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The End of the Golden Era

The Jan 1914 Gazette had a write up of the Christmas Ride (actually on Boxing Day 1913) to the Anchor Inn on the Portsmouth Road at Ripley. Organised by Club Captain Calder, mainly for the young bloods in the Anerley, the ride became more a visit as most stayed on for the next two days, eating, drinking, making merry, and during day light hours riding and racing on the famous venue of the Portsmouth Road. Looking back with the benefit of hindsight it is so sad to read the final comments on this club outing.
“In conclusion we wish to record our sincere appreciation to Captain Calder, to whom our thanks are due. Christmas 1913 is but a memory past, but we are already dreaming of Christmas 1914”

Unfortunately this dream turned out to be a nightmare.

Perhaps the Club’s greatest loss was that of its Club Captain, M.W. Calder.
He joined the Honourable Artillery Company on 30th November 1915 but was able to continue in his normal duties as the Club Captain until he was posted to France later the following year. He arrived in France, Le Havre, on Christmas Day 1916 and tendered his resignation as Club Captain as he obviously could not then carry out his Club duties. However as a very popular Captain, the Club refused to accept his resignation. He kept in touch by letters, detailing the horrors of war. For example going over the top to try to advance to a German trench:

“I suppose it would have taken 15 minutes to walk straight over, but it took 5 hours. The Huns had the wind up badly and kept firing star shells continually in the air. It was a very trying time, with a machine gun coughing out lead every time the Verey lights showed us up! We had to withdraw to our original position as machine gun fire prevented us from consolidating. Next night we tried again and completely succeeded in driving everyone out and capturing the whole trench.”

On a subsequent occasion Calder was not so lucky.

The battle at Bullecourt began on 11 April 1917 when the initial attack was repulsed with the loss of 4,170 allied soldiers. After 5 weeks of fighting and further large losses, Bullecourt was eventually captured on 17 May 1917. 

During this successful advance the British found many corpses still on the barbed wire.                                                                                                                                                                                                               
One such corpse could have been that of M.W.Calder who went missing in action on 3rd May 1917. His remains were never identified. He may be buried in one of many local graves marked, “ A  British Soldier – Known only to God”.

His younger brother A.B Calder, also a member of the Anerley, was killed in action 18 months later, on 28th September 1918, less than six weeks before the Armistice on 11/11/1918. He was aged just 19. He is buried at the war cemetery in Rouen. In both their memories their parents presented this beautiful trophy to our Club. It is still awarded annually at our Prize Giving – and a great honour to our Club member who receives it – The Calder Shield.

The Anerley Bicycle Club lost many of its young men and its best riders during World War I and it never recovered its place as one of the leading bicycle racing clubs in the south of England.

The above is real life history, written by Anerley Club members and taken by me from Anerley Gazettes of those long ago days.