 May 1915. Posted to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion at Invergordon for training one week later, Private S/18170 Speirs soon impressed sufficiently to be appointed lance corporal on 29 July 1915.

On 29 March 1916, Speirs was posted to the 7th (Service) Battalion of the Cameron Highlanders, who had been in France as part of the 15th (Scottish) Division since July 1915, and was subsequently promoted to the rank of full corporal on 19 July 1916 – three weeks into the major British offensive north of the River Somme. As part of a machine-gun squad, Speirs was to be involved in heavy fighting on the Somme and was wounded in his left elbow on 8 September 1916. After treatment behind the lines, Speirs made a swift return to his unit and again saw heavy action during the Battle of Arras in the Spring of 1917.

The 7th Camerons would suffer heavy losses during the offensive and were finally sent back into reserve to regroup and recover. It was during this period that Speirs was to be recommended for the Military Medal, awarded to other ranks for “Bravery in the Field”. The award was subsequently granted and notification was posted in the Supplement to The London Gazette on 9 July 1917.

Having come through his first two years of service relatively unscathed, Speirs was appointed acting sergeant on 1 June 1917 before being promoted to full sergeant. Soon after, Speirs was granted home leave and would spend time in Glasgow, Leeds and Bradford before returning to his unit during the second week of July 1917. Two weeks later, the British Army launched a major offensive around the Ypres Salient in Belgium.

On 20 August 1917, the 7th Camerons moved into lines east of St Julien, where they prepared for an attack on a German strongpoint at Hill 35. Leaving their trenches at Pommern Redoubt, the battalion made progress but were soon held up by heavy machine gun fire coming from Gallipoli Farm and Iberian Farm. After suffering heavy losses, the were relieved on 24 August 1917 and made their way to Erie Camp, south-east of Poperinghe.

Of the 15 officers and 450 other ranks that had gone into action, the Camerons had suffered a total of 144 casualties. Among the missing was Sgt Speirs, who was reported to have been hit in the thigh during the attack. Despite initial hopes that the popular NCO had been taken prisoner, no further information was received and Speirs was eventually reported missing presumed dead.

The 7th Battalion of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders would see further action in the First World War, until 600 of its men were transferred to the 6th (Service) Battalion on 10 June 1918 and it was reduced to cadre. In August 1918, the was disbanded as part of the British Army’s major restructuring.

In October 1919 Speirs’s wife, Bessie, received news that her husband’s body had been found on the battlefield where he had fallen, close to Iberian Farm. On 20 August 1920, she received further communication from the War Office advising her that her husband was now officially recorded as being “Killed in Action or Died of Wounds on or shortly after 20 August 1917.’ Finally, on 6 October 1921, Bessie Speirs was informed that her husband’s remains had been buried at Dochy Farm Cemetery, located north-west of Zonnebeke. It had been more than four years since his death and two since his body had been found on the battlefield.

In one final and sad twist of fate, Jimmy Speirs was to lie under a mis-spelled headstone for almost eight decades following a clerical error on his enlistment in 1915. It was not until 2007 that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission finally agreed to remove the stone recording his name as Spiers and replaced it with one that carried the correct spelling.

A full list of sources used to create this page can be found here.


Jimmy Speirs - History

Jimmy Speirs was born on March 22 nd 1886 in Govan, Glasgow. The 5 th of 6 children of James Hamilton Speirs and Janet Shields Speirs. He Married Elizabeth Lennox Maben on 24 th October 1906. On December 11 th 1907 James Hamilton Speirs was born with Elizabeth Maben Speirs following on August 6 th 1912.

He worked as a clerk while playing inside forward for Annandale F.C. He won the Glasgow Junior Cup in 1904-05. He then moved to Lochburn Park Maryhill Juniors before moving onto Glasgow Rangers in 1905.

