The 1940s

The authorities had learned the lessons from World War One that the continuation of football was ‘good for morale’ during a conflict. As in 1915 the national contests were broken down into regions and footballers joined up. Again service postings or periods of leave led to guest appearances.

Stamford Bridge remained an attractive draw and Matt Busby, Joe Mercer, George Hardwick and Walter Winterbottom were among the seminal names of other teams to turn out in the royal blue.

Middlesbrough legend Hardwick figured in two finals of the Football League South Cup for the Pensioners, the second a 2-0 triumph over Millwall in 1945 watched by the King, Queen and Princess Elizabeth.


William Birrell

photo of Manager: 1939-52 Manager: 1939-52

When peace resumed the seeds of a foresighted and innovative new player development scheme, initially called Tudor Rose and conceived by manager Billy Birrell before the war, were finally sown in 1947.

In a few years the harvest would become more bounteous than many had imagined possible. In the meantime and in familiar Chelsea fashion, box office signings such as Tommy Lawton, Len Goulden, Tommy Walker and Roy Bentley would join staffers like Ron Greenwood and Johnny Harris as post-war football boomed.

An enormous crowd was drawn to the famous friendly with Moscow Dynamo in 1945 and three years later the original Chelsea Supporters (Away) Club was founded.


Tommy Lawton

photo of Player: 1945-46 Player: 1945-46

Tommy Walker

photo of Player: 1946-49 Player: 1946-49

Dick Spence

photo of Player: 1934-50 Player: 1934-50

Chelsea’s association with bright lights of the West End began to thrive too: Richard, later Lord Attenborough began his long association with the club after training with Lawton and co. to sharpen up for his role in the British gangster film, ‘Brighton Rock’. Attenborough would usher dozens of Hollywood icons through the gates of the Bridge, sprinkling stardust along the Fulham Road.

Football’s first magazine-style programme, launched in 1948, showed Chelsea were still ahead of the game marketing-wise.

Spirit Of The Age
The wartime rationing of goods to the British population began in earnest on 8 January 1940, requiring coupons to purchase everything from food to fuel because of scarcity. ‘Dig For Victory’ posters soon had allotments producing 1.3m tonnes of vegetables a year.



The first club football match ever attended by the future Queen Elizabeth II (then a mere princess accompanying her parents) was the final of the Football League South Cup, the regionalised wartime equivalent of the FA Cup. READ MORE>>


It may have officially only been a friendly match but over 100,000 turned up to watch as football resumed in London after the war. READ MORE>>


A barrage from the outstanding centre-forward Tommy Lawton midway through the first half settled this epic FA Cup London derby. READ MORE>>

1940s Matchday Programme Cover