O’s Somme Tours

O’s Somme Tours

Following the success of They Took The Lead, which was first published in 2004, it became apparent that there was a big interest from O’s supporters to go over to France and to actually visit the resting places of William Jonas, Richard McFadden and George Scott, along with the countless cemeteries and memorials on the battlefields of Northern France.

In view of this, Steve had been in discussions with Vic Brandon from Leyton Royal British Legion, concerning his plans to organise an inaugural O’s Somme Tour. Sadly, Vic suddenly passed-away but Les Baily from Leyton RBL stepped-in to assist Steve, which led to the first ever tour in the summer of 2006 with Steve taking over 120 O’s supporters to the Somme. It was an amazing tour, with an unbelievable feeling, knowing that it was probably the first occasion that a special visit had been planned to visit the O’s war graves for ninety years.

Due to the overwhelming success of the tour, a further trip was successfully completed in 2008, followed by another in 2011 with Steve taking in excess of two hundred O’s fans over, which included the unveiling of the O’s Somme Memorial in the grounds of the Church of St Martin in the village of Flers, near the town of Albert. The O’s Memorial is the first of its kind on the Somme and one that everyone connected with Leyton Orient should be proud of, after all Clapton Orient was the first football club to enlist en masse so it is only right that we should have the first Memorial to a football club on the Somme.

During the centenary commemorations for the Great War, Steve organized three further tours to coincide with the three landmark years – 2014, 2016 and 2018. On each occasion, four coaches carrying over two hundred Orient supporters and friends of the Club made the journey over to pay their respects. There was also a special tour organized to Ypres in 2017 to acknowledge the one hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele.

An added aspect of the tours is the inclusion of the 17th Pals’ Battalion Band that Steve formed in time for the 2016 tour. The band was featured on BBC Breakfast programme following its headline performance at the Thiepval Memorial where William Jonas is commemorated, along with playing in Arras Town Square. The band also took part in the world-famous Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate during its Ypres Tour in 2017 – as far as we know this was the very first time that a football club had been invited to take part in this important solemn event.

The 17th Pals’ Battalion Band play music from around the time of the Great War and it commemorates the footballers who served in the 17th Middlesex – particularly those from Clapton Orient Football Club.

It is most heart-warming for Steve to have the backing and support of the families of William Jonas, Richard McFadden and George Scott – representatives from all three families travelled over to the Somme with the 2014 tour. The families also attended in 2016 and 2018.

To date, Steve has taken over 1200 people to the battlefields of France and Belgium and the interest shows no sign of abating – indeed, further to the tremendous success of the two productions of The Greater Game, in 2016 and 2018, there is now an even greater desire to go back to the Somme.