Thomas Callaghan (1888-1917) was born in Halesowen, Birmingham in 1888 and died on 20 February 1917 in Belgium. A pacy winger with a fine cross, Callaghan made almost two hundred senior appearances during a career that began as a teenage debutant with Glossop and ended following spells at Manchester City, Partick Thistle and St Mirren. After calling time on his professional career in the years leading up to the First World War, Callaghan joined the British Army and was later killed in action near the Belgian town of Ypres in 1917.
Thomas Callaghan began his fledgling career at Small Heath, soon to become Birmingham Football Club, but left in 1904 with no senior appearances to his name. A brief spell at Birmingham Combination side Halesowen Town followed, before Callaghan journeyed to the Peak District in April 1905 to sign for second division Glossop. Immediately thrust into the first-team at the the struggling club, a teenage Callaghan made his debut in a 3-1 home triumph over Gainsborough Trinity on 15 April and would go on to make a further three appearances as Glossop finished the 1904/05 season in twelfth place.
The 1905/06 campaign saw Callaghan firmly establish himself as a first-team regular and he eventually featured in 32 games in all competitions, scoring four times. The following season was to also prove a productive one for Callaghan as he turned out 40 times for Glossop, this time scoring five goals.
The highly-rated winger left North Road in the summer of 1907 to sign for Manchester City, however, opportunties proved diffiuclt to come by and Callaghan would have to wait until February 1908 for his first senior opportunity – at 1-0 defeat at Notts County. Despite impressing in City’s second string, Callaghan would play just one more match for the club, a scoreless draw at Bury on 29 February 1908, and left Manchester soon after to join Scottish side, Partick Thistle.
The move north of the border resurrected Callaghan’s career and he would score three goals in 28 matches during his debut season at Firhill. The 1910/11 campaign would then prove to be the most successful of Callaghan’s career as he stuck five times in 29 appearances to help the Jags to fourth spot in the First Division. Callaghan would then spend one season at St Mirren, scoring three times in 18 games, before returning to Maryhill to play one final season for Thistle.
In total, Callaghan made 180 senior appearances during his time playing professional football in England and Scotland, scoring 21 goals. His final game came on 29 March 1913 when Partick Thistle fell to a 2-1 reverse to Hibernian at Firpark.
First World War Service
Callaghan enlisted in the British Army during the First World War and is reported to have served in the Somerset Light Infantry (Service No. 23296) by the official War Office record, Soldiers Died in the Great War . By early 1917, however, Private 633491 Callaghan was serving with the 1/20th London Regiment (Blackheath and Woolwich), a territorial unit that had been on the Western Front since March 1915.
As part of 141st Brigade, 47th (2nd London) Division, the battalion had been involved in heavy fighting during the Battle of Aubers Ridge, the Battle of Festubert and the Battle of Loos in 1915, before seeing action in the German assault at Vimy Ridge in early 1916. They then fought on the Somme where they captured High Wood during subsidiary battles of Flers-Courcelette, and Eaucourt l’Abbaye during the fighting for the Transloy Ridges. In October 1916, the 20th Londons moved north to the Hill 60 sector of the Ypres Salient with its division.
On 20 February 1917 a large-scale trench raid was launched at Hill 60 by 1/6th Londons, part of 140th Bde, during which record numbers of prisoners were taken and considerable intelligence gained. It was a significant achievement for the battalion and one which was supported by the rest of 47th Division, including 20th Londons. The entry in the battalion war diary for that day records:
Enemy inactive during the day. 1/6th Bn, THE LONDON RGT [sic] raided the enemy lines on on [sic] left on a front of 500 yards. We co-operated with a smoke barrage from the CRATERS and also by sending up coloured lights from the CRATERS. This suceeded [sic] in drawing the enemy’s fire. Recall signals were sent up from Battalion H.Q. from 6pm until 6.30pm. All was quiet at 7.30pm. The raid was very successful. One officer and 114 OR’s [sic] were taken prisoner. Two mine shafts and numerous dugouts distroyed [sic] and fair intelligence captured. The casualties of this battalion were very light – six killed and one wounded.
Among the casualties was Pte Callaghan, who was killed by German shell fire. Following his death, a sergeant in Callaghan’s unit wrote to the footballer’s brother to explain how he had lost his life. On 12 March 1917, the Evening Dispatch published an extract of the letter which read: “He [Callaghan] was in charge of a gun at the time, and while sticking to it like grim death, a shell fell on top of him and another man, killing them both… I can’t say enough for him. I only wish I was as fine a man.”
Thomas Callaghan is buried at Chester Farm Cemetery, which located 5 kilometres south of Ypres town centre on the Vaartstraat. The cemetery contains 413 identified and seven unidentified casualties. It also has special memorials commemorating six casualties known or believed to be buried among them.
COMPLETE CAREER STATISTICAL RECORD
|Season||Club||League Position||FA Cup||League Games||League Goals||FA Cup Games||FA Cup Goals|
|1903/04||Small Heath||11th (First Division)|
|1904/05||Glossop||12th (Second Division)||Q4||4|
|1905/06||Glossop||16th (Second Division)||Q4||31||4||1||0|
|1906/07||Glossop||15th (Second Division)||R1||38||4||2||1|
|1907/08||Manchester City||3rd (First Division)||R2||2|
|1908/09||Manchester City||19th (First Division) (R)||R1|
|1909/10||Partick Thistle||16th (Scottish First Division)||28||3|
|1910/11||Partick Thistle||4th (Scottish First Division)||29||5|
|1911/12||St. Mirren||18th (Scottish First Division)||20||4|
|1912/13||Partick Thistle||17th (Scottish First Division)||23||1|
A full list of sources used to create this page can be found here.