Cloisters of Saint John Lateran, Rome. Source:

Saturday, 29 July 2017

William Jonas R.I.P. Clapton Orient Footballer And Legend. Killed In Delville Wood, France, 27 July 1916.

Available on YouTube at

Text and Illustration: LEYTON ORIENT

Article by: Steve Jenkins.

27 July 2017 marked the 101st Anniversary of the death of William Jonas, who was killed in Delville Wood, on The Somme, France, on 27 July 1916.

William had joined-up into The 17th Battalion Middlesex Regiment, along with nine of his Clapton Orient team-mates at the specially convened Recruitment Meeting at Fulham Town Hall on 15 December 1914.

Over the next few months, over forty Orient players, staff and supporters were to join-up into The 17th Middlesex Regiment, which was to become commonly known as ‘The Footballers' Battalion’.

The ever-popular Jonas, whilst being an excellent centre-forward, could also play in many other positions, including goal-keeper, in fact he played in every position except outside-left, but it was his role as a striker that lead him to really make his mark at the O’s, pairing up so well with his former schoolboy pal and goal-ace Richard McFadden. 

Between them, they terrorised the opposition and helped The Orient make a mark for itself in The Second Division as the Club pushed for promotion prior to the outbreak of World War I.

Born in Blyth, Northumberland, in 1890, it was recorded that, when he joined The Orient, he was 5’8” tall and weighed 11 st 4 lb. His initial career, like so many others in the area he grew up in, was in coal mining, working at Cambois Colliery.

His football career started at Jarrow Croft FC, before joining Havannah Rovers, having turned down a move to Barnsley FC. He signed for Clapton Orient in 1912, after his best friend McFadden had arranged a Trial for him at The O’s.

His good looks and dashing style of play lead him to become very popular with the female admirers at Millfields Road, East London, where Clapton Orient played; so much so, that at one stage he was receiving over fifty letters a week from the ladies of Homerton, East London.

Clapton Orient.
The Somme, 1916 - 2016.
" They Took The Lead".
Available on YouTube at

Whilst very flattered, he felt he needed to make a statement in The Orient Match Day Programme, to the effect that, whilst he appreciated the attention, kind words and good wishes, could they please cease as he was very happily married to his sweet-heart Mary Jane !!!

It was during The Battle of The Somme, in the Summer of 1916, that William, along with the rest of his O’s team-mates, found themselves in the heat of battle. Some of the heaviest and bloodiest fighting was in Delville Wood, and it was here that William Jonas and Richard McFadden found themselves pinned down under heavy fire and shelling. It was during this fighting that Jonas gave up his life.

Richard McFadden later sent a Letter back to the O’s, in which he gave an eyewitness account of William’s last moments –
‘I, Richard McFadden sadly report the death of my friend and O’s colleague William Jonas on the morning of Thursday, 27 July 2016, aged 26.
‘Both Willie and I were trapped in a trench, near to The Front, in Somme, France.
‘Willie turned to me and said “Goodbye Mac”, ‘Best of luck, special love to my sweetheart Mary Jane and best regards to the lads at Orient’.
Before I could reply to him, he was up and over. No sooner had he jumped up out of the trench, my best friend of nearly twenty years was killed before my eyes. Words cannot express my feelings at this time.
Company Serjeant Major Richard McFadden’.

William Jonas’ body could not be retrieved and was lost to the elements. However, he is now Commemorated, along with his O’s Team-Mates, Richard McFadden and George Scott, on The Clapton Orient Memorial in the Village of Flers, France (see YouTube Video, above). William Jonas is also Commemorated on The Thiepval Memorial.


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