Glory, Titanic and damn honesty - 1911-12

Yeovil team travel to a match in 1911 

 In late August 1911, Petters United's energetic Secretary, Mr Hares headed off to the Charlton House Hotel in  Shepton Mallet with one objective, to ensure Petters United would become a Senior football club and enter the Somerset Senior league. Thus competing on a level field as Yeovil football club. In front of the Somerset FA Committee, Mr Hare pulled a little emotional blackmail out of the bag by declaring that unless Petters were allowed into the senior league they would have not alternative to disband. He voiced that a progressive town such as Yeovil should be able to have two senior clubs. With a promise that no poaching of players would happen the Somerset committee granted Petters wish.

Petters at this time were a nomadic football club with no home ground to call it's own. They had used pitches such as the County schools one in Kingston, the old Yeovil pitch at West Hendford and in the past couple of seasons a roped off pitch at Victoria Road. It is interesting how they were allowed entry into senior football with such basic amenities.

One thing they did have though was financial backing, with President Ernest Petter, later to be Sir Ernest. The club didn't have much as this point, however they had ambition and the resources to finance it. 

Meanwhile, at the Glovers AGM, a record profit had been announced of £71, mainly down to gate receipts. After 15 years Ernest Davis had stepped down as honourable treasurer and chairman of the committee after years of selfless work for the club. As a mark of respect he was giving life membership, which he gratefully received. In his 15 years as treasurer Mr Davis had attended nearly 300 meetings. 

M Farr broke the unwritten rule of 'one term and you're out' and was voted back in as President. Herb Cook the legendary keeper confirmed his resignation from the club and the committee. 

The season started with a money earner for the Hospital fund, a trial match between Colours and Whites. A match that the press described as surprisingly well attended. 

The miners of Camerton FC were the first visitors to Pen Mill a pre season friendly , the conquerers of the Glovers in the previous seasons Charity Cup still fresh in the mind. A make shift side of reserves, trialist and the odd first team player sneaked a 1-1 draw with Bill Seymour scoring a penalty near the end.

One can only summise the players reaction when the fixtures were announced and Blandford away was first up. The Glovers headed of to the Recreation ground, Blandford with a team with little experience and full of reserve players., in fact six players making their debuts. Someone Blandford were without this season was Nesbitt in defence and his right handers! 

Blandford had changed from old, they had ditched the hard line tactics and now we're playing nice passing football. Two evenly matched teams arrived at half time with the scores at 0-0. Yeovil in the second half took control, winning 2-1 with Hayward on the score sheet. 

The team for the opening fixture of the 1911-12 season being :

Nicholls, H. Seymour, Johnson, Glanville, W. Seymour, Maidment, Harris, Bowen, Hayward, Young, Garrett

William Glanville coming up from the reserves where he would be an influential part of the team. Maidment, previously had played for Weslayan FC, the church side locally. Garrett had floated between Petters and Petters Reserves in previous years. The previous clubs of A. Johnson, Harris and H. Bowen are unknown. 

William Glanville 

Timsbury AFC, a village team from near Bath were a new entity when they came to Pen Mill for the first home league match of the season. Playing their first season in the Somerset Senior league, a big crowd turned out on a beautiful September afternoon to watch the new boys against their heroes. Yeovil again were without Hayward and again far from full strength. With the away side 2-1 ahead at half time things were looking not so  hopeful for the Glovers. Dicky Larcombe managed an equaliser though, which set the Pen Mill faithful in raptures. As Timsbury pressed for the winner in the last four minutes, the ball came to Harris still in his own half, who quickly spotted the Timsbury keeper off his line and with a towering shot that sailed between the post. The points were Yeovil's. 

Timsbury AFC circa 1911

It was a case of Deja vu, when Yeovil travelled to Stoke-sub-hamdon again in the Somerset charity cup. The novelty had worn off and not quite a big a crowd as the previous season saw the 'Quarrymen' score once but went down 3-1,Hayward in his first game of the season with a brace. 

If the Cup draw Gods could have given the Glovers a worse draw then it was hard to imagine. Away to Frome, where their track record was appealing. In fact Yeovil had lost their last six games there. The usual GWR packed with Yeovil fans arrived at Badgers Hill and were slightly subdued. They had every reason to be, the team were outclassed and the final 2-0 scoreline to Frome wasn't a true reflection of their dominance. 

