Dedicated to my Father on his 57th Birthday on Sunday, the first person I ever guided and toured with on the Western Front, our first trip to the Somme in 2016 with him set me on this incredible and rewarding path, long may it continue, and looking forward to another great trip to Verdun next month.
Last night, surprisingly and wonderfully, my beloved football team Barnsley F.C sealed promotion to the Championship at the first time of asking, without even kicking a football. I have always maintained that I, as a Barnsley supporter have been part of the luckiest generation of supporters that the football club has ever had. The argument being that I have seen them win trophies at Wembley, Cardiff and experienced a season in the Premier League, many many years ago when I was a boy. Also to have seen them at the old Twin Towers of Wembley in 2000, in the last competitive final to be played in that most famous of stadiums although we were beaten by a far superior Ipswich Town side
Over 100 years ago however there was another successful generation of Barnsley supporters even more luckier than my own. In 1910 Barnsley reached the F.A Cup final against Newcastle United at a sold out Crystal Palace, the Final went to a replay at Goodison Park only for Barnsley to be beaten. One of the players that wore red in the final was a man called Wilfred Bartrop.
Born in November 1887 in Worksop, the same year as Barnsley FC was created, known then as Barnsley (St Peters). As a attacking forward Wilfred joined Barnsley Football Club from his hometown club in June 1909 and made 160 appearances for the side, scoring 15 goals. Having played in the FA Cup Finals of 1910 against Newcastle, he then played in arguably the greatest Barnsley team of all time in April 1912.
Under the management of Arthur Fairclough they brought home the FA Cup, beating West Bromwich Albion in a replay at Bramall Lane, the first and last Yorkshire team to win the trophy on Yorkshire soil. Harry Tufnell scoring the winner. Wilfred however won the man of the match and was praised by the national press, notably the Manchester Guardian for his exceptional all round performance in the replay. It would be the last major piece of silverware that Barnsley would win in a major final for 104 years, finally matched by Paul Heckingbottom’s Football League Trophy winners in 2016 at Wembley.
Wilfred was to stay at Barnsley for another two years, the team narrowly missing out on promotion to the old First Division to Arsenal in spring 1914 under very suspicious circumstances. He also played for Barnsley against Celtic at Hampden Park in a England/Scotland Cup winners match where the honours were shared. But by then Liverpool had become very interested in signing him. Much to the Barnsley supporters despair the club sold him and sent him to Anfield therefore ending Barnsley’s hope for further success that decade.
He only played 3 times for Liverpool, and then in early August 1914, Britain went to War against Germany. Wilfred seeing that he had to answer his country’s call, joined the Royal Field Artillery as a gunner in a trench mortar battery which was extremely dangerous. Sadly just 4 days before the Armistice was signed he was killed, just short of his 31st Birthday. He lies buried alongside 4 other Soldiers in the churchyard of Saint Armand in Warcoing, which was bombarded heavily in the final days of the Great War as the Germans were pushed back towards their frontier by the Allies.
Last year, alongside my Father on the same day England played Tunisia in the World Cup finals, we made a special pilgrimage to the grave of this remarkable individual, we laid a scarf around his grave, in deep gratitude for what he did, not just as a soldier, but as a man who had represented our football club, our town. When Wilfred’s 1912 winners medal was put up for Auction in 2008, it was bought by the then Chairman of Barnsley FC, Patrick Cryne for 3 times its value at £14,400.
It was wonderful to finally see his winners medal in the town hall last November as part of the towns commemorations for the centenary of the Armistice. And finally in the very small trophy cabinet at Oakwell alongside the ball that was used at Bramall Lane that famous day in 1912, lies the medal of one of the Fallen but remains immortal in the hearts of supporters of Barnsley Football Club, Wilfred Bartrop.
And the Earth Abideth Forever