Arsenal at War

Cliff Bastin, Tom Whittaker, George Male and George Marks

The First and Second World Wars had a profound impact on competitive football in England but Arsenal gave their fans something to cheer by joining regional leagues and picking up their fair share of honours.

A year after the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, clubs in London combined with some Southern League teams to form a London Combination, in which Arsenal competed for the next four years.

"Virtually every Arsenal staff member was contributing to the war effort by the time the first campaign kicked off - with many of them in the forces."

Virtually every Arsenal staff member was contributing to the war effort by the time the first campaign kicked off - with many of them in the forces. As a result, Arsenal followed the example of rival teams and drafted in 'guest' players to honour their fixtures and help keep competitive football ticking over. The same policy was pursued after the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 and Arsenal were graced by some high-profile visitors as Stanley Matthews, Stan Mortensen and Bill Shankly all donned a red shirt.

Tottenham had used Highbury for some of their 'home' games during World War One and the favour was returned during World War Two as Arsenal closed its stadium to football and converted into Air Raid Precautions (ARP) centre.

For all its efforts, Highbury paid the price when it was bombed in 1941. The North Bank was wrecked after a fire broke out and the roof collapsed, while the goalposts in front of the North Bank were also demolished. Much of the terracing on the South Stand was damaged too and these had to be repaired before Arsenal could return home after the war. 

Another bomb, weighing 1,000lb, had fallen near the stadium in October 1940. Several RAF men were sitting in a hut that was blown up - two of them died. Meanwhile tonnes of concrete were blown over the Clock End terraces. During the hostilities, Islington residents took shelter in the Arsenal Underground station.

When it was safe to play football, Arsenal were one of the leading sides during the Second World War, having dominated English football for much of the 1930s.

They won the League South 'A' title in 1939/40 but lost the League War Cup Final the following season. Leslie Compton missed a penalty in a 1-1 draw with Preston at Wembley and Arsenal lost the replay 2-1 at Blackburn.

In 1941/42 a number of London clubs formed a breakaway London League and Arsenal romped to the title with 108 goals in 30 matches. They returned to the Football League South a season later and, in 1942/43, won the championship and the League South Cup. 

A certain Reg Lewis netted four times in that 7-1 Cup Final win over Charlton. He would of course go on to become an even more significant Wembley winner seven years later, grabbing both goals as Arsenal beat Liverpool in the 1950 FA Cup Final.


See Full List

Fixtures & Results

Friendly Match
Ticket Info