For the visit of Tonbridge Angels on 11th November 2023 Our First and Our Last feature had an eye on the Remembrance weekend and looked back on Our Last game before the outbreak of World War I, and then our first game after the horror of that war had ended.


2nd Coldstream Guards 0-2 St Albans City – 18th April 1914.

Five days after the sixth anniversary of the formation of the club, City rounded off the 1913/14 season with a Spartan League encounter at Clarence Park against reigning champions, 2nd Coldstream Guards. The match was due to be played at the Guards home at Barons Court, Chelsea (now the grounds of the Royal Chelsea Hospital), but, instead, this was one of 21 away pre-war City matches played at Clarence Park . The Guards were in their sixth and final season as members of the Spartan League. Their track record was impressive as they had won the title three times and, by finishing 4th in 1914, this was their poorest season.

As for the City, our Spartan League record was also impressive and we would have ended this campaign as runners up for a second successive year had we not had two points deducted for fielding the ineligible player. The deduction was due to a technicality rather than a deliberate breaking of the rules. H.Whitworth was the player in question for our game against Great Western Railway on 24th January. He scored twice that day and added three more in the return fixture against the Railwaymen.

The 2nd Coldstream Guards had been at Clarence Park the previous Monday, 13th April, Easter Monday, and had the pleasure of being only the second team in nine games to breach our defence. But the goal scored by Corporal Roman was comfortably overcome by City goals from George Edmonds, Whitworth and Willie Paul. Both sides made two changes from the first meeting with City bringing in C.Hepworth and Frank Butterfield for Whitworth and Charlie Wiggs.

The kick off was delayed due to the final of the A.F.A Cup being played earlier in the afternoon, in that game Ealing defeated Civil Service 5-2 at Tufnell Park. A large crowd greeted the Saints for the final game of the season and the locals were not disappointed as goals from Edmonds and Ernie Grimsdell, a last minute penalty, completed a tenth successive win for the Saints. City won with ease as some of Guards appeared to enjoy the warm weather more than the prospect of running around.

9a Ernest Grimsdell George Meagher Tonbridge 11 NovWillie Paul played a significant part in City’s win. It was from his pass that Edmonds burst through the Guards defence to score his eighth goal in just nine games this season, it took his career record with the City to 63 goals in 65 games. It was a foul on Paul that allowed Grimsdell to score his 25th goal in his 98th, and final, game for the City. 

Twenty-six games were played during the season. In addition to 22 Spartan League games, we played two Herts Charity Cup ties (lost 5-0 at Barnet Alston in the final) and one game in both the F.A. Cup and Amateur Cup, going down 2-1 to Page Green Old Boys and 4-0 to Southall respectively. Jimmy Branham, a blacksmith from Markyate, was our only ever-present player while George Meagher and goalkeeper Herbert ‘Micker’ Smith both missed just one game. (photo: Ernest Grimsdell and George Meagher).

After the war, Grimsdell, a left back and an Amateur England international with St Albans, played in the Football League with Queens Park Rangers. George Edmonds also moved after the war, firstly playing for Watford and then joining Wolverhampton Wanderers. He played for Wolves in the 1921 F.A. Cup against Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge. Captain of the Spurs side was Arthur Grimsdell , brother of Ernie and another one-time St Albans City player. At the time of his death on 10th December 1989, Edmonds was the last surviving player from the 1921 cup final.

2nd Coldstream Guards: Taylor; Collins, Whiting; Cooper, Roman, Smith; Walker, King, Tomkins, Howell, Dunk. St Albans City: Herbert Smith; Tommy Hearn, Ernest Grimsdell ; Jimmy Brandham, Arthur Wiggs , George Meagher; Leslie Hosier, Willie Paul, George Edmonds, Frank Butterfield, C.Hepworth.



St Albans City 3-4 Wycombe Wanderers – 6th September 1919

World War I ended at 11am on 11th November 1918 but St Albans City did not return to the football field until September of the following year with the recommencement of the Spartan League. The four years of war claimed the lives of seven players who had represented the club in the years leading up to the conflict. The Herts Advertiser also noted the gaps around the playing area of those who did not survive the war.

“So many of the old familiar faces were, alas, absent; those missing from the pre-war field of play came, of course, more prominently to the mind’s eye, but how many gaps in the cheering crowd it would be impossible to estimate; but that scores of them are now at their last rest on fields of unutterably grim memory, hundreds of miles away, cannot be forgotten.’

 City went into the season with a new hon. Secretary and hon. Treasurer with Percy Staines and Frederick Martin replacing the retiring Bob Fox in the two roles. The club kept its pre-war colours of blue and gold striped shirts, white shorts and blue socks with two gold bands. The football ground at Clarence Park was still occupied by the military when St Albans City resumed playing with friendly matches against Tufnell Park (lost 3-2) and Luton Amateurs (won 4-0). This led to our matches being played on a section of the cricket pitch in front of the grand pavilion.

Our visitors for the first competitive game since the war were newcomers to the Spartan League, Wycombe Wanderers . City fielded three players who also featured in the final game before the outbreak of war; Jimmy Brandham (left), Willie Paul and C.Hepworth. Goalkeeper Herbert Smith was due to start the campaign between the posts but missed the opening weeks due to being away on business, his place was taken by Londoner T.Sparks. Albert Trulock, great uncle to future City hon. Secretary Steve Trulock, returned to the team having appeared in just seven games in our six seasons before the war. Charley Paul, brother to Willie, was another to return after playing in a limited number of pre-war games. A significant new signing was that of Bertie Butcher who made his debut against Wycombe and went on to serve the club in various capacities through to the 1960s.

9b Jimmy Brandham Tonbridge 11 NovWycombe won the toss and St Albans kicked off towards the town end with the sun and wind in their faces. The half proved to be fast, furious and awash with goalmouth activity. Willie Paul fired City ahead and Butcher doubled the lead before F.Crooks pulled one back for the Wanderers. City had restored a two-goal advantage by the interval with Paul striking his second of the game. The visitors from Loakes Park were far from finished and marked their debut in the league in some style with Crooks hammering three late goals to take his, and Wycombe’s, tally to four.

Wycombe confirmed their supremacy when completing the double with a 4-1 win at Loakes Park the following January and duly lifted the championship trophy at the end of the season. Great Eastern Railway, who were league runners up, beat us in our second league game but with eight wins and a draw from the final nine games we secured third place ahead of Aylesbury United . We left the Spartan League at the end of the season to join the Athenian League. City played 28 games during the season with Albert Furness appearing in all but one of them, along with Willie Paul on 15, he was also our top goal scorer.

We enjoyed little success in the cup competitions After negotiating two qualifying rounds of the Amateur Cup we were undone 2-0 at home by Vauxhall Motors and another Luton club, Luton Clarence ended our interest in the F.A. Cup at the 2nd Round Qualifying stage. Just one game (the semi-final) was played in the Herts Charity Cup and that resulted in a 3-0 win for Leavesden at the Park.

St Albans City: T.Sparkes; Jeffries, A.Fearn; T.Bradbury, J.Brandham, A.Trulock; B.Butcher, C.Paul, W.Paul, A.Furness, C.Hepworth. Wycombe Wanderers : A.Keating; A.Clark, S.Webb; S.Fane, A.Gomm, F.Gates; A.Grace, J.P.Thomas, F.Crooks, A.Smith, W.O’Gorman. Referee: Mr. J.Reynolds.