Frome Town FC 1911

After St Luke's College paid a visit only to find Hayward in fine form, scoring all three in a 3-0 win, it was the match all of Yeovil had wanted to see for years. The two big clubs in the town against each other. Yeovil v Petters United. This encounter being in the Somerset Charity Cup. Fans from both teams packed the ground. Both sides producing their best line ups, Yeovil choosing Walter Sweet over Nicholls the ex-Crewkerne keeper. The match was end to end, both fighting for local pride and bragging rights in the numerous pubs around town. Sweet pulled off a breathtaking save against the Black and Amber shirted Petters. The action lulled late in the game and a replay looked to be on the cards. In the last minute, Yeovil's Harry Harbour received a long pass at the hotel end, he controlled perfectly and passed immediately into the path of Charlie Larcombe who fired in an unstoppable shot. flat caps were thrown high as Yeovil took the town pride. 

Yeovil displayed what we would label these days as 'game management' away to Bradford-on-Avon in the Somerset league. With Yeovil 2-1 up, Clarke for some unknown reason had to set off back to Somerset, the Yeovil players at each opportunity kicked the ball high up the pitch and into touch, rugby style. The tactic wasn't to the liking of the sparse crowd, the Glovers caring not a jot continued it until the end and taking the two points back home to South Somerset. 

At 2-0 down after just a few minutes, the trip to Timsbury in front of 300 vocal local supporters indicated it was going to be a long afternoon. The Glovers showed determination and fought back to 2-2 before the end .

The leading team in West Somerset, Minehead FC arrived at Pen Mill to contest the semi-final of the Somerset Charity Cup, still a cup that most clubs didn't bother with. Only nine teams competing for it this year. Minehead, arrived and were badly underrated by everyone at Pen Mill, including the players. The Minehead team playing nice passing football disposed of the Glovers 2-1. In Minehead people waited patiently outside the telegram office and celebrated jubilantly waiting for the 8.55pm train to pull in with the team aboard. Minehead went into win the Charity Cup and almost every cup they entered that season. 

Minehead FC 1911-12

After a fine but boring one sided match at Pen Mill against Dorchester Town, easily won 5-0 with little opposition, the Glovers travelled to Bournemouth. Opponents this time were Bournemouth Wanderers, who had set up home at Dean Court, Bournemouth. Although officially it was the home of Boscombe FC, an awful performance in front of a good crowd saw Yeovil defeated 4-1 and Maughan miss a penalty. At Weymouth a week later the Glovers took on the Royal Garrison, not the ideal team to play as they'd been 'strengthened in all divisions by valuable acquasitions recently drafted from Portsmouth' in front of 150 soldiers the Glovers were out and run out muscled on a pitch that made good football impossible, going down 3-1.

A large crowd turned out on Boxing day  to watch the 2nd Scott's Guards take on the Glovers., although one can guess most being disappointed when after paying their admission fee at the entrance next to the Pen Mill they found the Yeovil team made up almost entirely of reserves. They did a good job though, winning 4-1.

The entrance to the Pen Mill stadium 

1912 came round and one suspects not many Glovers fans made the Somerset League trip to Frome, knowing full well the likely outcome. In fact Frome had not lost a Somerset league match at home for nearly four years. On the day though, the Glovers showed that they had pulled together a fine side that could make a serious challenge for honours. Walter Sweet in goal cementing his place with a fine penalty save and reacting quickly to save the rebound, his save meaning the teams were 0-0 at "lemons". The second half saw the Glovers control from start to finish, firstly Charlie Larcombe scored from a follow up, then Pennell added a second and in the last ten minutes Johnny Hayward finished the Robins off with a fast run and shot. The Frome press offhandishly put the match down as a poor one with Yeovil hardly any better than Frome. 

Blandford had been flying in the Dorset League, sitting top, four points ahead of Yeovil, and it was they who travelled to Pen Mill next. The match was end to end, Blandford for large parts in control of the match. Walter Sweet in goal repeated his feat of week earlier saving a Blandford penalty in the first half, much to the delight of the spectators in the grandstand. The second half again was end to end until the 85th minute when a penalty was awarded to Yeovil at the Camborne end. Harry Pennell stepped up and blasted it into the net. With Blandford attacking to find a late equaliser, Hayward in typical fashion broke away and slotted it past the keeper with almost the last kick of the match. 

