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ArseWeb on... Wartime Arsenal

Official football records show that everything closed down at the outbreak of the second World war in 1939. It came at the end of a great decade for the Arsenal, including 5 league titles in a period of 7 years. But the team was thought to be in decline, having finished a poor 5th in 39 (a drop in form comparable to the Souness years at Anfield).

So we were intrigued to hear that a video featuring old news footage of Cup finals from the 30s and 40s included 2 Arsenal matches that happened during the war (see videos section of the ArseWeb shop).

We set Ian Eiloart the arduous task of watching the vid, to find out what was going on...

1941: Arsenal vs Preston North End
In a news report captioned 'Cup Final Draw', which opened with the words "In spite of everything there was a cup final as usual", Arsenal and Preston North End were seen to draw 1-1 at Wembley. The report said that the replay would take place at another venue, but did not say when, where or what the result was. The guest of honour was the 'first lord of the admiralty', whoever that was.

Arsenal missed a penalty on 3 minutes, McLaren scored for PNE on 6 minutes, and Dennis Compton equalised 'just before the interval'.

Rupe adds... we think this was a North vs South final, following regional competitions.

Derek adds... the game was the final of the Football League War Cup. Arsenal lost the replay at Ewood Park 2-1, Arsenal's goal being an own goal.

1943: Arsenal vs Charlton Athletic
Arsenal beat Charlton Athletic in the "Football League South War Cup Final" by a 'record breaking' seven goals to one. Players were shown changing out of their military uniforms before the match, including "Sergeant Dennis Compton". Lewis opened the scoring with the first of four goals, Compton scored the second. Scott handled in the penalty area to give Charlton a penalty which was converted by Green. The half time score was 4-1. Drake scored the fifth, and Lewis finished the scoring. It wasn't reported who scored Arsenal's other goal.
Derek adds - Drake scored the other goal.

The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester presented the cup to Arsenal's captain George Male.

1950: Arsenal vs Liverpool
The King and Queen were present to see Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-0. With the Arsenal leading 1-0 at full time, the Queen was looking very cheerful. The reporter said that this was Arsenal's first cup victory since 1936(?), so the war time cups must have been unofficial in some way - perhaps because of the regional league structures and a reduction in competitiveness.
and Andy Kelly adds the following...

"The war ended in 1945 but not soon enough for league matches to resume. The FA Cup for 1945/6 was staged as per normal except that all rounds except for the final were over two legs with aggregate scores deciding the winner of each tie. Arsenal lost 0-6 and won 1-0 against 'arry's 'appy 'ammers in the third round."

although we have reason to believe that this was before Harry Redknapp's time.


Further details on wartime Arsenal football

Normal league and FA cup football was abandoned as soon as the 2nd World War broke out. Eventually the League organised competitive football on a regional basis, with Arsenal competing in the League South division, apart from the 41/42 season when the Gunners took part in the breakaway London League. Highbury was closed for the duration of the war, so Arsenal's "home" games took place at White Hart Lane. Games played during the wartime periods are not counted as first class games, and wartime appearances and goals are not accounted for in players' first class records. Indeed guest players from other teams often played for Arsenal, for example Stanley Matthews and Stan Mortenson.

Arsenal contested the Football League War Cup in 39/40 and 40/41 (the final of which was the tie against Preston as noted above), apparently also organised on a regional basis with the final being contested by the winners of the North and South "semi-finals". In 42/43, 43/44 and 44/45 there appears to have been no final playoff, with the cup being split completely between the North and South sections. It wasn't contested in the 41/42 season when Arsenal took part instead in the London War Cup, something they also played in during the previous season.

2nd World War league record

SeasonLeaguePostition
1939-40League South 'A' Division1st
1939-40League South 'C' Division3rd
1940-41South Regional League4th
1941-42London League1st
1942-43Football League - South1st
1943-44Football League - South4th
1944-45Football League - South8th
1945-46Football League - South11th

2nd World War cup record

SeasonCupProgress
1939-40Football League War Cup3rd round
1940-41Football League War CupLost in final replay
1940-41London War Cup4th in qualifying competition
1941-42London War CupSemi-final
1942-43Football League Cup - SouthWinners
1943-44Football League Cup - South4th in qualifying competition
1944-45Football League Cup - SouthSemi-final

1st World War league record

In contrast to the 2nd World War, after the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, the 1914/15 league season continued and was completed. Thereafter regional leagues were organised, and Arsenal took part in the London Combination League for the rest of the war.

SeasonLeaguePostition
1915-16London Combination (Principal Competition)3rd
1915-16London Combination (Supplementary Competition)11th
1916-17London Combination5th
1917-18London Combination5th
1918-19London Combination2nd


See also our History and Stats section, including Derek's History of AFC up to 1956 which covers the years before and after the war.
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