An Arsenal Blast from the Past No.6 …… 1947/48 League Division 1 Championship

One night during WWII I was lying in bed when the room was suddenly lit up with a nearby searchlight coming on. Thinking it was a raid coming, I jumped out of bed and I started to get dressed. Looking out of the window, I saw dozens of searchlights sweeping the sky and waving backwards and forwards. I went into the front room where Mum and Dad had the radio on and they were just announcing the end of the war in Europe. Our next-door neighbour rushed in and everybody sat talking until the early hours of the morning. The next day nobody went to work and we had an impromptu party down at the corner of the road. People took cakes and sandwiches down to be shared out and a radiogram was fixed up to provide music for people to dance to.

Germany had officially surrendered and Londoners could now try to rebuild their damaged City and lives. Life was still very difficult, good jobs were scarce, food was still rationed, we still used Cow and Gate powered milk, and bomb sites were scattered all over town. But gradually life was returning to the streets and the daily fear of bombing raids, and having to dash to air raid shelters for safety, was now just a horrible memory.

The Arsenal ground in North London was not spared from war damage as the North Stand was extensively damaged by fire and the roof had collapsed, the South Stand terracing was also badly damaged and in need of repair. The debts from the construction of Highbury and the costs of repairing the war damage were a heavy financial burden, and Arsenal struggled when competitive football resumed. The war had cut short the careers of many of the club’s star players, including Bastin and Drake and nine of the pre-WW11 had been lost during the war.. They lost 6-1 on aggregate to West Ham United in the third round of the 1945-46 FA Cup, and upon the league’s resumption in 1946-47 the club finished a disappointing 13th.

allison_georgeAfter close to forty years with the Arsenal George Allison decided to retire from football at the end of that season, and was replaced by his assistant Tom Whittaker, who had been the clubs trainer under Herbert Chapman. So Tom Whittaker took over the reigns at Highbury with Joe Shaw joining him from Chelsea. Arsenal kicked off the1947/48 season with a 3-1 victory over Sunderland at Highbury, an ideal start for the new management team. Leslie Compton, the previous club Captain who had been playing cricket for Middlesex Cricket club, returned to Arsenal and they won the next six games. Joe Mercer had been Arsenal’s Captain in Compton’s absence but Whittaker felt that now Compton was back he should, once again, lead the team but Compton felt differently and persuaded him to keep Joe on as the clubs Captain.

1947 was a milestone year in the life of GunnerN5, I was nine years old and, for as long as I could remember I’d spent endless hour’s playing football on Avenell Road with my mates and kicking a rag football (made by my Mum) about and using the main gate into Highbury as our goal. We were in awe of all the grown ups as they streamed in and out of Highbury on Saturday afternoon’s and wished we had the few pennies it cost to get inside. The different noises coming from the ground always left us wondering what was happening inside but we always knew when the Gunners had scored as that caused the biggest roar of all.

My maternal Grandfather then changed my life and gave me the best present I have ever received, for my 10th birthday he took me to my very first Arsenal game it was November 22nd 1947 Arsenal vs Huddersfield Town and we won 2-0. My memories of the game are somewhat of a blur but we stood, in what was our family section under the Clock, (you see nobody ever told my Grandfather to move – he was a 6”5” local coalman and made of steel). I often feel that the young Paul Ashworth, in the movie “Fever Pitch”, was none other than a young GunnerN5 because after being inside Highbury for the first time there was nothing that was going to keep me out, lack of money, broken glass topped brick walls, turnstiles, stewards, were just mere obstacles to be overcome – I was hooked for life.


Tom Whittaker enjoyed immediate success with the club, winning the League in 1947-48; led by Captain Joe Mercer and with goals from the attacking front two of Reg Lewis and Ronnie Rooke, Arsenal topped the table from October and never looked back beating second place Manchester United by seven points. Given the age of the Arsenal side at the time (Rooke and Mercer were both over thirty, as were Denis and Leslie Compton), it was a remarkable achievement however long-term success was never on the cards. In response, Whittaker started to rebuild the team with younger players and brought in Doug Lishman, Alex Forbes and Cliff Holton.

