On 28 October 1939, Arsenal beat Clapton Orient 6-1, away from home making it 14 goals in the opening two games of the Football League South “A” Division, in front of 8000 fans. The game meant that in the opening two games of the league Leslie Compton had scored five exactly the same as his brother Dennis. Ten goals from one family, in two games. Arsenal went on to win the league.
The League was set up following the abandonment of the Football League after three fixtures due to the commencement of the 2nd world war. rsenal played in the South “C” – a league that ran from February to June, and in the Football League War Cup, (although there Arsenal were knocked out in the third round).
Arsenal played their home games during the 2nd world war at White Hart Lane as Highbury was used as an air raid defence and warning station – a reversal of what happened in the 1st world war when Tottenham played most of their home games at Highbury due to WHL being used to test out Enfield rifles.
Thus this was the second time professional football had been abandoned for the war, for the same thing happened during the 1st world war, although then, because of the general notion that “it would be all over by Christmas,” the 1914/15 season continued, much to the consternation of some parts of the government, where the thought was the football would distract men from doing their duty and volunteering to serve.
At the end of the 1914/15 season the Football League did formally abandon football for the duration, but although they arranged Leagues for teams to play in, in the midlands and north of the country, the clubs in London and the south were left to sort out their own affairs.
The clubs then quickly formed the London Combination, which continued through the war years, and which then became the reserve league for teams in the south, later changing its name to the Football Combination.
During the second world war matters were arranged much more quickly, the League was abandoned and the regional leagues were up and running by the third week in October.
As with the first world war players were not allowed to be paid, and could turn out for any team they wished – which meant that servicemen who were stationed away from their club could play for a team closer to their base.
Crowds in the second world war were often small, Arsenal getting as low as 1000 for a match against Watford in February 1940, but with 15,000 turning up in March for the game against Chelsea.
Apart from winning the opening (1940) League South “A” division title in a tournament encompassing 18 games, Arsenal also won the 1941/2 London League (a 30 game tournament) scoring 108 goals all told. The highest win was 11-0 over Watford in front of 4761 in January 1942.
The Leagues tended to change their arrangements and names year by year through the war, and in 1943 the Football League South was won by Arsenal.
Various cup competitions were organised each year and although Arsenal reached several finals the club didn’t win any knock-out silverware during the second world war.
With the war against Japan in the second world war not ending until September 1945, there was felt to be no time to organise the Football League for the 1945/6 season, although the FA Cup was played with matches competed for on a home and away basis.
It was a poor season for Arsenal as we went out in the third round of the cup, and finished 11th in the Football League South.
George Allison had basically run Arsenal on his own during the war, operating out of a single room in Tottenham’s ground, and tried to resign at the end of the final war time season, but the directors persuaded him to stay on until Tom Whittaker was able to take up the reigns as the new manager.
Allison by then was exhausted and 1946/7 was a disaster for Arsenal as the club came 13th in Division One, the lowest position since Chapman’s 1929/30 season when the club won the FA Cup for the first time. Allison stood down at the end of 1946/7, taking a well-earned retirement, having been involved with the club since 1910, when he started writing the Woolwich Arsenal programmes.
His autobiography, “Allison Calling” was published within a week of that of Leslie Knighton, Arsenal’s first manager after the 1st world war. The two books gave a totally different account of Sir Henry Norris, who ran the club from 1910 to 1927. Subsequent research reveals that Allison’s was the accurate tale, Knighton’s a work of fantasy. But it was Knighton’s book that was believed, following its serialisation in a sunday newspaper.