As the season closes I wanted to finish with a story that had an Indian connection. One I’ve slowly tracked down over a year or so. I first come across it many years ago with passing mentions in autobiographies. When I set out to track down the details, it proved something of a challenge. Several sources offered a few morsels and a couple attempted to unmask the hidden past but there does not seem to be a comprehensive record. I have gathered together the detail I have discovered. It’s the story of professional players touring India whilst part of the British Armed Services during the Second World War. Whilst only three Tottenham players were involved I hope your find it and this part of the development of the game in this country interesting.
During the war thousands of servicemen were stationed in the country. Being a long way from both home and the conflict the services encouraged sporting events to keep men active and maintain morale. Local service teams formed their own leagues and these would include ‘local’ teams. The professional players stationed in India were ‘rounded up’ and sent out on goodwill tours of the country ‘performing’ for both military and the local populations. We know at least five tours (possibly more) took place. These tours were planned to avoid the worse of the monsoon weather.
The first tour I could trace was in September - October 1944. With a second one in February - April 1945. Then in September - October 1945 at least two teams toured at the same time. These would some times meet up and play each other. These two teams became known by their captains names. Dennis Compton’s XI and Tommy Walker’s XI. The final tour was in February - April 1946.
Games were scheduled for the evening to avoid the highest temperatures. The games were reduced to 30-35 minutes each way. Pitches throughout tended to be rock hard. The games were played in venues from the bigger sports grounds such as Calcutta FC to sites at little more than clearings big enough for the pitch to be encircled by spectators. One game undertaken By Compton’s team was in Kutupalong on a field said to be 80 yards square. A Tottenham man writing home described the event as being played “On a field where rice was grown and being worse than Tottenham Marshes.”
Some of these games were between the touring players themselves, sometimes against a local unit or one of the local sides. To encourage the troops stationed in the various areas games would often become England V Scotland. That first tour led by Compton started in New Delhi and some games was watched by a crowd as large as 10 - 15,000. That Tottenham letter writer recalled one game at Imphal “Believe me, the boys enjoyed that game more than watching all the ENSA concerts.”
ENSA, was the organization that sent out “concert parties” to entertain the troops. It stood for Entertainments National Service Association and not Every Night Something Awful, as the troops on the receiving end called it.
The tours experienced problems with injuries or players going down with a fever. At one point Compton’s goalie was recalled to the UK and his team did not have a recognized keeper. Another player, (Ashworth of Blackpool) in attempting to catch up with the team flew 1500 miles in five days and upon arrival fell ill. That first tour ended with two games in Calcutta. One V Mohun Bagan and the other V Indian FA XI.
Judging by the responses that arrive by various means these trips down to the archive at Hotspur Towers have slowly built up an interested following. It is indeed a joy to know that so many fans want to learn about the rich tapestry that is the clubs history and that football existed before 1995 as the TV companies would like us to believe.
I think we have a couple of more stories this season you will enjoy. As this is (amazingly) the 50th in the series I thought we should find something special and what could be more fitting than the cockerel. It has adorned the stadium for over a hundred years and has become known throughout the world as a symbol of the club.
In this weeks exciting edition of Talking Tottenham we delve into the world of Football Figurines as we have another theme type special. Also for your delight as we build towards the big game at the weekend we have compiled another collection of quotes that you might enjoy. You will find the ad break refreshing and we have another scoop from our undercover reporter.
Then there is a quick look at the City match and what the finale of the season holds. A late arrival at the party this week means a quick reshuffle when a reader’s question inspires a quick quiz.
Gosh your not totally serious look at the world of Hotspur is really going interactive this week. So like Spurs at the weekend lets get off to a flying start and lets talk Tottenham.
Flying Down to Rio
History of T.H.F.C.
Tribute to Bill Nicholson
The Road to Turin
Most Read Articles
The 100 Year War
Interview with Marina Sirtis
A Long Dark Shadow
By Royal Appointment
School Report: An Insight into the Younger Eric Dier
All Change At Spurs
History Of THFC: Part 1
Passage to India: Rohan Rickets
Thanks For The Memories
Our Tommy Carroll
The AVB Files: Part1
You The Jury
The Hand Of Hugo
Connection - Argentina
Creating a Reputation
Flying Down To Rio