Bill Struth - The War Years - Part 4
Feature by The Govanhill Gub
Updated Sunday, 2nd July 2006
When war was declared on Sunday September 3rd, 1939, the Scottish league was five games into the season and already there was a familiar look to the top of the table.
However which way you look at it, Basil Fawlty was spot on; the Germans did in fact start the War when they invaded Poland. When war was declared on Sunday September 3rd, 1939, the Scottish league was five games into the season and already there was a familiar look to the top of the table. Rangers led the way with nine points out of ten and were already three points ahead of Celtic.
Of the four games won (there was a 0-0 draw at St Mirren in the third counter) it was significant that young striker Willie Thornton had scored in them all. Bill Struth had indeed been blessed in the striking department throughout his time as Rangers manager. From 'Geordie' Henderson at the outset of his Ibrox managerial career, followed by Jimmy Fleming and the unfortunate Sam English, then the all-action Jimmy Smith; they were all fantastic strikers for the club and in the nineteen year old Thornton; it looked like he had unearthed another gem from the same diamond mine. I very much doubt this judgement was down solely to luck
It is not my intention to go through these seasons in as much detail as the other terms of Bill Struth's tenure. But I feel Rangers fans should always answer the charges that Rangers players took no part in the War effort. The following, lifted in entirety from Robert McElroy's truly magnificent 'The Spirit of Ibrox' truly demolishes
this Keltic mythology once and for all.
WORLD WAR TWO
"Rangers' outstanding success during World War Two has led to many misinformed and outrageous accusations that Bill Struth deliberately placed his players in reserved occupations in order that they might avoid active service - accusations which have no basis in fact whatsoever and which in any case are an insult to the vital contribution made towards the war effort by such work. People envious of the Ibrox club's success during this and all other eras have promoted such falsehoods. A study of the Rangers players on active service during World War Two is enough to dissolve such a myth:
Willie Thornton (Trooper - Scottish Horse Regiment)
Donald McLatchie (Gunner - Royal Artillery)
Thomas Souter (Captain - Royal Scots Fusiliers)
Sammy Cox (Gordon Highlanders)
David Gray (served in Middle East)
Archie Macauley (Army Physical Training Corps)
Dr. Adam Little
(NB - for some reason (perhaps security?) newspaper reports in the Second World War normally didn't report the name of the regiment players were serving in when they noted their departure to the front)
ROYAL AIR FORCE
Chris McNee - Flight Lieutenant
Bobby Brown - Petty Officer - Fleet Air Arm
"As with the 'Great War' the above list should not be regarded as exhaustive, and again it is to be regretted that full service details are not available on every occasion."
"Ian McPherson was awarded the 'Distinguished Flying Cross', Willie Thornton the 'Military Medal' for valour in the field in Sicily on 18 November 1943. McPherson incidentally flew on the first RAF bombing raid on Germany."
"Former Rangers player Carl Hansen was arrested and imprisoned in his native Copenhagen in 1943. A member of the Danish Resistance during the German Occupation…Hansen was later sentenced to four months' imprisonment."
OLYMPIC HERO AND RANGER
"Olympic athlete Eric Liddell - a lifelong Rangers supporter and member - was detained in China whilst working as a missionary, and died as a result of inhuman treatment in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in 1945."
"Rangers' on-field support for the war effort was considerable:
20.04.41 v RAF (Ibrox) 3-2 (Clydeside Air Raid Disaster Fund)
27.08.41 v British Army (Ayr) 2-2 (War Fund)
01.09.41 v Preston North End (Ibrox) 3-1 (Lord Provost's Central Relief Fund)
25.09.45 v Newcastle (Ibrox) 3-2 (King George V1 Navy Fund)
"On 17 October 1945 Rangers flew to Hanover, Germany for a game against the Combined Services in order to entertain the British Army in occupation of the Rhine."
All in all Rangers won 25 out of the 34 domestic trophies up for grabs in the WW2 and they came about as follows:
1939-40 - Regional League Western Division.
Scottish Emergency War Cup. - Dundee Utd were beaten 1-0 in the final attended by 90,000.
Glasgow Cup - Queens Park were defeated in the final by three goals to one.
Charity Cup - Rangers won this 7-2 on corners after a 1-1 draw against Clyde.
The semi final at Ibrox saw a delightful 5-1 demolition job of Celtic. A Grand Slam of minor proportions.
1940-41 - Southern League
Southern League Cup - Two matches were required to defeat Hearts at the final stage. A 4-2 win in the replay after a 1-1 draw.
Charity Cup - Three nil v Thistle
Two Cups were lost at the final stage this season. The Glasgow Cup to Celtic at Ibrox 1-0 and in the Summer Cup Hibs pipped the light blues 3-2 in the final. The quarter final home leg produced a staggering 5-5 draw against Hamilton after a 3-1 win in the first leg.
