Adian Hamilton remembers the life of Percy WornerOne hundred years ago this month, a fourth former City player was killed at the Somme. Percy Worner was Exeter through and through. Educated at St Sidwell’s, he did his teacher training at St Luke’s, returned to teach at St Sidwell’s, and lived a stone’s throw from St James Park. A true Grecian if ever there was one.
When a boys’ league began in Exeter in the late 1890s, Percy represented his school. He played with several of his future Exeter City team-mates. Later, he turned out for Exeter Athletic, a club that shared a ground at Mount Pleasant with Exeter Wesleyan United.
There were St Sidwell’s old boys in both teams. In mid-1901 a new club was formed, drawing on players from Exeter Athletic and the Wesleyans. It was called St Sidwell’s United. In the 1980s, Percy’s niece confirmed that her uncle was one of the founding members.
For the Saints, Percy played mainly for the reserves. After the club changed its name to Exeter City in 1904, he appeared for the first team in the Plymouth & District League. A half back, while at St Luke’s he played alongside his friend, England international Evelyn Lintott. But unlike Lintott, Percy remained an amateur.
There was contact though with Exeter City pros. Two of them, Spencer Bassett and Arthur Coates, were in digs with the Worner family at Edgerton Park Road. Even when Bassett signed for Southend, he made a point of staying in touch with the Worners. The family would suffer a double tragedy in World War One: first news of Percy’s death, six months later news that Bassett had been killed.
When war broke out, Percy enlisted with the Public Schools’ Corps and spent six months at the Front. Returning home, he trained for a commission and was made a second lieutenant. Back in France with the 9th Devons, he’d have been informed of the death of Evelyn Lintott on 1st July 1916. Percy, 32, was killed in action on 4th September.
Around this time, it was reported in Exeter that he had requested a football for his company. ‘With the approach of winter,’ he writes, ‘we are very anxious to start a football team in our company. Could we ask the people of Exeter to help us? We should be extremely grateful.’ A ball was duly dispatched.
Percy Worner is commemorated at the Bernafay Wood British Cemetery in Montauban and on memorial plaques in the St Sidwell’s Centre and at St James Park. His medals and the cross which marked his grave in France are on display at the Keep Military Museum in Dorchester.