The 1914 Corinthian Tour
Following the release of the documentary, 'Brothers in Football', on BT Sport, the following is an account of the circumstances surrounding the abandoned trip to South America and the players who were part of the squad.
Southampton, July 24th. 1914
On Monday, July 24th, a train left London Waterloo carrying a group of young men heading to Southampton. The group consisted of two engineers, four lawyers, two school masters, five students and a military officer. When they arrived in Southampton they boarded the Royal Mail Steam Packet, R.M.S. Amazon, a liner that travelled a scheduled route from Southampton to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
These young men, (the youngest was 19, the eldest 30, average age was 23), were the Corinthian Football Club and for the third time in four years, the Corinthians were heading to the Southern Hemisphere to continue the club’s tradition of, not only spreading the love of the game, and demonstrating how the game should be played, but also the code or ethos under which they practised.
This code later became known as the ‘Corinthian Spirit’: promoting sportsmanship, honesty, integrity and fellowship in sport. Although this ‘Spirit’ has almost completely vanished from football today, and even though sportsmanship and fair-play are still found in most sports, it is often seen as a innately British characteristic and expected of all British athletes throughout the world.
Although there were 16 Corinthians in total representing the club on the tour, two others did not travel with the main party: R.C. Maples who travelled from Canada where he had been living, and the other, the non-playing, (although had turned out a number of times for The Casuals F.C.), Henry Douglas Hughes-Onslow, was heading the same direction. Hughes-Onslow was a senior member of the club, the Honorary Secretary of the Amateur Football Association (A.F.A.), who had been present on several of the previous Corinthian Tours. He left on August 1st for a ‘holiday’ in South America, but the timing of the trip would indicate he was undertaking some Corinthian business too.
Unlike previous Corinthian tours, the press coverage of the latest departure was worthy of only a single, syndicated paragraph in a handful of daily newspapers. General interest in the activities of the club had faded over the previous few years due to, what became known as ‘The Spilt’.
There had been ongoing disagreements concerning the status of professional and amateur football in England that led to the creation of the Amateur Football Association, a separate and independent organisation that represented those clubs wishing to remain strictly amateur, Corinthian F.C. and Casuals F.C. both joined.
The FA stipulated that clubs affiliated to the A.F.A. would be unable play to play fixtures with teams affiliated to the F.A., which in turn led to Corinthians usually glamorous fixture list being decimated, reducing their fixtures to a handful of games, mostly against Oxford or Cambridge sides. Consequently, Corinthians newsworthiness had faded and the press were increasingly more interested in the professional game.
The ‘Split’ had almost caused the cancellation of the tour as bickering between the two F.A.’s in Argentina, one affiliated with F.I.F.A. and the other not. This meant that some of the fixtures Corinthian were due to play were against teams not affiliated with F.I.F.A. and therefore contravening the governing rules. In an effort to find a solution to this, Corinthian tendered their resignation from the A.F.A., but it is not clear if this was accepted.
Therefore, it appears it was not entirely clear who would provide the opposition on the latest tour. The press releases accompanying the tour stated that the team were heading to the ‘Argentine’, and having visited Brazil twice previously, fixtures would be easy to set up in Brazil, and two games were arranged in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, but according to Bolsmann and Porter, fixtures were being arranged in Uruguay too.
There was also a sense this tour was a peacemaking mission too, as although invited by the Argentine F.A. the previous year, the Argentines had complained at the lack of quality shown by the British teams that had visited their country in recent years, such as Swindon and Exeter. They annoyed the British press by prophesying that in the near future, the world would be shown that Argentine football was superior to that of England. The English press hoped the Corinthians would wield the full weight of their footballing powers and correct the Argentinian view of itself. The Argentine press also went so far as to complain the Corinthian Squad was not of a sufficient standard and that sending an under strength team was an insult. This view must have been formulated on seeing that so many of team had not turned out for the Corinthian prior to the trip.
However, it was all for nought, because just as the footballing ‘Spilt’ had been healed and Corinthian were finally able to set off on another of their famous tours, on August 4th, Britain declared War on Germany and all thoughts of sport would be put on hold for the duration.