1941-42 this was another lesser Grand Slam season of sorts - Southern League; although it did include a severe 8-1 drubbing at Easter Road
Glasgow Cup - Clyde were thrashed 6-0 in the final after the team had defeated Celtic by the odd goal in five in the semi.
Southern League Cup - Twenty years after their last final encounter, Morton stood between Rangers and a trophy and a Gillick goal was all that separated the sides.
Charity Cup - Clyde again were the final opponents and it was won by a much tighter margin of 3-1.
Summer Cup - A revenge of sorts was taken on Hibs but only by the toss of the coin after the match finished all square on goals (0-0) and corners (2-2) Not the best way to win I suppose.
1942-43 - Southern League, including a rather jolly 8-1 Ne'erday battering of Celtic.
Glasgow Cup - Thirds beaten in the final 5-2.
Southern League Cup - won 11-3 on corners against Falkirk after a 1-1 draw during the match.
The Charity Cup was lost at the first hurdle with Clyde exacting a wee bit of revenge for the previous season, winning 2-1 at Ibrox.
The Summer Cup saw St Mirren heading off into the Paisley sunset with the trophy, beating Rangers 1-0 in the final. In the Q/F 1st leg Rangers won 4-1 at CP and the second leg saw another emphatic Rangers victory, this time by four goals to nil. So that was two 8-1 victories over Celtic in the same season. Which is nice; nice, nice, nice.
1943-44 - Southern League
Both the Glasgow and Charity Cups were won and both finals were against Clyde by margins of 2-0 and 2-1 respectively.
Hibs beat Rangers in the Summer Cup final by six corners to five after a 0-0 draw before 63,000. There were 90,000 at the Old Firm semi final when Rangers beat Celtic 4-2.
1944-45 - Southern League
Southern League Cup. Motherwell were beaten by the odd goal in three in the final in front of 70,000. There was a pretty astonishing 87,000 against Queens Park in the previous round. No doubt Celtic apologists will be telling us that Bill Struth got the entire Rangers support, jobs in the shipyards, too.
Both the Glasgow and Charity Cups were retained and this time Celtic were the final protagonists on both occasions. So another lesser Grand Slam had been achieved.
1945-46 this was something of a mixed bag of a season. The Southern League was won and so too was the Charity Cup. A Thornton brace against Third Lanark bringing home the bacon.
Clyde beat Rangers in the Glasgow Cup at the semi final stage by four goals to three. Aberdeen then defeated Rangers 3-2 in the Southern League Cup final before 135,000 at Hampden to record their first national trophy.
The SFA then asked that the cup be returned so that it could be competed for as the last trophy of the wartime era; The Victory Cup. There were 61,000 at Ibrox to see Falkirk in the Q/F 2nd leg. Then 90,000 rolled up to watch a 0-0 Old Firm semi final draw and 50,000 turned up for the 2-0 replay stroll. Hibs who were by now far and away Rangers strongest challengers domestically awaited in the final and 100,000 witnessed a 3-1 Rangers win. The trophy is still in the Ibrox trophy room to this day.
As we all know the WW2 period is classed as unofficial and to that end none of the trophies collected back then are included in Rangers official list of honours. But apart from remembering the achievements of the players from that era, what should also never be forgotten is the campaign of hatred, distortion, untruths and wilful lies from those who hail from the east end of Glasgow.
Over many years I have read Celtic high heid yins, Celtic View editors/journalists, Celtic apologists and historians lambast Rangers record of supremacy during the WW2 era. But how can you have a meaningful or rational debate with people who unlike Rangers actually count the unofficial WW2 period as official when it suits them?
Consider the following, and this needs to be reiterated. Rangers FC do not count the many honours won in that era as official, nor do they count the goals from that period in their official scoring lists.
However, Celtic FC and their apologists on the other hand, who moan continually that the WW2 period doesn't count actually do include the goals scored during that period in their official records. Therefore we have the truly bizarre/hilarious/pathetic
scenario whereby Celtic historians do not officially recognize the 8-1 defeat at Ibrox on Ne'erday 1943. But they do count as official their solitary goal scored that day.
As I've been at pains to point out, seasons 1939-40 - 1945-46 should always be considered as a lesser period in the club's history, however there were a few matches from this time that should and indeed must be recalled.
There was of course the aforementioned 8-1 defeat at Easter Rd on the 27th September 1941 and the 8-1 Ibrox OF victory in January 1943. Before then however; earlier on the 6th of September 1941, Celtic fans were not in the best of moods after a 3-0 league defeat at Ibrox. In the aftermath the authorities decided to shut down Celtic Park for a month. They decanted to Shawfield for a month.