In a remarkable family double Denis and Leslie Compton played alongside each other at football in Arsenal’s League Championship of 1947/48 and at cricket in Middlesex’s County Championship title in 1947.

The highest ever Football League attendance was on Saturday January 17th 1948 when a crowd of 83,260 watched Manchester United play Arsenal at Maine Road the game ended in a 1-1 draw.

gn5 table 2

gn5 table


72 Responses to An Arsenal Blast from the Past No.6 …… 1947/48 League Division 1 Championship

  1. LB says:

    There is probably a very simple answer to this but why was the manu game played at maine road?

  2. LB says:

    There is something very compelling about a league table with Arsenal at the top.

  3. arnie says:

    GN5: fantastic. how can we all thank you enough. 😀 😀

    “after being inside Highbury for the first time there was nothing that was going to keep me out, lack of money, broken glass topped brick walls, turnstiles, stewards, were just mere obstacles to be overcome – I was hooked for life.” that got me a bit emotional!

    I knew Denis Compton had a brother Les and they are the only brothers ever to have won the national title both in football and cricket. But I did not know this was for Arsenal. I also did not know that this was consecutive years, Middlesex won the county championship in 1947 and Arsenal the League in 1948.

    Wow. 😀 😀 😀

  4. LB says:

    Whenever I read posts of this era it reminds me of the stories my Dad used to tell me. There was always such reverence in his voice when explaining that both the Compton brothers played for Arsenal.

  5. kelsey says:

    You must be quite unique GN5 living literally next to the Marble Halls, and having such a good memory.

    As I have mentioned before I met Les Compton, a shy reserved man.We played against each other (bowls)


    United’s ground was bombed during the blitz so they shared Maine Road with City for a while..

  6. GunnerN5 says:

    Morning all,

    Kelsey, I remember occurrences more than facts so I rely heavily on my reference books and spreadsheets to glean the actual data.
    The Blasts are a combination of memory, facts and story telling mixed together.

    The more I write about the past the more I remember, I guess when you give something a lot of thought it must activate dormant memories.

  7. GunnerN5 says:

    Looks like we are going for a record low in comments today?

  8. Vinay says:

    Whenever i read the blast from the past, the first thing i see is where were united, those were the days when they always used to be mid table when we used to win the league, hoping for the same now, wait we may not win the league this time but they mid table, yes please.

  9. arnie says:

    eerily quiet again, very spooky. 😀 well, quality rather than quantity, I guess. 😦

    GN5: is it time for some humour, then?

  10. GunnerN5 says:

    Frankly I don’t find it very funny!

  11. arnie says:

    not funny, GN5, but we have to try and be ourselves. 😀

  12. chas says:

    Super stuff as ever, GN5

    So you don’t remember Jimmy Logie or Ronnie Rooke’s goals, then, haha.

    £30,000 just on players.
    Save some f*ckin money.

  13. chas says:

    Some spooky footage of a bomb damaged North Bank from 1941 (no sound)

  14. arnie says:

    Great stuff, Chas, just what we were waiting for. 😀

  15. chas says:

    Just found this showing where bombs dropped between Oct 1940 to June 1941.

  16. chas says:

    It was from this site which contains some links to stories from that era which may be of interest to you, GN5. (scroll down, the links open inline)

  17. arnie says:

    this is great work, Chas. Cannot quite relate to WWII, no surprises, but some of my earliest memories are of war as well. 1971 Bangladesh War. Electricity would be cut off during the evenings to reduce target for bombs. (Kerosene) lamps inside the house were covered in a way that the light did not escape outwards. All air vents were stuffed with clothes, etc.

    When the war ended with the formation of Bangladesh, then started a failed revolution. Mindless killings. A lot of death. In our neighbourhood, one person would die almost every day. As kids, we had to play largely indoors.

  18. chas says:

    Flippin heck, arnie. I can’t imagine living in those sort of conditions.
    Most of us in the UK are so lucky to have lived in times of relative peace.

  19. arnie says:

    Yes, Chas, we are lucky that people of GN5’s generation would have lived through the war and then rebuilt communities and societies. Respect.

