South Shields footballer tragically killed in World War One among legendary Brighton players featured in new book
A South Shields footballer tragically killed in the First World War is among legendary Brighton players featured in a new book.
Jasper Batey, known as Ginger, was a postman who impressed while playing part-time for his home-town club South Shields FC in the North Eastern League.
He went on to sign for top side Portsmouth where he scored 26 goals in his first season, including a hat trick for the reserves against the Brighton Lambs on Boxing Day 1912.
Jasper was then immediately signed by Brighton & Hove Albion where manager Jack Robson decided to convert him into a left half.
The Albion’s star goalkeeper, Bob Pom Pom Whiting, said of him: “He was a strong boy, always had a laugh when things were tough and a good one to have on our side.”
The postie only played 10 times during his first season at Brighton, but then made the left half position his own in 1914-1915, playing in 20 of the club’s 23 games before league football came to a halt in May due to the First World War.
Jasper enlisted in the Footballers’ Battalion in February 1915, and was transferred to the Army XI Corps Cyclist Corps.
He was tragically killed in action on October 23, 1915, at the Pas-de-Calais aged just 25, while serving as a cyclist messenger.
The fields and valleys of France’s Nord-Pas-de-Calais saw some of the most brutal and bloody battles of World War One.
Runners, or messengers, as they were officially named, were chosen for their fitness, stamina, and ability to read maps. Physically fit athletes, such as footballers were considered ideal for the job.
As they ventured beyond their unit’s position, they faced the risk of being shot or blown up before they got there, or on the way back.
Of all the jobs in the infantry, “the runner’s job was the hardest and most dangerous,” war historian Lieutenant Allan L Dexter observed in a 1931 newspaper article: “With a runner, it was merely a question of how long he would last before being wounded or killed.”
Jasper is buried in the Cambrin Military Cemetery in northern France.
Such was the bond with Brighton & Hove Albion that a parcel of cigarettes was sent by the club to his grieving comrades at the front.
Jasper’s three medals were sold at auction in 2004, for £520.
His story and those of others features in Wet Socks and Dry Bones, which unwraps the lives of 50 former Albion players.
The 300-page paperback was written by life-long Brighton supporter and former South Shields writer Nic Outterside.
Nic’s new book chronologically recounts the biographies of players from full back Arthur Hulme, who played for the Albion from 1902 to 1909, right up to Paul McCarthy who played in the blue and white stripes between 1988 and 1996 – just a year before the Goldstone Ground was demolished.
Nic, who now lives in Wolverhampton, attended his first Brighton & Hove Albion game in September 1967 and has followed them ever since.
His last football book Death In Grimsby, published in 2019, became an Amazon best seller.
While finishing that tome, he learned of the death of his boyhood Brighton hero Kit Napier, which inspired him to write his latest outing.
“I came to realise that several of the stars from my first few seasons at the Goldstone Ground had also passed on – some well before their time,” said Nic.
“They were now all ghosts of the Goldstone’s Field of Dreams and in something akin to Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe, I believed this was our moment in time to bring our ghosts home.
“So, with my own personal memories running around my brain, I began the task of researching the lives and deaths of those players before our collective memories were lost forever.
“While researching the book, I was gob-smacked to begin unravelling the tragic story of Jasper Batey and the poignancy that he came from a town I called my home for many years.”
:: Wet Socks and Dry Bones is priced £11.99 and available from www.amazon.co.uk/WET-SOCKS-DRY-BONES-Goldstone/dp/B095HXPYSB/