Jimmy made his debut on the 25 th September 1905, Speirs had to wait until 2 weeks after to score his 1 st goal against Port Glasgow again winning the Glasgow Merchants cup scoring in the semi-final and final of the competition. Speirs had 53 appearances, scoring 24 goals in 3 years at Ibrox. In his final year he also won his only cap for Scotland in a 2-1 victory over Wales on the 7 th March 1908

In the summer of 1908 he joined Clyde spending one year at Shawfield Stadium. Speirs only played 14 games but helped them to their highest league position of third, 3 points behind winners Celtic.

After a year at Clyde in the summer of 1909 Jimmy moved south and joined Bradford City spending 2 years at Valley Parade making 86 appearances, scoring 29 times. It was here that Jimmy wrote his name in the History books as Bradford winning Captain in the FA Cup in 1910-11 season against Newcastle United after a replay. Scoring the only goal of the game.

In December 1912 he signed for Leeds United for a fee of £1200 appearing 73 times scoring 32 times. Due to the outbreak of the 1 st World War Jimmy returned to Glasgow at the end of the 1914-15 season and enlisted in the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders on 17 th May 1915.

Conscription (the draft) was a year away which Speirs would have been exempt due to him being married with 2 young children. Private S/18170 was posted to the Regiments headquarters in Inverness. He was appointed Lance Corporal while on training, He was posted overseas on 29 th May 1916. Later that same year he wounded his elbow.

In April 1917 Speirs took part in the second battle of Arras, for which he was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in May 1917. Having returned home on leave for a short time he returned to France where he was killed during the Battle of Passchendaele around 20 th August 1917 aged 31. He is buried at Dochy Farm New British Cemetary near Ypres in Belgium.

Jimmy Speirs was initiated into Lodge Saint Vincent Sandyford No.553 on the 11 th March 1908, Football took him away but he returned and became a Master Mason, then Life Member on 12 th February 1913


Jimmy Speirs

James Hamilton Speirs MM (1886-1917) was born in the Glaswegian district of Govan on 22 March 1886 and died in Belgium on 20 August 1917. A renowned inside-forward, Speirs scored more than one hundred goals during a ten-year career in Scottish and English professional football and captained Bradford City to their sole FA Cup triumph in 1911. Speirs enlisted the British Army during the First World War and would ultimately lose his life serving with the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders during the Third Battle of Ypres.

Football Career

Speirs began his football career at hugely-successful local amateur side Maryhill FC, where his impressive performances soon caught the attention of Scottish giants Glasgow Rangers. After completing the 1904/05 season with Maryhill, Speirs moved to Ibrox with teammate John McFie in the summer of 1905 and would make his debut on 25 September 1905 in a 5-0 defeat against Heart of Midlothian.

Despite this disappointing start, Speirs soon settled at Rangers and would go on to score nine times in 21 games by the end his debut season at the club. Furthermore, Speirs would also win his first piece of silverware as Rangers beat Queens Park 3-2 in the final of the Glasgow Merchants’ Charity Cup. The following season was to prove even more productive for Speirs, if not for Rangers, as he struck what would prove to be a career-best 13 goals in 22 league games for the club. Despite this impressive contribution from Speirs however, Rangers could only manage a disappointing third-place finish, languishing some 10 points behind champions, and arch rivals, Celtic.

The 1907/08 campaign would prove similarly underwhelming for Rangers as they again finished two places behind Celtic, who finished as champions of Scotland for the fourth successive season. For Speirs, the season would also represent his last at Ibrox and in the summer of 1908, he moved across Glasgow to join Clyde, then based in Rutherglen. Speirs made his debut in a 1-0 victory over Hamilton Academical on 15 August 1908, and would go on to hit score a respectable 10 goals in 20 games as Clyde finished third in the league and progressing to the semi-final or the cup.

