The WWII years

When the war came along Bert Williams became a physical training instructor in the Royal Air Force.  He was asked if he played football and he remembered that everyone who wanted to be considered for the RAF station team had to raise their hand.  After being selected he went along to the stores for a pair of boots.  “What size do you want?” was the question, “7”, Bert answered.  “Here’s an 11, that’s all we’ve got was the reply”.  Bert was buried in them but luckily he had his own boots as he could never have played in the size 11 pair.  As the war continued professional players who were serving in the forces often guested for teams that were close to their barracks.  Bert played as a guest for Chelsea, Nottingham Forest and also turned out for Walsall and later Wolves when he was stationed at Cosford.

A game between the FA XI versus The Army on December 9th 1944 was played at Bradford Park Avenue.  A large crowd watched a keenly contested 1-1 draw.

Pictured here in uniform are some of the players from the FA XI v The Army game
Bert is 2nd left back row, Joe Mercer, 5th left back row and Matt Busby, sat far right on the front row

The centre page of the programme autographed by most of the players.
The RAF team lists the clubs but the Army team only their rank so Matt Busby

was Company Sergeant Major while Bert Williams’ club, Walsall, was named

Bert was included in the forces team to play Belgium on March 22nd 1945 alongside some of the most famous names in British football.

Bert Williams’ notification of selection in 1945 with the ranks of all the players displayed

Bert was in great form, helping his team win the game 3-2, in front of a crowd of 45,00 in a stadium that only officially held 30,000 reminiscent of the 1923 Wembley FA Cup Final.  The gates were broken down and the crowd, civilians and Allied soldiers, encroached on to the field of play.  Every time a player took a corner or a throw-in he disappeared into the crowd.

Itinerary for the Belgian game signed by all Bert’s fellow professionals,
many of them would be friends for years to come

The RAF team that met Portugal in Lisbon on February 17th 1946 was a great side and it was reported that 80,000 tickets were sold at £10 each!!!!

The team selected was as follows:
Williams (Wolves); Laurie Scott (Arsenal), Barker (Huddersfield); Frank Soo (Leicester), Franklin (Stoke), Paterson (Celtic); Matthews (Stoke), Dougal (Birmingham), Fenton (Middlesbrough), Brown (Charlton),
Smith (Aston Villa).

Only Barker and Dougal were not full internationals.

When the team landed in Lisbon the first food they sampled was bananas, a delicacy that would not have been available in Britain for over seven years.

A very proud Bert Williams photographed in the Estádio Nacional, Lisbon on February 17th 1946
with Neil Franklin on his immediate left.  Frank Soo is far left on the front row next to Laurie Scott
and Stan Matthews is knelt far right on the front row.

© Soccer Nostalgia

Design: David Ainsworth