Remembering Preston's rugby players who died in the First World War

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the founding of Preston Grasshoppers Rugby Club to mark Remembrance Day Mike Forshaw recalls the club’s players who were killed during the First World War

By Mike Hill
Friday, 8th November 2019, 4:51 pm
Capt Arthur Lea Harris, top right, Lt Keith Moore, centre; and in his Grasshoppers shirt, top right; Capt John Laurence Whitfield, bottom right; and 2nd Lt Herbert Samuel Penny Blair, bottom left
Capt Arthur Lea Harris, top right, Lt Keith Moore, centre; and in his Grasshoppers shirt, top right; Capt John Laurence Whitfield, bottom right; and 2nd Lt Herbert Samuel Penny Blair, bottom left

Lt Keith Haydon Moore of the 4th Bn Loyal North Lancashire Regiment was wounded twice before being killed in action near Albert, in France.

The 24-year-old was the only son of Mr W L Moore and a junior partner in the family firm of Messrs W L Moore and Son, chartered accountants of Southport and Preston.

Educated at Preston Grammar School, prior to the war he was in charge of the office in Hoghton Street, Southport, and was editor of the school’s Old Boys’ magazine.

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As a member of Preston Grasshoppers FC he was well known in rugby football circles and played at half back.

He joined the Preston Territorials before the outbreak of war and was injured in a bayonet charge at Festubert on June 15, 1915, when he suffered a bullet wound to his wrist.

Moore returned to Lancashire to recuperate at Weeton Barracks and on returning to fitness went back to the front in September 1915.

Capt John Laurence Whitfield, of the 4th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, of North Holme, Chorley died from wounds received in action.

He was formerly secretary and captain of Preston Grasshoppers Rugby Football Club and a member of Preston Cricket Club.

Whitfield, who was a and a solicitor from Preston, died at the Stationary Hospital, in Boulogne, on June 23, 1915.

Lt Harold H Smith, son of Mr B S Smith of Haseldene, Wilpshire, Blackburn, was killed in action.

He enlisted as a private in the 11th Hussars shortly after the war broke out and received a commission in the Royal Field Artillery.

At the time of his death the 24-year-old was attached to the Royal Engineers in charge of a trench mortar and had only been in France for three weeks.

Educated at Mill Hill College, in London, before the war he worked alongside his father for Messrs Smith and Co print merchants, in Church, and played for Preston Grasshoppers. He was also a keen golfer.

His brother Lt Tennant Smith served with the 4th Bn, East Lancashire Regiment, while a second brother Pte Kenneth Smith was in the New Zealand force.

Capt Arthur Lea Harris, of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, was killed in action in Ypres on July 31, 1917. Capt Harris was the only son of the Rev S F Harris, for many years the vicar of Walton-le-Dale.

Educated at Marlborough, he became a solicitor in December 1909 and was a partner in the firm of Houghton, Myers and Reverley Preston in 1911.

He joined the Loyals at the outbreak of the war and served in France from April 1915 to November 1915 before returning home for an operation for a cartilage problem in his knee. After a period of recuperation he returned to the front in February 1917.

He had been married for five years to Margaret and had daughter Mary.

Capt Harris was for some time the secretary to the Preston Grasshoppers and was also a keen actor, tennis player and prime mover in Preston Boy Scouts.

Second Lt Herbert Samuel Penny Blair, of the 2nd Bn, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, was wounded in the right hand and knee in action in Salonica and conveyed to Cottonera Hospital, Malta, where he died from his injuries on October 31, 1916.

Prior to the war he was educated at Cambridge and worked for Messrs Daniel Penny and Son, in Preston. He was one of the first men to sign up for the Public Schools Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, and entered the Army through Sandhurst before heading out to the front in October 1915.

Keenly interested in sport, the 27-year-old was a well-known member of Preston Grasshoppers’ Rugby FC and the Preston Cricket and Lawn Tennis Club.

He was buried in Pieta Military Cemetery.