After just one season at Shawfield Park, Speirs was persuaded to quit Scottish football and made his way south to join English First Division side Bradford City. The Bantams had only just avoided relegation during the 1908/09 season and were again expected to be among the strugglers during the 1909/10 campaign. After making his debut in a 1-0 defeat at Manchester United on 1 September 1909, Speirs played his first home game at three days later in a 4-1 victory over Bristol City. Despite having to wait 16 games to score his first goal for his new club, Speirs made an immediate impact at Valley Parade and would be an ever-present as City finished seventh in the league and reached the Second Round of the FA Cup.

The following season saw City secure a highly-respectable fifth-placed finish, with Speirs contributing seven goals from 25 games played. It was an impressive campaign from the Yorkshire side, further enhanced when they beat Newcastle United 1-0 in the the FA Cup Final Replay at Old Trafford to win the illustrious competition for the first and only time in their history. For Speirs the triumph was yet more memorable as he not only captained the side, but also scored the goal that won the game. It was the pinnacle of Speirs playing career and City were greeted by more than 100,000 fans on their return to Bradford with the trophy after the final.

After the highs of the 1910/11 campaign, the following season proved to be one of frustration for both Speirs and his club. After starting the season well, the City skipper picked up an injury in late September and was be forced to sit on the sidelines until mid-March 1912. In his absence, City struggled with consistency and would eventually finish mid-table in the First Division. In the FA Cup, they beat neighbours Bradford Park Avenue in the Third Round but were eliminated in the quarter final by eventual winners Barnsley.

Despite his injury problems, Speirs began the 1912/13 season well. Having played 13 of his side’s opening 15 games, the Scot struck nine times and was back in top form. In December 1912 however, Speirs ended his three and a half season stay at Bradford City when ambitious Second Division side Leeds City paid £1400 to take him to Elland Road. It was something of a coup for Leeds, by now coached by Herbert Chapman, and was one which they hoped would see them break into the top tier of English football.

In his first season at Leeds, Speirs scored ten goals in 20 games to help them to sixth spot. It was a solid start but one which Leeds and Speirs bettered the following season as they finished fourth, five points behind champions Notts County. Captaining the side, Speirs scored 12 goals in 29 games and formed a potent partnership with the club’s top-scorer Billy McLeod, who hit 27.

Heading into the 1914/15 season, many believed Leeds were good enough to finally secure a place at the top table of English football and confidence was high at the club. Yet Leeds began the season in the worse possible manner, losing their opening four games of the season, and would eventually finish in a lowly 15th spot. It was a disappointing campaign for the club and one which was compounded by a poor showing in the FA Cup. For Speirs, it would also prove to be his last season in English football.

Having played his final game for Leeds in a 2-0 home loss to Barnsley on 24 April 1915, Speirs made the decision to return home to Glasgow to enlist in the British Army. In his ten-year career as a professional footballer, Speirs had played a total of 256 games in all competitions and had scored 104 goals. He had also picked up an FA Cup winners’ medal and had been capped once by his country.

First World War Service

Speirs arrived back in Glasgow soon after the culmination of the 1914/15 football season and enlisted in the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders on 17 May 1915. Posted to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion at Invergordon for training one week later, Private S/18170 Speirs soon impressed sufficiently to be appointed lance corporal on 29 July 1915. He was then posted to the 7th (Service) Battalion of the Cameron Highlanders on 29 March and was promoted to the rank of corporal on 19 July 1916 – three weeks into the major British offensive north of the River Somme.

As part of a machine-gun squad, Speirs was to be involved in heavy fighting on the Somme and was wounded in his left elbow on 8 September 1916. After treatment behind the lines, Speirs made a swift return to his unit and again saw heavy action during the Battle of Arras in the Spring of 1917. Having sustained significant casualties, the 7th Camerons were finally sent back into reserve to regroup and recover. It was during this period that Speirs was to be recommended for the Military Medal, awarded to other ranks for bravery in the field. The award was subsequently granted and notification was posted in the Supplement to The London Gazette on 7 July 1917.

