Here's a lovely story from yesterday's Daily Mirror, about an effort led by Chelsea fan Andy Scott to raise the funds necessary to properly mark the grave of former football player and World War I hero George Hilsdon. When Hilsdon passed away in 1941, just four people attended his funeral, which had to be paid for by The FA. He was laid to rest in an unmarked grave, but thanks to a bit of crowdfunding 74 years later, he now finally has a headstone.
Well done, Andy Scott and company!
Delighted ‘Gatling Gun’ George Hilsdon’s grave finally has a stone. Always been a memorial at Stamford Bridge though pic.twitter.com/D7Q7X2KD0S— Rick Glanvill (@RickGlanvill) October 6, 2015
So who is George Hilsdon and why do fans care?
Born 1885 in East London, Hilsdon began his career alongside his brother at West Ham United before switching to Chelsea on a free transfer in 1906, in the club's second year of existence. At just 20 years old, he hit 5 goals on his debut and promptly earned himself the nickname Gatling Gun, because he was like
Robert Lewandowski a machine gun, scoring unstoppable goal after unstoppable goal. He would score 6 in an FA Cup match the following season, which remains a club record to this day. One contemporary report described him as having an "accuracy of aim probably unequalled by any great player today".
In his six-year Chelsea career, he hit a century of goals, finishing with a final tally of 108 (in 134 appearances) before going back to the Hammers. He was one of Chelsea Football Club's first ever legends and one of our greatest ever center forwards. He currently sits 9th on our all-time goal-scoring charts.
Then, in 1914, The War came. Hilsdon fought on the Western Front, as so many did, and suffered the debilitating effects of mustard gas, as so many of those who fought did. The damage to his lungs meant he couldn't continue his playing carer. After World War I, he worked a variety of jobs, including one as a vaudeville football player/performer. He died aged 56, in Leicester.
And yes, the weather vane, modeled after the striker and currently sitting on top of the East Stand, will make it over to the new stadium.