The Moving Story Of Soldier Eric

Wolves Cup Winner Died In Tragic Accident

How poignant it is in the week of Armistice Day that we should learn much more about the sad tale of one of Wolves’ heroic wartime players.

Eric Robinson’s name appears among the list of men who helped the club to success and silverware nearly 80 years ago but there’s little about him in Molineux-based literature beyond his basic appearance and goal stats.

We were very grateful therefore to be alerted to a Facebook group that informs us not only what became of him, but also what he looked like and what sort of family he came from.

Cyril Sidlow under threat at Roker Park in the Wartime League Cup final.

Eric (right) was born in Burnley in 1919 to parents who both came from Blackpool and played for Fleetwood before joining Wolves as a teenager in the late 1930s.

He came to greater prominence in the historic 1941-42 season, the one in which Major Buckley’s side famously beat Sunderland in the final of the Wartime League Cup, the two matches being watched by a total of 78,000-plus spectators.

Robinson featured in that triumph and then played at Stamford Bridge the following weekend in a special challenge match against London Cup winners Brentford. Tragically, he wouldn’t play for Wolves again following that 1-1 draw.

The 23-year-old had enlisted early in the war, was a member of the East Lancs Regiment and died on active service later that summer.

He played only five Wolves first-team games but the fact he scored three times in the process – all of them across the two legs of the Wartime League Cup semi-final success over Albion – tells us he was quite a prospect and would surely have played League football at Molineux or elsewhere.

And he made headlines when suffering sun-stroke while playing in the challenge match against Brentford at Chelsea. The reason for him going off was given as concussion as the interests of national security meant match reports weren’t allowed at the time to refer to the weather conditions.

In an era in which players’ shirt numbers related much more closely to the positions they actually lined up in, Robinson played in different roles, both for Wolves and his other clubs, and appears to have had experience of taking penalties.

We can see from the two line-ups below, for example, that he was switched even in the two matches of the Wartime League Cup final.

Wolves’ team for the drawn first leg at Roker Park was: Sidlow, Robinson, Dowen, Thornhill, Galley, Dorsett, Broome, McIntosh, Westcott (2), Stevenson, Mullen.

And at Molineux, they lined up as follows in their 4-1 victory: Sidlow, Dowen, Taylor, Robinson, Galley, Dorsett, Broome (1), McIntosh, Westcott (1), Rowley (2), Mullen.

Eric also played for York (13 games, three goals) and Huddersfield during the hostilities, possibly as a guest, having played for Wolves Reserves in his teens before war was declared.

“(My Uncle) Eric was ten years older than my dad and the only one of his many brothers that I never met,” said Bev Carroll through a Facebook group dedicated to amateur sport in the Blackpool and Fylde area.

“He had left to play for Wolves when my dad was only 10. My dad died in 2018 but we often discussed his sporting family and he wrote notes for me. He was very proud of Eric, who drowned, aged 23, while trying to save some recruits who had been swept into the River Derwent.”

A shared family grave near the Lancashire holiday coast.

The tragedy occurred on August 20, 1942, less than three months after the Wartime League Cup final, when he and colleagues from the 1st Battalion, Lancashire Regiment were undergoing training exercise on the banks of the Derwent, near Malton in Yorkshire.

The men were ordered to cross the river in full battle gear, many apparently couldn’t swim and Eric was one of five soldiers who drowned.

He was buried in his hometown of Marton near Blackpool.

Thomas Publications
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