Having come through his first two years of service relatively unscathed, Speirs was appointed acting-sergeant on 1 June 1917 before being promoted to sergeant. Soon after, Speirs was granted home leave and would spend time in Glasgow, Leeds and Bradford before returning to his unit during the second week of July 1917. Two weeks later, the British Army launched a major offensive around the Ypres Salient in Belgium.

On 20 August 1917, the 7th Camerons moved into lines east of St Julien, where they prepared for an attack on a German strongpoint at Hill 35. Leaving their trenches at Pommern Redoubt, the battalion made progress but were soon held up by heavy machine gun fire coming from Gallipoli Farm and Iberian Farm. After suffering heavy losses, the were relieved on 24 August and made their way to Erie Camp, south east of Poperinghe.

Of the 15 officers and 450 other ranks that had gone into action, the Camerons had suffered a total of 144 casualties. Among the missing was Sgt Speirs, who was reported to have been hit in the thigh during the attack. Despite initial hopes that the popular NCO had been taken prisoner, no further information was received and Speirs was eventually reported ‘missing presumed dead’.

In October 1919, Bessie Speirs received news that her husband’s body had been found on the battlefield where he had fallen, close to Iberian Farm. On 20 August 1920, she received further communication from the War Office advising her that her husband was now officially recorded as being ‘Killed in Action or Died of Wounds on or shortly after 20 August 1917.’ Finally, on 6 October 1921, Bessie Speirs was informed that her husband’s remains had been buried at Dochy Farm Cemetery, located north-west of Zonnebeke. It had been more than four years since his death and two since his body had been found on the battlefield.

In one final and sad twist of fate, Speirs was to lie under a mis-spelled headstone for almost eight decades following a clerical error on his enlistment in 1915. It was not until 2007 that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission finally agreed to remove the stone recording his name as Spiers and replaced it with one that carried the correct spelling.

COMPLETE CAREER STATISTICAL RECORD

Season Club League Pos FA Cup League Games League Goals FA Cup Games FA Cup Goals
1904/05 Maryhill
1905/06 Rangers 4th (Scottish First Division) 18 6 3 3
1906/07 Rangers 3rd (Scottish First Division) 22 13 3 1
1907/08 Rangers 3rd (Scottish First Division) 13 5 3 1
1908/09 Clyde 3rd (Scottish First Division) 14 7 6 3
1909/10 Bradford City 7th (First Division) R2 38 6 2 1
1910/11 Bradford City 5th (First Division) W 25 7 6 2
1911/12 Bradford City 11th (First Division) R4 10 7 2 1
1912/13 Bradford City 13th (First Division) R1 13 9
1912/13 Leeds City 6th (Second Division) R1 19 10 1
1913/14 Leeds City 4th (Second Division) R2 29 12 2
1914/15 Leeds City 15th (Second Division) R2 25 10 2
Summary
Bradford City 86 29 10 4
Clyde 14 7 6 3
Leeds City 73 32 5 0
Rangers 53 24 9 5
Totals 226 92 30 12

A full list of sources used to create this page can be found here.


Going goggle-eyed

Gogglebox – one of several come-bake-off-with-the-bride type programmes the girls of my family insist I must watch when I could be reading football memorabilia books – had its heroes viewing The Apprentice last time. I’ve always loathed this showcase for Alan Sugar, and the kids have finally banned me from delivering my solemn lecture about how it sets a bad example to the country, portraying work as an exercise in flogging tat, then backstabbing and bullying to have colleagues unfairly dismissed, by bosses who heroically overrate themselves.

The Gogglebox people are all nice(ish) and funny(ish), qualities vital to keep at bay total self-loathing that we are gathered as a family, watching on telly other people watching telly. But when the warm, cuddly Gogglebox folk watched The Apprentice, they turned mean, urging Lord Sugar to lift his stubby finger for a triple sacking, then cheering and rubbing their hands when he did. Amid the worries about rancour and dissatisfaction besetting Britain, basing so much popular culture on summary firing cannot be doing much good.


