On the 3rd January 1877 two ‘young men’ appeared at Marylebone Police Court in front of Mr D’Eyncourt, the sitting magistrate. There they freely confessed to being deserters from the Royal Artillery.
The pair were stationed at Woolwich Arsenal, in south east London. They had been walking in Bayswater earlier that morning when they had stopped a passing policeman and had given themselves up.
The PC (from X Division) was convinced the soldiers were shamming and instead of deserting he suggested they were just ‘too lazy to walk to Woolwich’. He searched them and the ‘informations’ about deserters but could find nothing that suggested they had absconded or were not simply on leave.
The pair laughed about it in court, saying they were tired and hungry and hadn’t eaten in 24 hours. The magistrate, perhaps frustrated that they had broken no civil law, was forced to issue an order for them to be transported to the barracks at Woolwich to be dealt with ‘by the military authorities’. One imagines they might have got short shrift from their sergeant but little else.
Perhaps when they got back (and finished whatever menial task the sergeant set for them) they enjoyed a kick-about football match with their colleagues and local workers. After all the barracks was close to the armaments factory which had existed since the late 17th century. In 1886 the workers formed themselves into a football team and began to compete with rival squads. Eventually, from small beginnings, there emerged the professional club side that still delight (and frustrate) their supporters at a new venue, in North London.
[from The Morning Post, Thursday, January 04, 1877]