    I omitted the most traumatic bit. Nobody who did not have to go out ventured outside the house. Everyday, when my dad left for work, my mother would do the household chores and then listen to radio and pray all day that my dad returned alive. No TV those days, and no telephone in my house. Only dreadful anticipation.

    Hmmm, nostalgia. 😀

  20. TwentyTwelve says:

    Thanks for sharing your experiences, GN5. And thanks to arnie, too. After what you both have been through, it’s no wonder you can cheerfully support Arsenal, while many others find it so stressful 😀

  21. RedMJ says:

    Great stories GN5 & Arnie. Thanks for sharing. The map of the bombs did it for me. The indiscrimanate spread of those things must have been terrifying for those living amongst it. Kinda puts the trials and tribulations of being a football supporter into perspective. I hope we keep finding ways to remind future generations. Blimey! some of the current ones need some sharp reminders sometimes too.

  22. Big Raddy says:

    Gn5. Tremendous stuff. I can remember going under the turnstiles in my youth! As you say, anything to get in the ground. I used to do the same at Wembley for the England games – cycle around the North Circular and then blag my way in. Always worked until – well, girls.

    Arnie. To us folk who have never had to experience war your stories are a stark reminder of how lucky we have been

  23. Big Raddy says:

    It is REALLY quiet today and a great post like the one above deserves better. I have checked and all the AFC sites are quiet.

  24. arnie says:

    Raddy: “I have checked and all the AFC sites are quiet”. you mean, as opposed to Totnumb sites!! 😛

  25. JanMan says:

    GN5. What a magnificent post. Love the nostalgia!Thank you for sharing that.

  26. arnie says:

    Given how quiet it is, he is an attempt at change of topic.

    And, it is our favourite, injuries.

    Arsene: “I am concerned that it happens. If you look at our overall injury list going into such a decisive part of the season, we have no Wilshere, Walcott, Ozil, Ramsey. We went to Bayern with no Gibbs or Monreal. Of course it is a concern, we are analysing very deeply why it happened to see if there is a link between these injuries.

    “For some, for example Walcott, it is completely bad luck. Wilshere, I don’t think it is linked with the other injuries, it is linked more with his history and the kick he got. The rest maybe we have to find out why it happened. We will analyse everything.

    “Our worry at the moment is Ramsey takes longer than expected. He had a first setback and now it’s slower. It was the plan for him to join in yesterday but he still has recurrent pains in his thigh and, of course, he’s now a little bit apprehensive because of the setback he had. We have to be very cautious with him, when will he be back? I believe it’s two more weeks now.

    “[On Ozil], when the minimum is three weeks, the maximum is six. Honestly I am not specialist enough to know. It’s a grade two hamstring, let’s say four weeks.”

    Source: LadyArse

  27. arnie says:

    OK, and there are disciplinary issues with the bad Danish boy. We heard earlier about threatening a cab driver. Apparently, it goes further. Taking his pants down, and rubbing his manhood against the taxi.

    And now it turns out, his travel was unauthorised. Arsene was not ware he was in Copenhagen. Asked whether this is the end of Bendy, Arsene said he is at the end of his contract in the summer.


    Personally, I have some sympathy for his cistody and visitation rights, and these things are very biased against the father. We all know that. But this is taking the issue too far!!!!! 😦

  28. chas says:

    Have you got 3 away credits on your season ticket?

  29. Big Raddy says:

    In the likely event that Wigan cannot sell all their tickets will they be sold to Arsenal fans?

  30. chas says:

    They’ve only been given 22,000 in line with the number who went to last year’s final.

  31. The Cockie Monster says:

    That post is like Angels dancing on my eyes !. Arsenal above Manshafter Std, Mansour City, Bindippers , Chavski…………………..and Grimsby above Totscum !.

  32. White Bear says:

    GN5 – what a remarkable post, best I have read so far. You lucky, lucky devil, what a fantastic story to tell! Not just about your addiction, but the end of the WW2 as well.

    You see, I had no idea that London was bombed during the war. The communist version of history did not include many true facts and I have always thought that England escaped the Nazi horror. But my favourite part is young GN5 kicking a rag ball in Avenell Road and your first trip to THOF, great stuff, cannot thank you enough

  33. Big Raddy says:

    Anelka cancels his contract with WBA. I hope they take him to court and then the nasty piece of work can pheck off

  34. GunnerN5 says:

    Just got back home.