Place in History

Lieutenant Colonel Ronald C Speirs retired from the Army on 31 st March, 1964. He had served 22 years in the military and his career had spanned one of the most turbulent and dangerous periods in human history.

Commissioned into the Army at 22 years of age, Speirs joined the paratroopers – a new concept for an infantry fighting force – which at that time had only been used by the Germans and was originally disliked by US Army Commanders.

The Forties

The 101st Airborne was activated on 16 th August 1942 at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. It’s first commander Major General William C Lee declared to his paratroopers in General Order Number 5, dated 19 th August, that ‘the 101st has no history but has a rendezvous with destiny.’

The start of Speirs’ military career was set against the backdrop of World War II – the deadliest conflict in history. It was a global war, fought in Europe, Africa, Asia and on the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Over 100 million people served in the military and countries placed their entire economic, industrial and scientific efforts towards winning the war.

It was a war which saw the mass killing of civilians and resulted in over 60 million dead – the equivalent of 2.5% of the world’s population. It can’t be forgotten that it was also a war that included one of the most shameful events in human history – the holocaust. Added to this, World War II was the first and only war in which nuclear weapons have been used.

Speirs was part of that war. He parachuted behind enemy lines, directly into hostile territory on D-Day. He participated in Operation Market-Garden, the Battle of the Bulge and was part of the force that liberated Hitler’s Eagles Nest.

Post World War II saw the emergence of the United States and the Soviet Union as the world’s two global superpowers and then – due to differing ideologies – the start of the Cold War between them. Though the two never fought directly against each other they did fight indirectly by supporting opposing sides in many global conflicts that followed.

The Fifties

America in the 1950s was prosperous with growth in the manufacturing and construction industries, but was a nation highly concerned by the spread of communism – McCarthyism and the Second Red Scare are both terms associated with this period. This decade also saw the arrest of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg on charges of passing secret information on the atomic bomb to the Soviets, which ultimately lead to the execution of both. This still remains the only time in American history that two civilians have been executed for treason.

The Korean War started on 25 th June, 1950 and by 15 th September, 1950 Speirs was in theatre. The United States’ involvement resulted from the United Nations Security Council’s Resolution 84 which authorized military intervention. China and the Soviet Union backed the Northern Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. It is often called the Forgotten War but resulted in 33,686 battle deaths, 2,830 non-battle deaths and 8,176 missing in action. 1

American tanks and troops at Checkpoint Charlie

American Car Escorted By The East German Police

East German construction workers

Meanwhile, Berlin was a divided city still controlled by the Allies after World War II. Spiers was stationed there first as a Foreign Intelligence Officer in 1956 and then as Director of Spandau Prison in 1957. He left Berlin in 1958.

The Sixties

The 1960s was a decade which would see incredible change and seismic shifts in social attitudes and expectations. The decade began with the election and inauguration of President John F Kennedy on 20 th January, 1961. A former United States Senator from Massachusetts – the same state as Ronald Speirs – Kennedy, at 43 years old, was the second youngest president ever to be elected. It was a Presidency which began with an optimistic vision often described as a ‘Camelot’ because of its potential and promise for the future – but ended with the shocking assassination of President Kennedy.

In Europe, the construction of the Berlin Wall by East Germany began on 13 th August, 1961 and completely annexed West Berlin from East Berlin. This wall would stand for 28 years – until 9 th November, 1989.

Check Point Charlie, a crossing point in the Berlin Wall, was the scene of one of the most dangerous events of the Cold War occurring on 22 nd October, 1961 and was second in magnitude only to the Cuban Missile Crisis. It began when East German guards tried to examine the travel documents of a U.S. diplomat and ended with American and Soviet tanks facing each other less than 100 metres apart. The crisis was resolved on 28 th October, 1961 but highlighted the on-going and potentially deadly tensions between the US and the Soviets.