The R.M.S. Amazon was two days out of St Vincent when the call of King and Country was issued to all corners of the Empire. However, the Corinthians were in the middle of the Atlantic and for those army reservists in the party who would be required to enlist immediately, their frustration at not being able to heed the countries’ call must have been desperate.
Finally, on August 7th, the Amazon docked in Pernambuco, Brazil, and abandoning the tour, the four young men booked passage home on the first vessel available. This happened to be the R.M.S. Arlanza, another liner of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, returning to Britain after leaving Buenos Aires. The Arlanza left Pernambuco, Brazil on the 10th of August.
The next day, the crew and passengers of Arlanza received their first taste of war. The liner was intercepted by a German gun boat off the coast of Brazil and forced to come too, under the order of 'Stop, or I will open fire". The crew were then ordered to dismantle the radio transmitters and throw them overboard. The Captain was asked how many women and children were on board, and was informed, 335 women and 97 children. The German ship then told them to proceed. Whether or not the numbers of women and children onboard were so great, that this prevented the sinking of the ship, is unclear, but this was a lucky escape. The Arlanza arrived in Southampton on the 22 August.
The remaining players continued their journey on the Amazon until they reached Rio de Janeiro on August 11th, (a day too late to have played the games arranged), and departed again the following day, where, according to FNS Creek in his, A History of the Corinthian Football Club, “The party had only time to walk up and look at the football ground before it was necessary to re-embark on the ‘Aragon’ for England.” He continues, “Three days later the ‘Aragon’ arrived off the Lizard; a torpedo-boat fired a shot across her bows and told her to proceed to Tilbury instead of Falmouth. Time after time during the voyage up the Channel, the ‘Aragon’ was held up in the dark by transports crossing; but at last they reached port and the Corinthians got back to London”. The R.M.S. Aragon finally arrived in England on August 30th and the players dispersed, all enlistinging in His Majesty’s armed forces.
The Aragon was the sister ship to the Amazon and was later commissioned as a troopship and used in the Gallipoli landings in 1915. She was sunk in 1917 near the Egyptian coast by a German submarine, with the loss of 600 lives. The Amazon found a similar fate off the coast of Ireland in 1918 but without loss of life. The Arlanza returned to civilian duties after the war and travelled the same route for many years afterwards.
Of the tour members, five were new recruits, never having played for Corinthian or Casuals before the war, three would die in the War, one would become an amputee, one would lose the sight in one eye, only one would tour outside Europe with the Corinthians again, but seven would play football for the club in post-war years.
However, from all the players and former players of the Corinthians and the Casuals Football Clubs, over 100 would sacrifice their lives in the war, more lost than any other association football club would have to endure. The number of players lost or invalided would affect the future of both clubs and arguably, neither team ever again reached the zenith of the fame they once had or the influence they wielded. However, the contribution to the world of football of both teams can still be felt today.
In 1907, Casuals Football club plus a group of 17 amateur teams joined the newly created Southern Amateur League (S.A.L.). This league was created by the A.F.A. to offer competitive football to amateur teams. After the First War, N.V.C. Turner, I.E. Snell and J.S F. Morrison became officers of the S.A.L, with I.M. Sorenson, a Casuals player, becoming both Chairman and President. The list of Corinthians and Casuals who have also been officials of S.A.L includes, P.A. Timbs, J.F.P. Rawlinson, E.F. Buzzard, C.T. Ashton, S.H. Day, F.H. Mugliston, K.R.G Hunt, R.N.R Blaker and more.
In 2017, the Corinthian-Casuals u21s were readmitted to the SAL after an absence of over 100 years.
In 2015, Corinthian-Casuals F.C. commercial director Chris Watney, organised a tour to Brazil to commemorate the aborted 1914 South American tour. Corinthian-Casuals played S.C. Corinthians Paulista, the club created after a visit to Brazil in 1910 by Corinthian F.C. and now one of the biggest clubs in world football. The result was a loss to the Englishmen of 3-0, but had the fixture occurred in 1914, there can be no doubt the Englishmen would have prevailed. As an homage to those players on the 1914 tour, Corinthian Paulista players wore the names of the tour party on their shirts.
The film made about the tour, 'Brothers In Football', will be shown on BT Sport, November 10th, 9.00pm.