ANZAC Day Special Feature: A Story Of Sacrifice

Anyone who has been involved with the local WA football scene in recent decades will almost certainly be familiar with Bassendean Caledonians.

Now based at Jubilee Reserve, the club has long been a prominent member of the Amateur League, fielding teams across a range of age groups and divisions.

But what may not be as well known to some is the remarkable story of the club’s original incarnation, the Caledonian Soccer Club, which was founded in Fremantle in 1913.

That date provides a clue as to the nature of the story, with World War One breaking out the very next year, an event which was to have a devastatingly profound impact upon the newly-formed club.

The initial effect of the outbreak of war was purely logistical, the club being forced to leave their Fremantle Park home early in 1915 after it was commandeered by the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) to be used as a training camp.

The trotting grounds in East Fremantle were soon secured as a new venue for Caledonian’s home games, but many of their players were destined to enjoy just one campaign there.

At the end of the 1915 season, with the infantry division of the AIF still slugging it out with the Turks on the bloody shores of Gallipoli, no fewer than 27 Caledonian SC players and officials enlisted to serve.

Like so many of the other 32,000 Western Australians who answered the call, the Caledonian contingent would have boarded the troop ships for the long voyage to Europe buoyed by patriotic fervour and with little, if any, concept of the horrors they would face on the battlefields of the Western Front, Sinai and Palestine.

And tragically, many would never return.

Of the Caledonian SC first-team regulars who enlisted, no fewer than eight made the ultimate sacrifice.

‘Barney’ Cowan, ‘Barney’ Henry, ‘Dickie’ Leonard, Dave McKinnon, Jamie Simpson, Frank Lyon, William Chalmers MM and Charlie Monteath were the men in question, losing their lives at some of the most notorious battles of the war, including Paschendaele (second battle), Villers-Bretonneux and Pozieres Heights.

Fathers, sons, brothers and footballers whose premature passing added a further eight devastated families to the millions of others across Australia, the rest of the Commonwealth and vast swathes of Europe.

Unsurprisingly, Caledonian SC ceased to exist by the end of the war, only to be resurrected and reformed in 1920, moving to Mosman Park, North Perth and Lake Monger before eventually finding a permanent home in Bassendean in the early 1970s.

But while the club may have been nomadic in terms of its home ground, it has always embraced its proud World War One heritage, notably via the late Alex Marr.

Marr, a goalkeeper and State Team representative, survived the conflict to resume playing the game and Callies’ Best and Fairest Award is named after him to this day.

The Caledonian SC story is not unique; more than 300 football players and officials from around WA enlisted with the forces during the Great War, but it is hard not to be moved by the poignancy of almost an entire team failing to return home.

And their ultimate sacrifice is certainly worthy of reflection as the football community comes together to honour all our servicemen and women, past and present, this Sunday.

Lest We Forget

Remembrance Day flag and bugle pic


*For more details on this story, we recommend the books “Soccer Anzacs” by John Williamson and Richard Kreider’s seminal history of WA football, “From Paddocks to Pitches: A Comprehensive History of Western Australian Football”.
Thanks also to the WA Football Hall of Fame

#OneGlory