On the 9th January 1915 Cambridge Town Football Club (now Cambridge City) lined up for what transpired to be the last match the club played during the First World War.
That last match played before the Armistice in November 1918 was billed as a game against the “6th Cheshire Regiment” and was played in aid of the War Fund at Jesus Grove, within the grounds of Jesus College. Whilst the exact details of this match are very sketchy what we do know is that playing and scoring that day was Herbert Leonard Halls, known to all as “Hop” Halls.
Herbert Leonard Halls was born in 1888, and played for Cambridge Town in our very first season in 1908. He played in our very first match at Bury United on 3rd October 1908 and was in the team that had the honour of recording Cambridge Town’s first ever win four weeks later – a 4-2 victory at Long Melford.
As an accomplished cricketer he played for the victorious University Press side in the Final of the Cambs Junior Cup in 1913. Hop married one of Sir Jack Hobbs’ sisters and lived on Hooper Street. It is not known if Jack Hobbs and Hop Halls ever played in the same cricket XI but we do know that they played football together for Cambridge St Mary’s, the top team in Cambridge in the early part of the 20th century. This team has a direct lineage to our club as when St Mary’s folded at the end 1907-08 season they effectively re-formed as Cambridge Town Football Club, now Cambridge City FC.
Hop Halls made his St Mary’s debut away to Ely City in the Cambs Senior League in November 1905. Jack Hobbs played left wing with Hop on the right. St Mary’s won 3-0 with Jack Hobbs missing a penalty. A few weeks later the local press reported that Hop set up a goal for Jack Hobbs and in January 1906 Hop scored his first goal for St Mary’s in the 6-1 win over St Barnabas played out in front of over 2,000 spectators on Parker’s Piece. In March 1906 Hop played his first match for the Cambridgeshire County team, a major honour back in those days.
Hop played 13 games, scoring once, in that 1905-06 season. He gained another County appearance the following season and played in most of the games for St Mary’s. The 1907-08 season Hop was once again a virtual ever-present, although he did miss two games to play for Norwich City reserves. His commitment to the cause with St Mary’s was surely shown when he was one of just six players who travelled to Huntingdon to play a league game in March 1908. Perhaps not surprisingly the home team won 9-0. All told, Hop played 50 odd games for St Mary’s, scoring 11 goals.
Hop was a virtual ever-present for Town in all the six seasons up to the outbreak of the war, and by the end of the 1913-1914 season he had played 161 games and had scored 73 goals. During this period Hop played in France with Town a number of times against the likes of Le Havre and Racing Club of Paris.
Hop Halls died towards the end of the Great War, on the 29th March 1918. Hop was a Driver with the Royal Field Artillery. His death was tragic as he was killed accidentally by a horse. Hop is buried in Chauny, a village midway between Amiens and Reims in Northern France. Hop had 2 children at the time of his death, Leslie and Leonard, Len being the youngest and born 16th March 1918.
Article courtesy of Neil Harvey, CCFC Club Historian
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