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We have to thank
Andy Wanless for sending these interesting bits of History
related to NBR There is more to come--Thanks to Andy
Brave Hearts Cut Down
In Their Prime
Alex Massie on Tynecastle's bravest and
saddest season in the Great War
Observer - Sunday
13 November 2005
names Pat Crossan, Tom Gracie and Harry Wattie do not echo through
football history. They are not remembered the way the Manchester United
players who died at Munich or the Torino team that perished at Superga
have been immortalised as the melancholy embodiment of that most wistful
feeling: what might have been. Outside Edinburgh, Crossan and his
team-mates have been all but forgotten. They will, however, be
club sacrificed more in the First World War than Heart of Midlothian.
Sixteen players from the club joined up, most of them enlisting in the
16th Battalion of Royal Scots, the oldest infantry regiment in the army
and nicknamed 'Pontius Pilate's Bodyguard'. Seven members of the first
team were killed in action.
morning a ceremony is being held at the club's war memorial outside
Haymarket Station in Edinburgh's West End. The locations on the memorial
tell their own story: Loos, Arras, Ypres and, above all, the Somme. The
toll the war took on Hearts was the club's finest and most desperate
hour and one that places the turmoil surrounding the appointment of
Graham Rix into a proper context.
war was declared in August 1914, the football season was already under
way. As men rushed to arms, many questioned why football was continuing.
debated the question. Letters were written to the press - the Edinburgh
Evening News published one, signed 'A soldier's daughter', which
suggested that 'while Hearts continue to play football, enabled thus to
pursue their peaceful play by the sacrifice of the lives of thousands of
their countrymen, they might accept, temporarily, a nom de plume, say
"The White Feathers of Midlothian".'
George McCrae, a popular figure in the city, announced that he would
raise a battalion himself - the 16th Royal Scots - and boasted,
furthermore, that it would be full within seven days. The Hearts players
led the way. Sixteen enlisted immediately and a further five were
declared unfit to serve. 'McCrae's Battalion', as it came to be known,
was the original sportsman's battalion. At least 30 professional
footballers enlisted, including players from Hibernian and Raith Rovers
as well as Hearts.
players' service attracted others to the colours. Hundreds of supporters
responded to an appeal from manager John McCartney: 'Now then, young
men, as you have followed the old club through adverse and pleasant
times, through sunshine and rain, roll up in your hundreds for King and
Country, for right and freedom. Don't let it be said that footballers
are shirkers and cowards. As the club has borne an honoured name on the
football field, let it go down in history that it also won its spurs on
the field of battle.'
Among the dead was Harry Wattie the best inside forward in Scotland. No trace of his remains were ever been found. He had already outlived some of his team mates. Gracie died in October 1915 Crossanwas gassed and never recovered his health before his death in 1933
It might have been so very different. The 1914 hearts had begun the season with eight straight victories - a mark unmatched until this season. That record included a comfortable 2-0 c=victory at Tynecastle over defending champions Celtic. Despite the burden of military training. Hearts retained their lead into 1915. playing what the papers called some dainty, dazzling football full of pace and panache.
It could not last. On 10 April 1915, the battalion returned from night manoeuvres barely in time for the Hearts players to catch the train to Greenock for that afternoon's fixture against Morton. In such circumstances a 2-0 defeat was unsurprising .Celtic defeated Aberdeen that same afternoon and moved to the top of the table for the first time. The following week Hearts lost again, at St Mirren, and Celtic's 4-0 victory against Third Lanark sealed the title.
An embittered Evening News remarked . Between them the two leading Glasgow Clubs have not sent a single prominent player to the Army. There is only one football champion in Scotland, and it's colour are maroon and khaki
Hearts had won 19 of their first 21 fixtures, after
new Years day, however distracted and weakened by rigours of their
training, they lost three and drew six of their final 17 matches. It is
entirely possible that but for the war Hearts might have established a
dynasty in Edinburgh and that Scottish football might have been carved
up between three rather than two powers. As it was Celtic and Rangers
dominance between the wars was interrupted only by Motherwell's sole
As Jack Alexander, author of McCrae's Battalion. "The Story of the 16th Royal Scots" argues "I don't think there can be any doubt that it was the best team in Hearts history. It was on the verge of becoming a side strong enough to win several championship's
Apart from a brief spell in the 1950' when Dave Mackay and Alex Young helped them win a brace of championships. Hearts have been also rans ever since. The 1998 Scottish cup victory, their sole trophy since 1962. This year's side have a lot of history to make up for.
That great side from the Great War is owed more than just a championship. On 22 April 1915 McCartney received a letter from the parents of Private John Williamson Campbell who had died of pneumonia a fortnight earlier 'Our son' they wrote had hoped to see his comrades win the league. He was just so pleased to be serving with the Hearts boys. It is very sad
Below is the memorial for WW1 of the Hearts players lost
December 4 2014
following photos were sent by Andy Wanstall and we thank him for the
history --especially the Heart bits -