Queen’s Park Football Club and the Great War

​Researching Queen’s Park and the Great War
At the entrance to the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park sits Queen’s Park Football Club’s War Memorial.  The memorial lists the 216 members of the famous Glasgow amateur club who served in the First World War.  The vast majority of these members were current or former players of the club.  No other club in Scotland, and probably the UK, had as many players serve in the war as Queen’s Park.
While most people associated with Queen’s Park were aware of the War Memorial, very little was known about the 216 individuals named, of whom 29 lost their lives.  When commemorative events were being staged to mark the hundredth anniversary of the start of the Great War, it became clear that the part played and the sacrifices made by Queen’s Park members deserved greater prominence.  A committee member of the English touring side Middlesex Wanderers, a club which has close ties with Queen’s Park, produced a paper about the involvement of some players with Queen’s Park connections in the war and I volunteered to build on his research on behalf of Queen’s Park. 
The challenge I faced in sourcing information about the individuals on the War Memorial was very similar to that encountered by people beginning to research their family tree, except on a larger scale.  I basically had to start from scratch.  Other than R S McColl, of newsagent chain fame, none of the Queen’s Park players who fought in the war are known to today’s football fans.
Queen’s Park’s records relating to the Great War period were destroyed in a fire at Hampden.  The only information available to me was the list of names on the War Memorial and records of the names of players who had made competitive appearances for the club.  Sometimes the appearance records included the player’s first name but more often than not there was simply an initial.  Queen’s Park fielded four teams so the majority of players never made a first team appearance. 
The sources I accessed in my research will be familiar to genealogists.  Scotland’s People and Ancestry were very useful and, of course, the newspaper archive at the Mitchell Library is immensely valuable.  As can be imagined, military records were particularly important.  The Forces War Records and Commonwealth War Graves Commission websites were extremely helpful, as were regimental and war memorial records.
As family historians know all too well, it is much easier to trace people with uncommon names.  At the time of the Great War, there was not the variety of names we have today.  The range of forenames among men was very limited.  This has made it well nigh impossible to check on a number of the Queen’s Park members who served in the war.  For example, one of the former players who died was Private John Stevenson of the Highland Light Infantry.  There were at least four soldiers of that name in the HLI who died in the war and, as yet, I have been unable to identify which one is the Queen’s Park member.   There is a Private John Stevenson listed on the Rutherglen War Memorial.  Could that be our man?
Four Queen’s Park players were killed on the first day of the Battle of Loos on 25 September 1915, with a fifth dying of his wounds in a prisoner-of-war camp in Germany a couple of weeks later.  Although my research was far from complete, Queen’s Park decided to publish an initial draft paper on the club’s website.  The club wished to recognise the loss of these men on the hundredth anniversary of the commencement of the battle.
Pleasingly, there was a positive response to my draft paper when it appeared on the website.  A Queen’s Park member with a particular interest in the Great War came forward and has now contributed greatly to the ongoing research project.  In addition, several relatives of members who served got in touch with the club.  These include the octogenarian son of a member who won two Military Crosses; the grandson of a member who was awarded the Distinguished Service Order; and the grandson of a member who lost his life in the conflict.  In addition, relatives of former players who had turned professional and were no longer eligible for membership of Queen’s Park have made themselves known.
Queen’s Park Football Club has a history second to none in the world of football and the extraordinarily high number of members who volunteered for service in the Great War is a significant part of that history.  It is intended to continue to work on developing the stories of those brave men until the hundredth anniversary of the end of hostilities in November 2018.  Hopefully, many more descendants of the 216 members who served and of the many former Queen’s Park players who had turned professional will come forward and allow us to build as complete a picture as possible.
Queen’s Park were not, of course, the only club to have players serve in the forces in World War One.  The other senior Glasgow sides – Celtic, Clyde, Partick Thistle, Rangers and Third Lanark – also made a significant contribution to the war effort, as did the many rugby, golf and bowling clubs and other sporting bodies.  A huge number of people in Scotland will have had grandparents or great-grandparents who were active in sport and who participated in the Great War.  Family historians with the necessary time and patience could find this a rewarding area of research.
If you have any information about Private John Stevenson, or would like more information about this work, please contact secretary@queensparkfc.co.uk.
Frank McCrossan
December 2015
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