WW1 soliders in silhouette

Caledonian Devastated by the Great War

The First World War took a massive toll on football in Western Australia. Around 400 players and officials from the likes of Perth FC, Thistle, City United, Rangers, Claremont, Austral, Fremantle and Training College enlisted in the Australian Forces, however, there was one club that felt the effects of war more than any other.

Caledonian were formed by Fremantle’s Scottish community in 1913. The tragedy that unfolded on Europe’s mainland had a devastating effect on the fledgling club who had no less than twenty-seven players and officials sign up for the war effort.

1913 Caledonian Squad
Seven players from this 1913 Caledonian team served in the First World War – James Simpson (back row, far left), Charlie Monteath (middle row, far left), Alec Marr (middle row, fourth from left), Bob Dewar (middle row, third from left), Charlie Braidwood (front row, far left), Frank Lyon (front row, third from left) and Roger McKinnon (front row, far right)

Eleven players from the Caledonian first teams of 1913, 1914 and 1915 were amongst the first to enlist in the Australian Forces – Alec Cowan, James Cowan, Bob Dewar, Jim Durward, David Henry, Richard Leonard, Frank Lyon, Alec Marr, Dave McKinnon, Roger McKinnon and James Simpson.

In the years that followed a further twelve players served in the war – James Anderson, Frank Beisley, Charlie Braidwood, Donald Cameron, James Chalmers, William Chalmers, William Earnshaw, James Gourley, James McFarlane, Alex McPherson, Charlie Monteath and J.Thompson.

Caledonian officials Alec Brown, George Brown, Charles Grieve and David Reid also answered the call to arms. Additionally, foundation player A.Cameron and club official J.H.Campbell are likely to have served with the 27th and 11th Battalions respectively.

Following the 1915 season 14 Caledonian players and officials attended a farewell function organised by the Fremantle Caledonian Society. When a welcome home event was organised four years later only five of the 14 attended, the rest having been killed, wounded or otherwise traumatised by the conflict.

So great was Caledonians’ sacrifice to the war effort that eight players would never again set foot on Australian shores. Chalmers, James Cowan, Henry, Leonard, Lyon, McKinnon, Monteath and Simpson were each killed on the battlefields of Turkey and France.

In June 1920 the Fremantle Caledonian Society erected a large plaque inscribed with the names of the 106 members who had served in the First World War. Unfortunately, this plaque is now been lost.

Caledonian evolved to become one of Western Australia’s premier football clubs. Their golden era spanned 1926 to 1949 between which they won seven Premierships, six Charity Cups, seven Challenge Cups and four Association Cups.

Based in the Fremantle area through to 1961, Caledonian later played at the Esplanade (Perth), Woodville Reserve (North Perth) and Lake Monger Velodrome (Mt Hawthorn) before arriving at its current home of Jubilee Reserve in Bassendean.

For the 2021 season Bassendean Caledonian are fielding teams in amateur, womens and junior competitions. An excellent book on the club’s history, titled “Soccer Anzacs : the Story of the Caledonian Soccer Club”, was published by John Williamson in 1998.

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