In memoriam: Port Vale’s WW1 heroes

With a national period of remembrance to mark a hundred years since the start of World War One, OVF wants to pay tribute to Port Vale players who lost their lives in the conflict.

According to our research, Port Vale lost two players during World War One.

Frank Cannon

The outside-right began his career at Queens Park Rangers in 1907 and joined the Valiants in 1911. He was top-scorer in the 1911-12 season with 18 goals. He had just left the Valiants when World War One began. Cannon signed-up to fight and after joining the Bedfordshire Regiment, he moved to the Essex Regiment where he obtained the rank of Sergeant Major. His brother Frank was in the same regiment and the two served together.

On the 15th February, Cannon was killed by shrapnel shortly after the Second Battle of Ypres. Newspaper reports at the time confirmed that he perished in the general and bloody defence of the salient to the east of Ypres.

He was just about to be relieved from the front-line when he was hit. A letter from a member of his regiment stated: “He was just ready to leave the trench when several shrapnel shells burst over him, wounding him and several others.  Although his wound was rather serious – he was wounded in the back – it was quite thought he would get to England and recover, but I am sorry to say he died on his way to the dressing station about an hour after he was hit.”

He was 32 years old and he left behind his wife Violet and three children.

He is buried in Potijze in Belgium.


John (Jack) Shelton

John had won the FA Cup final while playing for homeside Wolves and joined the Valiants along with his younger brother George. Like Cannon, he also joined the Vale in 1911 and had played over 100 games for the club when he was conscripted in the summer of 1917 and served with the Lincolnshire regiment.

Shelton lost his life on the 7th September 1918, just two months before the war ended. Our research indicates that he was killed during the Battle of Epehy during which British troops recaptured the village from the German forces.

He is buried in the Epehy Wood Farm Cemetery. He was 34 years old.

Other Vale casualties

Inside-forward Alf Smith was seriously wounded and never played football again while Bob Blood also suffered from several injuries caused by enemy bullets. Despite being told by doctors that he would never play again, Blood played for the club until 1921.

The Ode of Remembrance

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them

When you go home tell them of us and say –
For your tomorrow we gave our today

OVF would like to acknowledge the following sources that were invaluable in the research of this feature:

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