In Asia, the Laotian Civil War – to which Speirs was deployed 28 th August, 1961 – was another conflict that involved the United States and the Soviets arming, equipping and supporting the two differing and opposing sides.

The world held its breath in October 1962 as the United States and the Soviets began a 13 day impasse due to nuclear missile sites being built by the Soviets on the island of Cuba. This became known as the Cuban Missile Crisis and was the deadliest stand-off yet between the United States and the Soviets. This crisis brought the world to the brink of a nuclear war.

It was during the Cuban Missile Crisis that Speirs – working in the Plans Branch, Plans and Policy Division, Civil Affairs Directorate (ODCSOPS) in Washington DC – would receive a further military accolade. According to his Army Commendation Medal, 2 “Lieutenant Colonel Speirs assumed responsibility for the Plans and Policy Division, Civil Affairs Directorate, in the midst of the Cuban crisis of 1962 and provided the necessary leadership and guidance needed during this critical period.” His Army Commendation Medal also mentions his work during the Haitian crisis in 1963 when marshal law was imposed in Port-au-Prince, Haiti because of the threat of invasion from the Dominic Republic which resulted in the US State Department issuing a warning advising all Americans to evacuate. “Lieutenant Colonel Speirs directed his branch in providing timely and vital civil affairs planning support to the overall effort.” While his Legion of Merit 3 medal states, “In the field of civil affairs he demonstrated a profound understanding of existing politico-military situations and played a major role in the timely civil affairs support provided for military units involved in operations during periods of international crises.”

Protest Against The War In Vietnam

Ballistic Missile Site in Cuba

The sixties will always be remembered and associated with the Vietnam War – a war whose roots can be traced to Indochina and which began well over a decade earlier. Though Speirs did not serve in Vietnam, he did serve in Laos, part of Indochina where in 1961 he was a Senior Military Advisor. US involvement in Vietnam escalated in the early 1960s with an exponential increase of US troops in situ. This war would divide America and cause a fault line which exposed two sides – those for and those against – which ran across social and political boundaries. Continued involvement in Vietnam would lead to mass student demonstration, draft evasion, and distrust in public government.

Speirs continued his work at the Pentagon and was directly responsible for writing several basic civil affairs policy documents on behalf of the Department of Defence which “added new status to civil affairs planning by initiating a systematic and realistic review of civil affairs support of all contingency plans taken under consideration by this Directorate.” 4

His Legion of Merit awarded for “exceptionally meritorious service while serving in positions of responsibility from October 1961 to March 1964” further states, “Colonel Speirs’ outstanding effectiveness as a military leader, administrator, and organiser was of great value in furthering military objectives of major importance to the security effort worldwide” and continues, “by his inspiring leadership, professional competence, and devotion to duty, he contributed materially to the readiness posture of the armed forces of his country and to the defence effort of the Nation. Colonel Speirs’ distinguished performance of duty throughout this period represents outstanding achievement in the most cherished traditions of the United States Army and reflects the utmost credit upon himself and the military service.”

Lieutenant Colonel Ronald C Speirs retired from the military on 31 st March 1964 after serving 22 years on active duty.


Jimmy Speirs: A hero on the pitch and in battle

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Unlikely sporting successes tend to have ancillary benefits, too. In this case, one positive offshoot would be that the Yorkshire club would become famous to contemporary football fans for more than an appalling fire that claimed 56 lives at Valley Parade in 1985.

Regardless of the result, another positive ramification of Bradford’s march to Wembley is that it has provided a context for the telling of one of the most magical life stories to have taken form in the pre-War period when so many Scots helped the game in England to grow.

Jimmy Speirs was a Glaswegian war hero, a sergeant in the Cameron Highlanders who claimed the Military Medal for bravery in the field before perishing near Ypres in Belgium in 1917.

He was also, before volunteering, a Bradford City hero one whose contribution to the lore of the club has never been surpassed. Bradford won the FA Cup in 1911 and Jimmy Speirs was the captain and the scorer of the only goal by which Bradford beat Newcastle United 1-0 at the second attempt. Remarkably, he was one of eight Scots in the Bradford team that day.

