The 1940 War Cup Final

Tuesday, 30 May 2023

Reproduced with kind permission given by Vince Cooper of @TheLeagueMag- well worth a follow on Twitter.

Full article HERE

It is often written that football stopped during World War Two and while it’s true that ‘official matches’  like the Football League and FA Cup were put on hold during the conflict, the game itself carried on at various levels with the government deciding that the continuation of the country’s national sport would prove good for morale.

Many regional leagues and competitions took place and a number of internationals took place but the War Cup was the major trophy, and although none of the matches were classed as ‘official’ they brought some great encounters, as well as superb crowds providing much-needed revenue for the government in the form of entertainment tax and for various charities.

One of the main differences between the War Cup and the FA Cup was that during the conflict, entry was mostly limited to Football League clubs and those who found travel possible.

Season 1939-40

The first final took place on Saturday 6 June after the competition had been condensed into a seven-week period with the early rounds played over two legs.

The semis, which had taken place just a week earlier, saw Blackburn Rovers  overcome Newcastle and West Ham stave off a late Fulham comeback.

At Ewood Park, Blackburn knocked out Newcastle by a single goal with Albert Clarke proving the hero.

Albert ‘Nobby’ Clarke, a Yorkshireman, began his career with Frickley and is said to have walked, along with teammate Marvin Millington, the 300 miles to Torquay in 1934 to take part in a trial.

Both were successful and Clarke was soon appearing for the first team with his form earning a transfer to Birmingham in 1936 for whom he scored a hat-trick on his reserve team debut in a Central League match against Manchester City.

In 1938 Clarke was on the move again this time joining Blackburn Rovers and proving a key figure in his new club’s 2nd Division title win.

After the war broke out Clarke returned to Torquay where his wife Marjorie’s family was from,  joined the Devonshire Regiment, guested for United and also travelled north to play for Rovers in Cup matches.

In early June 1944, Albert’s regiment was deployed in France as part of the Normandy landings, and he was killed in action on 16 June aged just 27. He is buried at Ranville Cemetery (above) near Caen along with 2,150 other Britons and a total of 2,560 soldiers.

The West Ham v Fulham clash took place at Stamford Bridge with kick-off pushed back to 6:40 to allow war workers to attend. There was a decent crowd of 32,799 present and they saw a thriller.


The Hammers took the lead after just 12 minutes and kept adding. They scored four unanswered goals including one from Len Goulden that was described by former star and now journalist C.B. Fry as; “A shot like a bijou catapult”.

Just when it looked all over Fulham came roaring back, scoring three times but the East Londoners managed to hold on to win a match after which Fry said: “Even in the severest times, football played all out by fine young men is a tonic and an encouragement”.

So Blackburn Rovers and West Ham United contested the final, played at Wembley, which was another evening kick-off. A crowd of just over 43,000 were there, some way short of the 50,000 limit set by police.

The match was a tough encounter with chances few and far between but the goal that won it provided a touch of class. A move that started with the Hammers defending a corner ended with Sam Small cracking home a rebound after Rovers keeper James Barron had parried a shot from George Foreman.



So it was West Ham who claimed the cup and went on the customary lap of honour (below)



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