Goalkeeper survives war to take on Real Madrid

Harry Clegg (far right) during Nelson FC's pre-season tour to Spain in 1923
Harry Clegg (far right) during Nelson FC's pre-season tour to Spain in 1923
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A goalkeeper from Burnley survived the First World War and went on to play in the first English team to beat the mighty Real Madrid in Spain.

Mr Harry Clegg, who died in 1959 aged 63, was part of the Nelson Football Club team who beat the Spanish giants in 1923.

Pte Harry Clegg

Pte Harry Clegg

But Harry very nearly didn’t make the historic occasion when he was wounded by flying shrapnel during the disastrous Dardanelles campaign of the First World War.

His only child, Mrs Doreen Carson, told the Express how her beloved father never spoke about the war.

Serving as a signaller with the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, Pte Clegg’s letter home was featured in the Burnley Express when he was wounded.

Writing from St Ignatius Military Hospital in Malta, Harry explains how he had not one or two, but three lucky escapes.

It read: “No doubt you will be surprised to hear that the hope of the family has been wounded.

“I got a lump on the head with a fuse of shrapnel on August 6th.

“The Turks, however, evidently, thought they had not done enough to me, and dropped an explosive shell on the ledge where I was lying waiting to be taken to the dressing station.

“The shell burst all right and I got buried. Since they dug me out I have gone deaf.”

Harry’s third piece of luck was a trawler which picked up him and other wounded soldiers from the hospital ship he was travelling in which sank after being hit by a shell.

He added: “I don’t know how long I shall be in hospital, but I can assure you after what we had to go through in the Peninsula, and the sights one sees there, one consolation on being hit is that you get good grub and a good bed in hospital.”

Luckily, Harry survived the war and went on to be a talented goalkeeper in the famous Nelson Football Club team which became the first English club to beat the mighty Real Madrid in Spain during a pre-season tour of the country in 1923.