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Kirk: Gerald

1906-1907 (Leeds City Player Details)

Centre Half

Born: Headingley, Leeds: 14-07-1883

Debut: v Hull City (a): 22-12-1906

Height & Weight: Unknown

Educated at Pocklington Grammar School, a Rugby Union playing school, Kirk was still good enough at football to be signed by Second Division Bradford City in April 1905. He scored two goals in forty League games and played three F.A. Cup games while at Valley Parade in his first period with the club. He joined Second Division Leeds City in December 1906 and scored one goal in eight League appearances and played one F.A. Cup tie while at Elland Road. He returned to Second Division Bradford City in September 1907 after losing his place at Elland Road but only played three League games as the Bantams gained promotion and he never played professionally after retiring at the end of the 1907-08 season, returning to play for his local team at Ingleton. He enlisted in the King’s Own Lancashire Regiment at the outbreak of World War One and rose to the rank of Second Lieutenant before he was killed in action at Ypres Belgium on 24th April 1915, aged Thirty-one, and he was buried in Poperinghe Old Military Cemetary.

The following is an extract from: The History of Bradford City - Fallen Heroes:

http://www.bantamspast.co.uk/earlydays/fallenheroes.html

At first glance, Gerald Kirk appears to be from a lost world of privilege and position. Son of a wealthy land-owning family, public school educated and a ‘gentleman’ amateur footballer. However, scratch the surface and you’ll find a man held in genuine esteem in his community and one who worked his way through the ranks to gain a commission during the Great War. He was born in Headingley, Leeds, on 14th July 1883, son of Alfred and Isabella of Greenwood Leghe, of Ingleton, North Yorkshire. From 1895 he attended, as a boarder, Pocklington Grammar School, East Yorkshire, where he played for the second XI at both football and cricket. Gerald appeared at centre forward and inside left. He left the school in December 1900. Gerald’s family owned a great deal of property and land in the Ingleton area, presumably after leaving school Gerald helped to manage the estate. In the 1901 census, the family are classed as ‘living on their own means’. A keen sportsman, Gerald captained Ingleton Football Club. In April 1903 they won the Lancaster and District League Championship, the whole village wildly celebrated as the team returned home to a heroes welcome. The following season they were beaten finalists in the Lancaster Senior Cup. Gerald joined Bradford City after impressing as a trialist in a friendly against Dundee on 25th April 1905 and again in a friendly against Blackburn Rovers. He made his first team debut on 28th October 1905, when City defeated Blackpool 2-1 in a Second Division game at Valley Parade. He established himself at centre-half and was a virtual ever-present thereafter. However, Gerald was transferred to Leeds City in December 1906. At Elland Road he only played seven games – scoring one goal – before returning to Valley Parade in September 1907. Back at Bradford City he was mainly a reserve, playing a mere three games during the 1907/08 season. City’s promotion to the top flight of English football brought about fairly widespread changes in personnel and Gerald was one of many who left Valley Parade during the summer of 1908. In all, Gerald had played forty-three games for City, scoring twice. Although Gerald was only approaching his Twenty-sixth birthday, he turned his back on ‘professional’ football and returned to his old club Ingleton. Off the field of play Gerald was instrumental in forming Ingleton Conservative Club and was its first Honourable Secretary. Clearly an active citizen, he was also on the board of the Ingleton National School. In line with his social standing he regularly hunted with the Vale of Lune Harriers. He married Sarah Jane Capstick at Holy Trinity Church, Casterton, Westmoreland on 21 April 1909. They set up home at Hazel Mount, Warton near Carnforth. At the outbreak of the Great War the 1/5th battalion King’s Own Lancaster Regiment moblised. The battalion was a territorial unit and it was found that two hundred soldiers were unfit for service. The local paper, the Lancaster Observer, appealed for volunteers to fill the gaps in the ranks. On 1st September 1914 Gerald Kirk joined up and became one of what the paper called the ‘Gallant 200’. On his enlistment form Gerald gave his occupation as a ‘gentleman’. Despite his undoubted social status, Gerald initially served as a Private (service number 2132), but was quickly marked out for promotion. He was duly promoted to Lance Corporal on 31st October 1914. Gerald’s Battalion were initially involved in Home Defence duties around Lancaster and Barrow. From 14th August 1914 the battalion was used to guard the Great Western Railway line between Didcot and Oxford. In November they left Didcot for Sevenoaks in Kent, where they combined with other troops from the Territorial West Lancashire Division. During that time Gerald was offered a commission and eventually attained the rank of Second Lieutenant on 31st January 1915. In February 1915, they sailed for France and by 17th February 1915 the first elements of the battalion began disembarking at Le Havre. They were one of the first Territorial units to be sent overseas. On 2nd March 1915 they were at Bailleul, prior to gaining their first experience of trench warfare at Neuve Eglise. They were relieved on 23rd March 1915 by the 1st Monmouthshire’s and slowly marched away from the tumult of the front line for a period of well-earned rest in billets. All too soon, they moved to the infamous Ypres Salient and on 12th April the battalion were in the front line trenches at Polygon Wood. In just five days they lost fourteen killed and forty-four wounded. The badly battered battalion moved to St Jean and dug in as Ypres suffered from yet another spell of heavy shelling. On the afternoon of 22nd April 1915, the Germans launched the first gas attack in the history of warfare, at nearby St Julien. It descended on a portion of front held by French Colonial troops. Terrified by the strange yellow cloud enveloping them, the ‘Zouaves’ retreated in disarray. Gerald’s battalion watched as the retching and green-faced troops passed through their ranks. A Canadian Division somehow plugged the gap and, though heavily outnumbered, checked the ensuing German advance. The following day Gerald’s platoon was ordered to support the Canadians, as part of a hastily assembled counter attack. At 1pm they moved forward towards Pilkem and once again dug in. The attack commenced at 3.45pm and at 5pm Gerald’s battalion, acting as reserve, joined the fray. With ‘C’ company leading, they immediately came under heavy machine gun and rifle fire from three sides. Suffering numerous casualties they pulled back a couple of hundred yards. With no artillery support their position was almost hopeless. The Colonel in charge witnessed soldiers trying to find cover wherever they could, some hid behind a pile of manure, but the bullets cut through and they were all killed. The Colonel made his way to Brigade HQ but was simply told to ‘hold his position’. When he returned he found that ‘Kirk is seriously wounded’. The desperate assault blunted the German attack, but at great cost. Over half the troops involved were killed. The battalion alone lost twenty-six killed, one hundred and two wounded and one gassed. Gerald, leading his platoon forward at Wieltje, was shot through the chest. Badly wounded, he was taken to Poperinghe behind the lines. He died the next day, 24 April 1915, at Number 3 Casualty Clearing Station, Poperinghe. Gerald is buried at Poperinghe Old Military Cemetary - plot 2, row K, grave 28.

AppearancesGoals
League 81
F.A. Cup 10