Harry Hanger, ex BCAFC – Killed-in-Action?

There has been disagreement as to whether Harry Hanger, who played for Bradford City between 1906-09 before his transfer to Crystal Palace was killed in action during World War One. The authoritative website produced by the National Football Museum Football & the First World War states that Hanger was killed in March, 1918. The same detail is recorded by the Crystal Palace Holmesdale website which credits Harry Hanger as a war fatality.

Chris Ambler of Queensbury had previously drawn attention to the fact that the individual stated to have been killed in action was said to have been born in Market Harborough whereas Harry the footballer had been born in Kettering, admittedly only 15 miles apart. Thus the suggestion was that ‘our Harry’ had been confused with another from Market Harborough. Nevertheless, military records confirm that a Harold (Harry?) Hanger of Market Harborough had served with the 3rd Battalion, Leicester Regt and crucially that he had enlisted in 1903 which would contradict any suggestion that he was our man. Despite military records often being inaccurate it does seem as though the Market Harborough link can therefore be discounted.

Notwithstanding, there may be altogether different reasons for confusion not previously identified. Kieran Wilkinson has established that our man Harry had two brothers, Charles and Fred who all played with Kettering Town. They lived at Havelock Street, Kettering nearby the Rockingham Road ground of the football club.

Harry enlisted in December, 1914 with the Footballer Battalion.

The Football and the First World War site records the footballer Harry Hanger to have been killed in action in March, 1918 but crucially his identity is stated as being Harold of the 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers. Harold (Harry?) Hanger was killed in March, 1918 in France whilst serving with the 5th Lancers (although records suggest he enrolled originally with the Household Cavalry in October, 1914).

Harold’s family lived in the Barton Seagrave district on the edge of Kettering. His father, Harry Mobbs Hanger – born in 1862 and married in 1882 – was evidently anxious to preserve his identity and proceeded to name three of his sons as follows: Harry (1886), Harold Coles (1887) and Harold (1888).

A Harry Hanger of Kettering is recorded to have been buried in Newark in 1966. Was he the Harry formerly of Havelock Street or a Harry from Barton Seagrave?

Military records suggest that there were at least three other Harry Hangers killed in action: Pvte Harry Hanger of the Machine Gun Regt, #43847; Corporal Harry Hanger of the Rifle Brigade, #204770; and Private Harry Hanger of the 14th London Regt, #511643. I have found no evidence that these were the same as our Harry which may suggest that he did indeed live into old age. That being the case it should rightly be said that ten serving or former Bradford City players were killed in the Great War of 1914-18.

** My thanks to Kieran Wilkinson for his contribution. 

*** Subsequent to publication I was contacted by a Kettering Town supporter who confirmed that Harry Hanger died in Newark in 1967. He added that Harry had been one of three brothers who played for Kettering Town and another, Arthur Hanger served as club secretary.


Links to other articles written by myself on the history of football and the origins of sport in Bradford HERE

On Saturday 19 May, 2018 I am giving a talk in the Bradford Local Studies Library on the origins of spectator sport in nineteenth century Bradford and the development of the city’s sporting culture and identity. This will cover principally cricket, rugby and football and include a Q&A session.

JD Sporting Heritage of Bradford 19-May-18