There was a rip-snorter of an OF league tussle at Ibrox on the 8th September 1945 when goals from Williamson (2) Duncanson, Johnston and Venters (yet again) helped edge out Celtic by five goals to three.
However the major game of 1945 came about on the 28th of November when the all-conquering Moscow Dynamo in a post war tour of Britain visited Glasgow. The Muscovites had already defeated Cardiff City 10-1, Arsenal 4-3 and drew 3-3 with Chelsea. They were indeed the talk of the town.
So intent were the Russians on making sure Caskie wouldn't play, they threatened to boycott the match and it was only at the last minute that Rangers relented to make sure it would actually go ahead.
On the day of the match the Russians were taken for a sail down the Clyde but officials were bamboozled as to certain slogans that were written on half finished ships. When they enquired as to the nature of the writing they were told the slogans said; 'Who's afraid of Caskie'!
As for the game itself, another generation of grannies was wiped out in an afternoon when 95,000 witnessed the Russians two goals to the good early on. Willie Waddell missing a penalty wouldn't have helped their mood. However a goal by Jimmy Smith brought the light blues back into the game and during a spell of intense Rangers pressure in the second half another penalty was awarded that would give Rangers a share of the spoils. George Young took it upon himself to make amends for Waddell's previous miss and that he did.
The Russians went away enthusing about the standard of Rangers play and fitness although I'm not so sure Tory Gillick felt the same way about their grasp of arithmetic. At one time during the second half the bold Tory got the referee to stop play and count how many Dynamo players were actually on the pitch. Somehow, they had brought on a substitute but had 'inadvertently' forgotten to take a player
off. Russians cheating to get ahead in sport; now who would believe that one?
However no recollection of Rangers games from this era would be complete without a look back at the last Old Firm encounter of the period. This was the Victory Cup semi-final replay and it came about on 5/6/46. The first match the previous Saturday had been attended by a colossal 90,000; and they saw a Rangers side that had beaten Celtic on the four previous occasions that season basically hustled out of
their stride. The old Glasgow saying of the time; 'Nae goals, nae fitba', just about sums up the proceedings.
This midweek replay affair attracted only 50,000, but the supporters looking on got something of a treat. Rangers, who had booked the wind, opened the scoring on the ten minute mark thanks to a fierce Waddell drive. Gillick struck the crossbar and Jimmy Duncanson should have scored from close in just before half time but instead produced a marvelous save from the Celtic goalkeeper, Miller. So Rangers went into suck their half time oranges one goal to the good.
Celtic with the wind at their backs in the second half made a much better fist of things but with twenty minutes to go Rangers were awarded a penalty and the old aggrieved, hard done by Celtic routine kicked in and their players rushed the referee. Celtic captain, George Paterson, who had already been booked, refused to hand over
the ball to the whistler and he was promptly dismissed for, what any sensible, sentient human being can only surmise was dissent/second bookable offence.
However there was more Celtic minded madness going on elsewhere. Whilst the hapless referee had to deal with the Celtic players crowding all around him, one of their colleagues, left-back, Jimmy Mallan, was rubbing away the penalty spot markings with his boot. Presumably his thought process must have been along the lines of; 'if there is no penalty spot they can't take the penalty.' When the referee, WC Dale, saw what had happened he promptly sent off Mallan also. Astonishingly, to this day Celtic historians have still to find fault with Mallan's behaviour.
George Young scored the 'disputed' penalty to put the result beyond all doubt. All that was left was for a crazed Celtic fan to run on the field of play and try to attack the referee with a bottle. Once again this behaviour has been absolved by Celtic historians. The reason being, they insist the referee was drunk whilst officiating the match. A new low; even by Celtic's own appalling standards of graciousness in defeat down through the years.
So we take our leave once again of Bill Struth and his players. But it should be noted that another new team had evolved throughout the war era; new lords of the dressing room had came into their own. George Young, Jock 'Tiger' Shaw and Willie Woodburn were now defensive mainstays and up front Waddell, Gillick and Thornton (when the war allowed) were automatic features and there was Jimmy Duncanson and Billy Williamson only too willing and able to chip in with their share of the goals.
The end of the war saw the passing of the last links with Bill Struth's great teams of the late 20s/early 30s. True Rangers greats in Jerry Dawson, Jimmy Smith and the legendary Dougie Gray all came to the end of their Rangers careers. But there was a trio of new signings that came to the club in 1946, who would all make their mark alongside the aforementioned Young, Shaw and Woodburn. They were Bobby Brown, Ian McColl and Sammy Cox. We'll see how they all gelled in the next chapter.
However, we still should acknowledge the caliber of team that was starting to emerge. George Young, Jock Shaw and Willie Woodburn were now defensive mainstays and upfront Waddell, Gillick and Thornton were automatic selections.
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