Football Remembers: Charles White's story

12 Aug 2020

To mark the 75th anniversary of VJ Day, members of Southampton's Academy visited a former player who shared memories of World War II

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To commemorate the 75th anniversary of VJ (Victory over Japan) Day, on 15 August, to mark the end of World War II, young players from Premier League Academies visited former footballers who served in the armed forces to learn about their lives and the sacrifices they made.

Charles White

Charles and his family have a long and proud history with Southampton.

His grandfather played in the club’s first ever match, when they were formed as a church team called St Mary’s, and Charles went on to become Saints’ goalkeeper in the 1940s.

But his football career was cut short at the age of 18 as he was called up to serve abroad in the war, operating flying boats for the Royal Air Force.

Lost friends

“Flying boats were a class of their own really,” Charles recalls. “They could land and take off on water.

“The main task, although it varied a little bit, was to patrol the Indian Ocean in particular and make sure there were no submarines underneath trying to get into Europe.

“The flying boat would go off on 12-hour patrols to stop it being invaded by the Japanese. If it spots a submarine, or something that looks like a submarine, they drop depth charges that blow the whole place apart.

“I didn’t actually see them die but there were some friends that were killed [during the war]. You don’t get the opportunity to cope with it, it just happens.”

'You had no say'

Charles was never able to resurrect his football career.

Asked if it was hard to give it up when he went off to war, he replies: “Yes it was, in a way.

“Things were so different from what you think of now, but the answer is yes. Once you were called up to the forces, you had no say in what happens to you then.

“I might have [played for Southampton again] when the war finished, but the whole structure of the league changed completely, and also I was six years older. I couldn’t cope.”

Get In Touch

The visits organised in partnership with Big Ideas are an inspiration and a tribute from the football family to all those - players and supporters - who served their country during World War II. Show your support by tweeting #FootballRemembers.

Football supporters can also join Academy players' activity to mark VJ Day 75 by folding an origami crane to be included in a commemorative wreath.

The wreath will be laid at the Children’s Peace Monument in the Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park.

For more information and details about where to post your crane go to the Big Ideas website

Football Remembers WWII is a partnership between Premier League's Education Department and Big Ideas, and pays tribute from the football family to all those - players and supporters - who served their country during World War II. The final set of films will be released in November.

See: Football Remembers WWII

Also in this series

Part 1: Arthur House's story
Part 2: Tony Collins' story
Part 3: Josser Watling's story
Part 4: Gordon Astall's story
Part 6: Charlie Chase's story
Part 7: Bobby Brown's story
Part 8: Bill Blount's story
Part 9: Tommy Docherty's story
Part 10: Reg Harrison's story
Part 11: Dudley Kernick's story

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