“Jimmy Speirs was a man who died a lonely death in a muddy field, but six years earlier he was cheered to the rafters by tens of thousands of Bradford City fans for giving the club their greatest moment,” says Dave Pendleton, author of Glorious 1911, the story of Bradford’s only major trophy up to now. “I think that massive contrast is what adds to the fascination around him – plus the fact we have won bugger all since!

“But he was our captain, goalscorer, a real leader of men and quite a guy – apparently he had made a load of money from rubber shares – who then volunteered to fight for his country. He was a remarkable character.”

Before moving south Speirs was a goalscorer of note for Rangers, Clyde and Maryhill, the winner of a Scotland cap in 1908 and an inside left who was bought for £1,400 by the legendary Herbert Chapman when he was in charge at Leeds City – an eye-watering sum at the time. But his story has been curiously under-told, perhaps because Bradford have so rarely been of national news value.

The Scottish Football Museum has no Jimmy Speirs exhibit, while the SFA begrudgingly notes his international recognition in an online biography, dwelling on the fact that he “never really hit the high spots” during his time at Ibrox. This seems a conclusion based entirely on statistics because subsequent research into his life, character and importance to pre-War football has been revelatory.

The website jimmy-speirs.co.uk is a treasure trove of insight that has been lovingly put together by historian Andrew Pickles, with the help of Speirs’ grandchildren.

This was a footballer who didn’t just make history, but one who kept mementoes of it. Like, for example, his Leeds City player’s ticket, and commemorative menus from two dinners held to mark Bradford’s appearance in the 1911 FA Cup final. One was hosted by Sir William Priestley MB at the Trocadero in Piccadilly Circus after the original final at the Crystal Palace ended in a 0-0 draw, and the other by Bradford supporters at the city’s Victoria Hotel after the 1911 replay at Old Trafford, when Speirs’ header settled a needle contest.

Bradford was only an eight-year-old club at the time but there were 66,646 at the replay, with an estimated 30,000 locked out. And the celebrations back in the West Ridings city brought 100,000 out on to the streets to welcome Speirs and his fellow heroes home.

The Leeds Mercury reported: “The Cup has come home and Bradford has gone mad with delight. In the long history of the city there has never been anything to equal the extraordinary scenes which took place this evening.”

As captain, it fell upon Speirs to speak both at a civic reception held by the Lord Mayor, and on the steps at Old Trafford after he had received the famous trophy. He reportedly said that Bradford’s success would do a lot for football in Yorkshire and that he and his team had fulfilled a great ambition he finished by calling for three cheers for Newcastle United.

Every item of recorded evidence of Jimmy Speirs’ life builds the impression of a gallant individual, a leader of men who put principle before self-preservation. It was to be his undoing.

According to the website, he enlisted for service in a Glasgow recruiting office on 17 May, 1915 – more than a year before conscription. “Even then,” writes Pickles, “Jimmy would have been exempted on the grounds of being married with two young children.” Two years and three months later, Bessie Speirs would be widowed and Jimmy jnr and Elizabeth left without a father. But only after Jimmy had ascended from private to corporal and then sergeant, been wounded by a gunshot to the elbow in France in August 1916 and been awarded the Military Medal the following May, after the Second Battle of Arras. According to reports, Bessie’s last communication from her husband was the dreaded “we’re going over the parapet tomorrow”. His body was found some days later, and he was laid to rest at Dochy Farm New British Cemetery.

Jimmy Speirs scored 29 goals in three seasons at Rangers, ten in his only season with Clyde, 33 in four years at Bradford and 32 for Leeds City in the three seasons that preceded the outbreak of hostilities across Europe. And on one afternoon in Manchester, to Bradford City fans he became immortal.


Watch the video: Sing for the Boys Jimmy Speirs


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