Another old rival Street FC arrived a week later, there second visit to Yeovil in a matter of weeks, as Petters had defeated them at their Victoria road ground previously. Street had also entered the stronger Western League and it was that they were putting their resources into. Yeovil continued their fine form with a brace from Hayward, his second being described as a thunderous. 

The preamble to a report of the match against Portland on the 27th January 1911, describes perfectly how the life of a Yeovil player and players in general was in these times. 

' to start with no proper facilities were provided for the visiting team, they having to encroach upon the genorosity of the soldiers at Verne, where the match was played. Then after divesting themselves of their 'togs' and assuming the attire applicable to the 'soccer' game a move was made to the field. Here not a soul was to be seen. No corner flags were up, and the game was consequently played without these necessary objects. At the kick off there were six spectators, four of which were Yeovilians, including the writer of this journal. This meagre number watched the match until just before the end when a few more arrived from another match played locally. Added to all this was the accompanying high and bleak Eastardly wind, which made one wish for the fireside. Players and spectators were numbed with the cold. It was with relief when the referee signalled the end of the match, which ended 0-0'

Through February, the Glovers were flying, three hard matches, all at home against Poole, Bournemouth Wanderers and Frome had produced ten goals and none conceded. All played out to exceedingly large crowds and each match being the hot topic in the town. However, after the Poole match the most honest secretary had notice that Ricketts, a reserve player drafted in at the last minute had, although signed forms for all the other leagues, had not signed his Dorset FA registration. He immediately contacted the Dorset FA to highlight the oversight. In an act of surprise to all, even the other teams in the league instead of a small fine, the Dorset FA deducted the club two points. It would have a devistating affect later on in the season. 

March came bringing it the biggest match so far and the most difficult, away to top of the Somerset League, Trowbridge Town, unbeaten all season in all leagues. The week leading upto the match, Trowbridge journalist were given the odds of a Yeovil win as zero, the 'Moonrakers' were far too superior, they articulated. On the day over a 1000 descended to the Flower Show Field, Trowbridge's quaintly named enclosure, with the grandstand packed long before the scheduled starting time. 

The Grandstand at the Flower Show field 

Trowbridge as was to be expected started the stronger with near constant attacks. Yeovil hardly getting out of their own penalty area. However, after twenty minutes Hayward got the ball out wide, jinxed a couple of players and played a half volley straight across the edge of the box, where Harry Harbour with a first time shot buried it into the net. The Yeovilians on the ropes and Grandstand went crazy. In the second half, it was all Trowbridge, non stop like bees around the goal. The defenders headed, kicked, tackled jostled and battled for 45 minutes until referee Mr. Russell from Swindon blew his whistle to signal the end. It was the perfect snatch and grab. It was too much to take for some Trowbridge fans who turned to hooliganism attacking Yeovil supporters. The result left Trowbridge still top, two points ahead with Yeovil three games in hand. 

Trowbridge Town FC 1911-12

Petters United were having a torid time in their first season in Senior football, bottom of the league and having zero luck. The visit of Yeovil, would at least give the 'ironworkers' a chance to obtain local bragging rights. Over 1000 walked past Pen Mill a little further down the road to Victoria Road to a field with a rope around it. Both sets of fans throwing insults at each other whilst on the way and whilst lining the ropes. The match was a one sided affair, Sweet in goal for the Glovers  barely touching the ball, and Petters resulting to kick and rush. The 2-0 scoreline to Yeovil not doing their dominance justice. 

April 1912 arrived, little did anyone connected with Yeovil football club know at this point that it would be one that played with the emotions of all. 

Bradford-on-Avon were up first, Yeovil just three points from clinching the Somerset league championship with three to play. It was all too easy for the Glovers, a 4-0 win with Hayward scoring twice to add to his tally.  Next up, two days later were Branksome Gas, the old foe. Both teams still in with a high chance to be crowned champions. The match pulled the biggest gate ever seen at Pen Mill, over 3000 paying over £30 to see which one would fall and which one would still be alive in the championship race after. The answer was Yeovil, in an exciting match goals from Dick Larcombe and Johnny Hayward kept the double dream alive. 

