- Lancashire Fusiliers
- 10th Battalion
- 16th February 1916
- Commemorated on Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium, Panel 33.
Son of William and Frances Mary Bache, of West Bromwich
BACHE Harold Godfrey Is Named On These Memorials
Further Information About BACHE Harold Godfrey
Harold Bache was born on 20th August 1889 at Churchill, Worcestershire. He entered King Edward’s School, Birmingham in 1898 and left the school in 1908 when he went to Gonville and Caius College at Cambridge. Here he played cricket, rugby and lawn tennis, winning the University Lawn Tennis Championship and a Blue.
In 1907 Harold made his debut in first-class cricket, playing for Worcestershire County Cricket Club against Surrey. He played in a further 19 matches as a left-hand batsman and a slow-arm bowler. From 1909 he also played for the Corinthians Football Club and for West Bromwich Albion. He did not receive a full international cap but played in an Amateur Football Association International against Wales.
When war broke out Harold volunteered and enlisted, receiving a commission in October 1914. During training with the army he played two charity games for the Corinthians against the Aldershot Command. After training he was sent to France on Thursday 15th July 1915, sailing with his Battalion to Boulogne. He was appointed the Battalion Bombing Officer.
On 16th February 1916 Harold was shot by a sniper close to the Yser to Comines Canal as he was returning from an attempt to capture a lost trench.
Source for additional information: In Continuing and Grateful Memory, The Menin Gate
Berrow’s Worcester Journal: 26th September 1914:
H.G. Bache Enlists
H.G. Bache, the famous international and Cambridge football player, who has also played cricket for Worcestershire, in company with two brothers, Eric Bache and J.E.K. Bache, has joined the West Bromwich Company of the Staffordshire Battalion, and it is expected that the training will be commenced next week. He will be included, however, in the Albion side against Liverpool at the hawthorns to-morrow and probably this will be his last appearance in the new colours for some time
Harold Godfrey Bache was also felled by wanton behaviour – but not his own. The West Bromwich Albion star was the victim of a whole continent’s self-destruction. He was one of the millions of brave soldiers who died fighting in the trenches of the Great War. Bache was set to become one of England’s finest footballing forwards. Many believe his talent was the equal of Best, or even that other tragic Midland footballer, Duncan Edwards.
Now, on the day so many fallen heroes are commemorated, a stalwart Baggies fan has published a tribute to the footballer who went to war but never came marching home. At the age of 26, Bache died while fighting for king and country. “He was a fantastic player, noted for his skills with the ball and vision on the pitch,” says Simon Wight, author of a new book titled West Brom’s Cult Heroes. “He was also incredibly unselfish as a player. He would always pass the ball to another player if he thought that he had a better chance of scoring. “But he wasn’t just unselfish while playing football. He was also an incredibly courageous man. It was this bravery, and love for his people, that led him to fight in the Great War.”
Bache was undoubtedly a man of extraordinary abilities. He also had an unusual background for a footballer at the turn of the last century. Unlike practically every other player, he retained amateur status throughout his career. This was probably because he didn’t need the money from football. The Bache family was affluent. Harold’s father was a lawyer and founded a prestigious legal firm in West Bromwich. But sport was always a fixture in his life. And not just the kickabout game. Harold also excelled at cricket, rugby, hockey and tennis – even playing at Wimbledon. In fact, he came to football rather late in life. He had already gone to France to teach, when he was brought back to the Midlands by a scout who had been informed by the Bache family about his footballing gifts.
Only 14 games would he ever play, during the years 1914 and 1915. Because while he weaved a web of wonder on the football pitch, another web was also being spun. A web that would eventually fall across much of Europe, imprisoning so many young men in the deadly threads of war. But before the trenches there was triumph for Bache. He only scored four goals in his 14 matches for the Albion but this was largely because of his unselfish attitude in the box. However, his silky skills delighted the fans and press alike. One newspaper of the time enthused: “What a wonderful difference the appearance of HG Bache makes to the Albion attack. “Apart from his own individual work, which is always par excellence, the amateur’s inclusion seems to give confidence to the rest of his colleagues and his beautiful dribbling and accurate passes are a great help to the side. “When he came onto the field, he received quite an ovation from the Hawthorns crowd.”
Unfortunately, the war cut short all of this promise. As a footballer he had always led from the front. Now he was about to be sent to the front. After volunteering for active service, he was trained as a ‘bombing officer’ and joined the 10th Battalion of Lancashire Fusiliers as a Second Lieutenant. “This just showed how brave he was,” explains Simon. “Because what these ‘bombers’ actually did was throw grenades. “Harold would have been excellent at this kind of skill, since he also had great talent with a cricket ball. But it was also incredibly dangerous – the hand-grenade had only just been invented in 1915, and were pretty unreliable. “In fact, there was always a good chance that they would go off in your hand. That’s why other soldiers used to call the bomb-throwers the Suicide Squad.”
Harold was in charge of 80 of these death-wish daredevils. Together, they made their way to the front in France. In September of 1915, they had made their way to a location close to Ypres, where some of the soldiers billeted in a barn came under shell-fire. One shell blasted through the roof, killing 20 soldiers and wounding 27 more. Bache dashed towards the barn, shells exploding all around him. His captain ordered him to take cover behind a building – but this was the man who had struck with such venom for the Albion. He only knew how to push forward. Sprinting to help the injured, he yelled to his superior: “I can’t leave the wounded in danger!”
On another occasion, enemy machine guns smashed through trench defences. Lieutenant Bache was seen “walking about the trenches, pulling the wounded out of danger, encouraging his men and binding up wounds, every moment in peril of his life.”
As an amateur sportsman, Bache gloried in the game he loved in front of thousands of bellowing fans. But his death is masked in the obscurity of war, his last hours hidden behind the muck and mayhem of Ypres. We do know that he died on February 15, 1915 during an attempted British attack on a German stronghold. And what else can we be certain of? Not much. But understanding Harold only a little, we can probably say his ending was bolstered by his immense bravery and concern for his comrades in arms. Harold Bache excelled at games, but he also excelled at something more important. He was resolute in the face of danger and stout in the defence of his fellow Brit. These days most footballers only have a sense of patriotism towards the pay cheque. It is all about self-delusion and selfishness. Harold Godfrey Bache wasn’t like that. He also believed in the self, but of a much higher order. The order that so many soldiers, past and present, understand only too well. That highest self of all: self-sacrifice.
Harold Bache has no known grave, the photograph available shows his name on the Ypres Menin Gate Memorial