World War One: Remembering James Richardson Spensley

Emmanuel Church's war memorial

Emmanuel Church's war memorial. - Credit: John Crockford-Hawley

At this time of the year, we always remember the many men who sacrificed their lives for King and country during World War One.

One of the heroes was James Richardson Spensley, who was the only son of the late Reverend William Spensley – minister of the Grange Congregational Church in Sunderland – and Elizabeth Alice (nee Richardson), of Heathfield, Ellenborough Park, Weston.

His impact on football helped transform the game in Italy and, after arriving in 1896, he would join both Genoa Cricket and Athletics Club.

He would then set up the footballing side on April 10, 1897, before nine months later he was instrumental in setting up their first-ever match against Football Club Torinese with the visitors coming away with a 1-0 win.
Genoa would win their first title in 1898 and under Spensley, who was appointed their first-ever manager, the club picked up six titles in seven seasons.

During the First World War Doctor Spensley worked in the medical field, putting his scouting abilities to use as a lieutenant in the Royal Army Medical Corps.

And it was on the battlefield where he was injured whilst tending to all troops, including the enemy out of compassion.
He was later taken as a prisoner of war and succumbed to his injuries in the officers’ prison at Mainz, Germany on November 10, 1915.
Spensley’s heroic actions are not forgotten and he is remembered on the Memorial Wall in Emmanuel Church, Weston.

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