HISTORICAL links between the Bradford Pals and Bradford City AFC are close. Matches at Valley Parade, and at Park Avenue, were used as platforms to boost recruitment with speeches and collections.

Dave Pendleton, curator of the bantamspast museum, who has taken groups of City fans to World War 1 battlefields of Northern France, explained why this Saturday marks a special occasion in the link between the football club and the Pals.

He said: "Recruitment at matches hit a peak in the spring of 1915 when the second battalion of the Bradford Pals was being raised. That is the reason the Bradford Pals badges are being sold on Saturday, prior to the home match against Fleetwood Town.

"It is to acknowledge the centenary of the recruitment of supporters at Valley Parade into the Bradford Pals. The badges are being sold with a suggested donation of £1 and proceeds will be donated to the Telegraph & Argus’s ‘Honour the Pals’ appeal seeking to erect a memorial to the Pals at Serre in France, and towards a plaque at Valley Parade remembering the 12 City players who died in the two world wars.

"Of course, not all Bradfordians served in the Pals and indeed not all the Pals were Bradfordians. However, the decimation of the Pals within the space of a single morning on July 1, 1916, has come to epitomise the horror of the Great War.

"Thus the sale of badges at Valley Parade is not a celebration of war, it is a sober remembrance of the thousands of ordinary Bradfordians who left their home town and would never walk the cobbled streets or hear the chimes of the Town Hall clock again."

Among the Pals waiting for the whistle that would send them over the top at Serre, on the Somme, that summer Saturday morning, was one man who was used to hearing a whistle blown in very different circumstances: Bradford City’s England international winger Dickie Bond.

Dave Pendleton said: "He was, as usual, part of a team, but instead of 11 football players running out to the adulation of thousands of fans, Bond was part of a three-man Lewis machine gun team. His performance that morning would not be judged by the number of goals scored, but by life and death itself.

"Waiting in the same trenches was Manningham-born Arthur Greenwood. He had a collection of six postcards of Bradford City teams, including one featuring the FA Cup winning squad of 1911, which included Dickie Bond.

"In normal life Arthur was a barber, a keen swimmer and treasurer of the Bradford ‘Water Rats’ Swimming Club. At exactly 7.30am the officers’ whistles blew and Arthur went over the top with his best mate Charlie Lee. In a subsequent letter to Arthur’s parents Charlie described the attack:-

"'We left the trench at 7.30 on Saturday morning, after waiting all night. As soon as we got out our corporal was killed. Then Arthur and I took the lead. We kept together until we got just behind the front line. There we found we were the only two left.

"'We got into a shell hole. There were a lot of killed and wounded in the hole, our captain being amongst them. It was here that Arthur got hit with shrapnel. He said as I was leaving, for I had to go on, ‘Well good luck Charlie lad, I shall creep out alright’.

"'That was all he said and I heard nothing more until late at night, when I was told he had been found where I left him. Another shell had burst and killed him before he could get out of the shell hole. I have lost a true pal.'

In the chaos in the wake of the battle it is impossible to know exact casualty figures. However, the best estimate is that of the 1,394 Bradford Pals who left the trenches, 1,060 were killed or wounded. Dickie Bond survived the carnage but later spent several years in a POW camp. Bond was so well-known that his German captors recognised him and placed a sign in No Man’s Land informing the Bradford Pals ‘The famous Dickie Bond – we’ve got him’.