    I appreciate the comments – thank you.

  35. White Bear says:

    and where were you GN5??

  36. GunnerN5 says:

    Keeping a promise to my Grandchildren.

  37. RA says:

    A truly superb Post, GN5, and so well written!

    A mixture of historical fact and a personal story of you as a youngster in love with the Arsenal. And that brings history to life. 🙂

  38. White Bear says:

    ok GN5, you are excused
    Hi RA

    both Shitty and chavs are away tomorrow, could be good

  39. RA says:


    I have been tied up today and this is only a short visit.

    The number of comments might be less than could be expected for such a great tale.

    My theory is that you will have had a lot of viewings because there is not a lot of comments one could make without trivialising a beautiful story.

    It reminded me of a great book you just want to sit down to read and enjoy in a comfy chair with a cup of coffee. 🙂

  40. Charybdis1966 says:

    Excellent historical piece there N5 interwoven with some vivid personal memories so many thanks for todays post.

    Totally agree Big Dandy, there should be no place for such vile anti Semitic behaviour like Anelka’s in a civilised society.

    Unfortunately he will now become a hero for the likes of those who thought Lee Rigby had it coming, who fly airplanes into skyscrapers and put bombs on London buses and tube trains.

    Sadly Anelka will join the ranks of Islamist icons because of what he has done.

    Mores the pity.

  41. RA says:

    Hi Polar Bear. 🙂

    Unfortunately both the Chavs and Citeh have rubbish clubs playing them.

    For example, Villa have not won at home this season — have they? 🙂

  42. Great post.Thoroughly enjoyed.

  43. arnie says:

    Such a fantastic post. Just a shame about the lack of banter on the site today. 😦

  44. Gööner In Exile says:

    GN5 apologies for checking in so late, I knew today was a Blast day and I was cursing my diary when I realised I was in the back of beyond with no chance to access on a phone during my fag break.

    Absolutely tremendous stuff sir, I do enjoy a bit of personal anecdote with my history lessons and this have me both. And I am embarassed to say I always new Dennis Compron played for us and cricket too but I regret to say I didn’t know his brother did. I assume because Dennis also played internationally in both sports it was more of an achievement than club level?

  45. Gööner In Exile says:

    What has happened to the NBA? Watching Lakers at Spurs, the standard of play is much lower than when i last watched seriously (8-10 years ago)


    Lovely post GN5 my dear fellow, one of the best I have read.The emotitional input of the Ghost of 1948 should satisfy all true Arsenal fans.

    Your recall of events of yesteryear are priceless. I admire and envy your heritage, but am so happy for you that you can recall such magnificent events

    It is credit to you and your family.

    This is what following Arsenal is all about, and these events shall live amongst that care for ever

    “The Ghosts of the Forties are Stirring”

  47. mickydidit89 says:


    That is an extraordinary piece of writing. Everything anyone needs to know about Arsenal pride, passion, love and tragedy.

    Can’t blog but had to mobile a response as I’ve only just read it.

    Thank you very much

  48. mickydidit89 says:

    Just penning a post as promised
    Email working fine so shouldn’t be problem sending

  49. mickydidit89 says:

    Sorry Can’t join in but can’t keep up on Mobile
    Had some pc computer expert come to sort problem yesterday
    He turned up forty minutes late so I made him wait forty minutes before telling him to fuck Off for assuming his time was more valuable than mine
    Obviously it was the right thing to do but I don’t Half wish I had my machine working
    Now buggered till Monday so have to go to pub to watch game tomorrow

    Massive shitballs

  50. Big Raddy says:

    “He turned up forty minutes late so I made him wait forty minutes before telling him to fuck Off for assuming his time was more valuable than mine”

    If only I had the courage to take this stance when going to the dentist/doctor/accountants etc.

    If we can’t win the title I would like Man City to win it. I would even prefer the Scouse muck to be champions – such is my dislike of Me-rinho

  51. White Bear says:

    well done DidIt!!! My window cleaner turned up 2 hours late yesterday; I let him kiss the door handle. Bloody windows are filthy though 😦 Doctors and dentists are a different kettle of fish Raddy – other patients cause delays. I was sat for an hour waiting for an old boy to finish crying loudly for an hour. I admired the doctor for his patience and had to stomach the long wait.

