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The Great War

27 October 2012

The switch to the Great Western Suburban League was an immediate success as the club recorded their best ever finish to a league campaign, losing just four of 24 matches to finish in third place.

There was, however, disappointment in both the FA Cup and FA Amateur Cup with home defeats to Uxbridge and Caversham Rovers respectively.

The 1908/09 season ended in celebration as the Berks and Bucks Senior Cup was won for a second time. The Blues beat Chesham Town 3-0 in front of a crowd of 5,874 in the final at Marlow’s Crown Ground, with Bly Brion, George Payne and Roberts finding the net. The side claimed the cup without conceding a single goal and the match ball from the game can still be found at Adams Park!

The following season saw the club notch up its record victory, with Staines beaten 18-1 in a league game at Loakes Park played two days after Christmas. Fred Pheby notched seven of the goals and both records still stand to this day. The Wanderers reached the FA Cup fifth qualifying round but were beaten 4-0 by Watford in front of 4,500 at Loakes Park.

There was also an exciting run in the FA Amateur Cup with the Chairboys making it through to the quarter-finals before losing 4-1 to holders Clapton at the Old Spotted Dog. There was another third-place finish in the league whilst there was more glory in the Berks and Bucks Senior Cup.

A crowd of 6,490 watched a hard-fought and bruising final, again played at Marlow, end in a goalless draw against Wokingham Athletic. The replay a fortnight later was won 3-0 courtesy of a brace from left-half George Buchanan and another from Brion. It was the first time the club had retained the cup and the feat of not conceding a single goal in the competition was also repeated.

The summer of 1910 saw another crucial decision in the development of the club when popular half-back Bernard ‘Bunny’ Hooper was elected secretary. He joined the club at just 14 years of age whilst still a pupil at RGS and made his debut in September 1900, aged just 16. Two years later he was made captain and was to play a pivotal role in the club joining the Isthmian League after the Great War.

The club again reached the FA Amateur Cup quarter-finals in the 1910/11 season where they were taken into extra-time by the Second Coldstream Guards. Roberts had twice put the Blues ahead but they were pegged back on both occasions before conceding the winner in the last minute of extra-time to lose 3-2.

There was good news at the 1911 AGM with the club recording a profit for the first time in many years. George Buchanan was named captain but there was sad news with left-back Tom Gilson falling seriously ill with cancer and he passed away in February 1912, aged just 33.

The first game of the season was a benefit match for Gilson played against Fulham at St. Andrews and it was marked by the debut of a gentleman by the name of Frank Adams. George Buchanan shocked the club when he resigned as captain on the opening day of the league season and never kicked a football again.

Marlow joined the Great Western Suburban League to re-ignite the rivalry and recorded a shock 1-0 victory over the Wanderers at the Crown Ground in November. The Chairboys did, however, finish in third place again, although there was little to celebrate in the cup competitions. The 1912 AGM saw the club’s headquarters switched to the Red Lion Hotel whilst Frank Adams left to join Shepherd’s Bush.

There was more sad news as the influential Charlie Deacon, president and chairman, passed away in February 1913, aged 62. There was a disappointing league campaign but it was more than made up for as the Berks and Bucks Senior Cup was won again. The Blues faced Maidenhead Norfolkians in the final at Marlow, which ended in a 1-1 draw.

The replay was played a fortnight later and leading goalscorer Billy O’Gorman missed out through illness. He was replaced by Adams, who had returned from Shepherd’s Bush and the Wanderers won 2-1 with Pheby notching the winning goal in extra-time.

There was a notable first on 27thSeptember 1913 with the team using motorised transport for the first time when they travelled to Maidenhead for an FA Cup preliminary round tie, Adams scoring the only goal of the game to seal a 1-0 win. The 1913/14 season would prove to be the end of an era in many ways with Hooper, Pheby and Charlie Tilbury all playing their last games for the club.

Attendances were hit hard by an industrial dispute in the furniture trade in High Wycombe. The strike began in October and didn’t end until February. The summer of 1914 saw the club accepted into the Spartan League, whilst also remaining members of the Great Western Suburban League, with the intention of fielding two teams of equal strength in each league.

Events in Europe were to shape the future, however, and on 4thAugust 1914 the United Kingdom declared war on Germany. Wycombe Wanderers players joined up with the two companies of the Territorials and Bucks Battalion and the club scratched from the FA Cup.

The Marquess of Lincolnshire, owner of Loakes Park, requested free use of the ground be made available to the military and the club ceased to be active for the duration of the Great War. It wasn’t until February 1919 that moves were made to play football again. The club held its AGM at the Red Lion Hotel in July 1919 and all stood for those who had lost their lives.

The Wycombe Wanderers players who passed away in the Great War were Charlie Buchanan, George Buchanan, Pat Carter, Bunny Fowler, Frank Langley, Jock Love, Jim McDermott, Edwards Reynolds, A Saunders and Harry Stallwood.


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