When Britain joined the First World War in September 1914, an extraordinary meeting of the club cancelled all fixtures and recommended that all members ‘join some military organisation’. Fourteen club members lost their lives in the war, including the 1914 club captain J.E. Grimshaw, who was killed in the Gallipoli Campaign while serving with the Lancashire Fusiliers.
The club returned to playing fixtures in 1919, and by 1922 it had 75 players and 176 patrons. The year 1926 saw the start of the last season at Victoria Park, and on 26 March 1927 the club celebrated the opening of the new ground at Waterloo Road with a victory over Preston Grasshoppers. It was also the year that King George V grammar school opened, the only school in the town to teach rugby from which a thriving Old Georgians rugby club evolved.
Despite the impressive 11-0 win, the club continued to play at the old ground for some time. In the meantime under the chairmanship of Dr. A W Limont the club spent £1500 on the pavilion and ground, all monies raised by the efforts of members and friends at jumble sales, dances, etc. The Pavilion was previously a wooden hutted ward at the closed fever hospital in Moss Lane purchased for £35, the final price escalating to around £1000! This included the cost of dismantling and transporting it to Hillside, improvements to conform with town planning requirements, the laying on of public services to Waterloo Road (Lynton Road had not yet been built), bathing facilities, a fireplace in the common room (now the bar), enclosure of the ground, and the railing off and leveling of the pitch. The job was done by the Park’s superintendent using labour from the pool of unemployed. Most were without any skill and had none of today’s mechanical equipment to help them.
The move to Hillside was completed in time for the 1929/30 Season and a 200 capacity Grandstand, costing £231 was opened in the 1935/36 season. On 23rd May 1936, Old Georgians amalgamate with Southport bolstering the clubs playing strength.
World War Two intervenes and stops all club activities. The government requisitioned the ground and pavilion and there is no record of the club playing rugby during this period. Twenty seven members lose their lives, including six first XV players.
Southport resume playing on 6th October 1946 when Blackburn are the visitors. Contingency plans had been made to use the Terra Nova ground in Lancaster Road in case the main pitch and clubhouse were not ready but in the event play was possible on the second team pitch even though the uncut main pitch was described as still looking like a hayfield.
The grass on the main pitch was finally cut in time for the new season and the pitch properly prepared and the concrete block wall was built to enclose the ground. On 13th September, when things were still trying to get back to normal, Southport first XV recorded it’s then biggest ever win with 63-0 victory at home to Sefton.
A fund was started for the plaque to commemorate members of the club who lost their lives in the 1914-18 and 1939-45 wars. Designed by Mr H D Williams art master at KGV, it is carved in light Austrian oak, with a stainless steel sword and names of the fallen in gold lettering.
At 3pm on Remembrance Day Sunday November 7th 1948 the Plaque was unveiled by His Worship the Mayor of Southport Councillor E. W. Raynor JP at a special ceremony at the club house. Members sang the hymn Oh God, Our Help in Ages Past before being addressed by the Club President Alderman Dr. A. W. Limont JP and the Plaque was dedicated by The Rev. E H. Evans R. N. V. (S.) R.
Following a space for silence Members then said
“ They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn,
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning
We will remember them”
The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,
And there shall be no torment tough them, and in the sight
of the unwise they seemed to die, but they are in peace.
(Wisdom 111, 1, 2,)
Following prayers and the placing of a wreath, the playing of the Last Post and the Reveille, the National Anthem was sung.
Sadly the fireplace has now gone.
Over the years the Plaque has been moved around the main club room until 2011 when it was proudly raised into its new position of splendid authority evocatively flanked by the club’s treasured historic shields of public schools Bedford, Douai, Fettes, Kings School Rochester, Leys, Manchester GS, Merchants Schools, Reading, Royal high School, Rydal, St Bees, and Trent. The origins of the shields is not known, but could relate to when the club was formed by ex. public school boys and the schools they attended.
Every Remembrance Sunday the Plaque is adorned with wreaths and at 11am the whistles are blown and all ages respectfully observe a minutes silence on and off the pitches in tribute to their glorious forebears who’s legacy is there for all to see and to enjoy.