    I cannot believe how long it is taking to find Pistorius guilty as hell. And why are people watching it???

  52. White Bear says:

    and one for you RA – what does it mean ‘high degree of certainty’? I thought that certainty is 100% and everything else is uncertainty

  53. kelsey says:

    Morning all

    I think RA has a valid point re GN5′ post but still as we all know despite being a labour of love it takes time and it’s a pity there weren’t more comments.

    It’s important that if you treat the club you support as part of your life that especially the younger fans and some others stop this continuous ranting of “8 years without a trophy”that this is nothing compared to some far longer barren years in our history.
    Anyway on today and my crystal ball says City and Chelsea will both only draw or lose .
    Tomorrow is a big game for us and Santi who invariably plays better at Home needs to play a blinder as we are losing to many players in what was only a short time ago an area where we were spoilt for choice. I expect to see Kit named in the squad.
    With regards to Bedtner’s latest antics, I think AW was being politically correct when speaking about him,and I doubt we will see him play for us again even if he was an option that maybe necessary.
    Once you fall out with AW there is no turning back,so expect Sanogo,if fit,to also be in the squad.

    Micky I found out this week that since 2001 the flat I am living in has been billed by the wrong electricity company, a mix up of meters with our neighbours.

  54. Big Raddy says:

    No way White Bear. If I am given an appointment I am expected to be there on time. I may have other factors which prohibit this but I make sure I turn up on time. A dentist (for example) knows how long an extraction etc takes so he/she should allow some leeway with each patient.

    This way they may have less patients but would be ready at the appointed time – which I, the customer am paying for. Perhaps I am working by the hour and each 5 minutes delay costs me extra.

    It is both insulting and inconvenientto be kept waiting purely because of the dentist/doctor/accountants etc financial greed.

    Today while we gear up for the NLD we can have chats like this where grumpy old men & women can rant:-D

    I am going to Sweden this afternoon to see Malmø FC play in a cup game.

  55. White Bear says:

    but you will be back to write the PM?

    I don’t know about Denmark, but in this coutry doctors are only allowed to give 10mins slots and dentist 15 I think. And then you get someone like me with more things wrong then right and his timescales go through the roof. Plus, you wouldn’t want your dentist to rush an extraction, would you dear?

  56. kelsey says:

    Ah Raddy I don’t know of one dentist who despite having time slots ever sees one exactly on time.He or she may not know beforehand the extent of a tooth problem and extractions can o wrong.
    Try the NHS over here. My daughter unfortunately has had numerous appointments since we came back and often has to wait an hour or more,but of course they are understaffed and can’t cope with the volume of patients,but that’s another story altogether.

    Same with NHS doctors.Firstly just getting through at a designated time is difficult. Then one gets ten minutes with a doctor, some places even less, and there is a big notice at the surgery that says if you have more than one problem,make 4 seperate appointments,but often these problems are related. If you abide with these rules invariably you can’t get another appointment with your own doctor for anything up to 10 days in advance.They all run late as well and you sit in an overecrowed heated room with people coughing and sneeszing all over you. We aren’t patients,just statistics.
    I know the system is different in Denmark

  57. kelsey says:

    Sorry we more or less said the same,evonne.I was typing whilst your post went up.

  58. kelsey says:

    The Gunners will be without Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Mesut Ozil for Sunday’s north London derby clash with Tottenham and their manager is concerned
    Arsene Wenger has pledged to try and find the cause of the injury crisis that is threatening to derail Arsenal’s season.

    Theo Walcott will miss the rest of the campaign with a ruptured cruciate ligament in his knee, while Aaron Ramsey has not featured since picking up a thigh problem on Boxing Day.

    Jack Wilshere fractured a bone in his foot during England’s friendly win over Denmark, while Mesut Ozil could be out for up to six weeks with a hamstring injury sustained against Bayern Munich on Tuesday.


