I usually write biographies of players, but for Richard McFadden I can only reproduce his Wikipedia page as nothing I write can do the man better justice, he was one of several Clapton Orient players tragically killed on the Western Front during World War One and probably the most celebrated for his goals (66 in 137 games) and acts of heroism, even the Wills 1914 cigarette card published before the outbreak of World War One recalls “Has saved several lives and received medals for bravery” on reverse!
Richard McFadden (born 1889 in Cambuslang, Lanarkshire, died 23 October 1916 in Flanders, France) was a Scottish footballer who was Clapton Orient’s top scorer for four consecutive seasons between 1911–1915.
Having moved from Scotland to Blyth as a boy, McFadden started his career in the Northern League with Blyth in November 1910, before moving to Wallsend Park Villa for a fee of £2. In May 1911, he joined Clapton Orient, scoring on his debut against Derby County on 2 September.
McFadden broke Orient’s goalscoring record in his first season with the club, scoring 19 goals, only to break the record again in what was to be his final season, 1914–1915, with 21 goals. In the intervening two seasons, he was still Orient’s top scorer. He also represented a Southern XI in a match against England in November 1914, scoring the only goal of the game, after which a Daily Express reporter declared that McFadden was the “outstanding player on the field”.
McFadden attracted press attention off the pitch in 1912 when he rescued an 11-year old boy from the River Lea, for which he received a medal from the Mayor of Hackney. Prior to joining Clapton Orient McFadden had also risked his own life when rescuing a man from a burning building.
At the outbreak of World War 1 professional football was suspended, and McFadden joined the 17th Battalion Middlesex Regiment, the “Footballers’ Battalion”, along with 40 other Orient players and staff. He rose to the rank of Company Sergeant Major. During the Battle of The Somme, he witnessed the death of his childhood friend and Orient teammate William Jonas in July 1916, and was injured himself a few weeks later. On his recovery he returned to the front and earned the Military Medal, but on 22 October 1916 received serious injuries from which he died the following day. His death was acknowledged by other football clubs, including Arsenal in their official programme, and the Manchester Football Chronicle stated, “In civil life he was a hero, and he proved himself a hero on the battlefield.” McFadden is buried at Couin British Cemetery.