The matches were relentless, the very next day, another home game, win this and the Glovers would be the Somerset league champions for the first time in ten years, the team in their way - Petters United. With this being the 3rd home match in 4 days, it was hardly surprising the gate for this one although large was not in comparison to the Branksone match. Most also seeing it as a forgone conclusion. They were right, Petters were no match, the Larcombe brothers running a mock, destroyed them 4-0. The result also cementing Petters to the bottom of the league. It goes without saying the takings in the local pubs rose that night. 

One person who probably heard of the Glovers success was Henry 'Harry' Spinner. A valued and much loved member of the playing side, mostly for the reserves but occasionally for the first team, trusted in some high profile matches. Harry had moved to Yeovil in 1911, from Worcester, enticed to the town by the glove industry, his stock trade. Harry immediately joined the football club, being on the working committee also. In 1912, Harry decided like William Barnes before him his future lay in Gloversville USA. Leaving his wife Harriet and four year old daughter Alice behind to follow on later. Leaving Southampton the day after Yeovil's Somerset league glory on the Titanic. The rest is history, his body was never found and his tragic loss felt all over the town, none more so than at Pen Mill. 

Henry 'Harry' Spinner 

With the Somerset league in the bag, the club went looking for the double a week later as the soldiers of the Royal Garrison arrived at Pen Mill. The usual large crowd crammed the ropes, to witness another victory that would set the Glovers on their way to Dorset league glory. The soldiers themselves still in with an outside chance. With Bill Seymour out injured, Yeovil obtained the permission from Petters United to use their defender Benfield for the match. With about ten minutes left on the clock two goals from Hayward and one from Charlie Larcombe had put Yeovil in a commanding lead. The soldiers chalked one back through a defensive era, meaning a nervous last few minutes. The Soldiers then played a ball deep in the Yeovil penalty area, it fell to Benfield who in his wisdom decided to trap the ball and not head away, his control lacking, the ball went straight into the path of an opposing striker. 3-3, match over! The result didn't go down well, especially Benfield' s mistake and overall performance, questions being asked of why a reserve player was not called up with their heart in the club. However still an outside chance remained, next up Poole FC away. 

The Poole match started badly, Bill Seymour had been struggling with an ankle injury that kept him out of the Garrison match, after five minutes he couldn't continue. Yeovil were down to ten men and the strange sight of Johnny Hayward being sent back to the centre of defence. They need not have worried the ten men battled their way to a 4-3 victory, handshakes all round, none more so then  Charlie Larcombe who had scored a wonderful hat trick.

Street was invaded a week later by 100s of Yeovilians, many holding aloft Green and white umbrellas of wearing green and white ribbons on their chest, the forerunner to the rosette. The league was already in the bag, the had come for one reason only to witness Bill Seymour be presented with the trophy. The match was incidental, Yeovil lost by the way 2-1 after a disputed goal, nobody cared. At the end of play Seymour received the handsome trophy and declared how proud he was of the team and the club. Three cheers rang out. On leaving the Yeovil team travelled to Ilchester and met up with the Reserve team who had also been all conquering locally, both teams travelling in a convoy back to Yeovil. Arriving at Yeovil hospital, hundreds had gathered to welcome them, "Mr Peaty seemed to be in a very jubilant mood"  as the press wrote, one can summise beers had been taken. They travelled onto the Borough with each space filled with jubilant well wishers. 'the greatest enthusiasm prevailed and lusty cheers  were raised for the players who had nobly upheld Yeovil's honour in the football World '

The season had one more game to go, the last game in the Dorset League, Longfleet St Mary at Pen Mill. The match had also taken on significant as it was chosen as the Benefit match for Titanic victim Harry Spinner with all proceeds being donated to his widow and orphaned daughter, Alice. That aside a Yeovil win and a Blandford defeat against Royal Garrison would see Yeovil crowned Dorset champions also. In front of 1000s Yeovil were magnificent as they had been all season. One each from the Larcombe brothers and another from Webb gave them the victory they needed. The proceeds of the match for Harry was over £30. The celebrations were short lived Blandford had won and now had taken the championship by two points. With Yeovil having a superior goal difference, the two points they had deducted from them earlier in the season, after secretary Sercombe's honesty had cost them dearly!

 However, what a season, 

A ticket for the Harry Spinner benefit match against Longfleet St Mary 

Happy days 


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