Oxhey Jets vs 1st Battalion Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment ‘Tigers’

A Day to Remember

Jets kindly were allowed by the Spartan South Midlands league a day off to play a hugely significant fixture to honour one of their fallen.

With Remembrance Day 11/11 falling on a Saturday Jets had the longshot idea to honour Tom in a one-off fixture against his Regiment, 1st Battalion the Princess of Wales (1PWRR) in a match of honour for “our Tom”. The winner of this match is the Royal British Legion Poppy appeal who were to receive all the proceeds from the game.

One big problem, the regiment is based in Paderborn Germany. 1PWRR ‘Tigers’, though, are the holders of the British Forces German Cup and were well up for the game and Tom’s former Sgt Major, now Captain Lee Gidalla took up the case from the Army side and made it happen.

We were also delighted that Tom’s mum Carol would be the guest of honour for this special occasion.

The bold front line battle-ready soldiers offered to drive over to play us, so it’s game on so let’s plan something special, and this it turned out to be.

Suddenly things started to come together, the match sponsored by Mark Aston (Aston roofing) was becoming a local spectacle to do South Oxhey and Oxhey Jets proud.

We were honoured that Regina Pendleton, a top RAF piper who has piped at the Edinburgh Tattoo and for HM Queen, volunteered to pipe for us. She was joined by a drummer, and a trumpeter and the three were immaculate with many adults in the big crowd admitting to being “moved to tears” by the musical tributes.

Jets wanted the Youth of the club heavily involved in the occasion, and they provided an immaculate honour guard, smart in their kit and poppies and prompted an army player to say “they made me feel like a Premiership footballer.”

The pipes and drums played the teams onto the pitch, led by a Royal Marines veteran and huge football administrator Fred Weaving, but now honoured to be escorted by Standard bearers from the Royal British legion and the Royal Navy, and officials from the Police and the Herts FA.

Toms mother Carol laid the first tribute to her son, followed by the referee, then the representatives of the Police and the Herts FA. Now came the team captains with their wreaths, and it must be remembered that many 1PWRR players were with Tom when he was lost in action.

The young Jets, guided by Jets “elder statesman on the team” Luke Lloyd laid their wreaths and posey while Tom’s best mate at Jets had his wreath, sent from his home in the USA, laid by Luke.

The final tribute not to a soldier but a player, teenager and Jets lad, a simple blue and white tribute with “Our Tom.”

The trumpet sounded the last post to total silence and remained so until reveille, then almost coincidentally the Army Helicopter passed over the ground (or was it !!).

Carol met the teams and representatives and was escorted off to her seat in the stand. Jets set a new gate record of over 300, and they were treated to quite a match. The result was for pride only, but in an open attacking display they both went for it, and the Army Keeper was one brilliant last line of defence with just one Jet goal between them at the break. Jets 1 1PWRR 0

Fantastic pipes and drum music entertained the considerable crowd until battle recommenced.

Pre-Match Remembrance

Carol met the teams and representatives and was escorted off to her seat in the stand. Jets set a new gate record of over 300, and they were treated to quite a match. The result was for pride only, but in an open attacking display they both went for it, and the Army Keeper was one brilliant last line of defence with just one Jet goal between them at the break. Jets 1 1PWRR 0

Fantastic pipes and drum music entertained the considerable crowd until battle recommenced.

Jets ran out a strong 6-1 gap as I suspect the England v Germany match and the long drive took its toll on our visitors, but it must be said that Jets, boosted by the large crowd, put on probably their best display of the season, they played some stuff.

Match Action

Post-match the friendship and respects both ways was clear, and it was moving to see South Oxheys parents and supporters and people who had just called in to watch sending jugs of beer in for our military friends.

Jets presented Carol and Captain Lee Gidalla with a special commemorative plaque of the match. Garry Starr on behalf of the officials gave a fully signed match shirt signed by everyone involved on the day to Carol to keep in a moving moment.

The beers and Jauga flowed, and new friends were made for sure, and an invite to Germany end of season or pre-season tabled. Then these brave young men set off for a night in barracks before heading back and retaking post ready to go on instant fast response to face whatever is called for Queen and Country. A very sobering thought as the reason we were here today proved.

We cannot thank 1PWRR enough for making this possible and to everybody who supported and raised what is at least fifteen hundred pounds (sorry final total not known as we will collect until after 20/11 dear Toms anniversary).

I’d like to close on a positive note. The youth were fantastic and massive on the day. Smart, respectable and now a whole new younger generation will respect and honour Remembrance Day, the poppy AND “our Tom.”

Thank you to the Police who brought a collection, the referees who dropped donations in on the way to other games and to the clubs and opposition managers who donated and to all the businesses who supported the event. Football truly shone today to recognise our heroes, the real heroes who keep us safe as much as they can.

The last word must be about Tom, that lovely bubbly lad who paid the highest price, RIP Tom you will never be forgotten.

Post Match