    All four are out of Sunday’s crucial north London derby clash with Tottenham as the Gunners look to breathe life into a faltering title challenge, and Wenger admits the injuries are a worry.

    “I am concerned that this happens,” he told reporters. “If you look at our overall injury list going into such a decisive part of the season, we have not Wilshere, not Walcott, not Özil, not Ramsey and we went to Bayern without [Kieran] Gibbs and [Nacho] Monreal.

    “We are analysing very deeply why it happened and to see if there is a link between all these injuries.

    “For Walcott it’s completely bad luck. Wilshere – I don’t think it is linked with the other injuries, it’s more linked with his history and the kick he got. But the rest, maybe we have to find why it happened.

    “It’s very difficult to find any obvious reason why. For example, a player like Özil –he was rested against Stoke, then he goes to Germany and he trains different, sometimes on a different ground with different sessions.

    “He played the whole game [for Germany against Chile] and the whole game for us against Everton and he produced on that day, doing more physically than usually and he paid for it the next day. Why? I don’t know.”

    Wenger revealed he is particularly concerned about Ramsey. The Welshman was Arsenal’s star performer in the first half of the season but is still two weeks away from making a return.

    “That’s our worry at the moment, Ramsey is taking longer than expected,” the Frenchman admitted.

    “He had a first setback and then he planned to join in [training] on Thursday but he had recurring pains in his thigh. Of course he’s now a little apprehensive because of the setback.

    “We have to be very cautious with him. When will he be back? I believe it’s two more weeks now.”


    About time Mr wenger. Don’t like what he said about Ramsey.

    Maybe they all only get 10 minutes each with the medical doctors 🙂

  59. White Bear says:

    great minds think alike 🙂

    I was seeing a private consultant at Moorfields. After a few great trips there (choice of drinks, newspapers, suited doctors, thick carpets, lovely! I enjoyed going there. And then my socialist upbringing made me revert back to NHS. For one visit only. I sat in a cold waiting room for 4 hours with people as described by Kelsey. Never again.

  60. Big Raddy says:

    I am sorry but you are both wrong 😀

    One pays a great deal of money to go to the dentist and this is for SERVICE. A dentist as you say clocks by the quarter hour. An extraction is 2 quarter hours and an implant 4. So a dentist knows how long they will take – and should allow for problems. As I said, the reason they do not is that they try to pack as many patients into a day as possible – and why o they do that??? Is it for your benefit??

    The NHS is totally different, but if I go to a Harley St doctor and he is 30 minutes late for my appointment I will find another specialist. It shows a lack of respect for a paying customer.

    White Bear. Your experience with the difference between a paying customer and the NHS entirely agrees with my opinion. You pay you money – you expect service.

    I like Micky’s method.

  61. White Bear says:

    I like Micky’s method too. But it is not always practical – if I told my always very late doctor to eff off you all would have a problem on your hands. A raving loon on the loose in North London 🙂

    Why was Anelka fired – because of the anti semitic gesture or because he announced that he is leaving WBA?

  62. kelsey says:

    Harley Street doctors, 4 week holiday in the sun, a day trip to Sweden. How the affluent live 🙂 🙂

  63. Shard says:


    I had left a message praising this article but my internet nixed it being posted. So here it goes again.

    I loved the post. It seemed to transport me to an earlier era. AA is lucky to have you as a writer and share your experiences.

  64. White Bear says:

    cheers Kels. So it seems he was kicked out for both offences “The club is sacking him for his conduct that day and his social media outburst. ” The quenelle wasn’t enough for them
    By Jeezus, Wenger is an excellent judge of character – he always knew that ANellka is nothing but trouble

  65. Morning all

    Fantastic post GN5, I love reading your blasts from the past.

    Just sorting Micky’s post ………. back in a bit

  66. Big Raddy says:

    kelsey. 9.18. Live life like there is no tomorrow …..

  67. GunnerN5 says:

    Before we switch over to today’s post I would just like to thank everybody that read my post today. The comments were very generous and appreciated. The comment count was disappointing buts its gratifying that so many of the AA regulars enjoyed the read.


  68. kelsey says:

    if only Raddy, if only

  69. Phew ….. done it ……….. 😉

    We have a New Post ………………..

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