Dulwich Hamlet’s 1912/13 season is really quite an unremarkable one with regards to honours achieved. Yet before the season’s commencement, the club had ploughed a lot of money into the construction of a brand new ground adjacent to the old Freeman’s Ground. They even had players to mount a good campaign against the likes of Ilford, Nunhead and the London Caledonians. But it was a forlorn hope, the team took so long getting started that the season was over before it had really begun. The Hamlet did not gain a single victory until their ninth match, and six of those were defeats. When results did start to go the Hamlet’s way, it was mainly due to the effectiveness of the right wing partnership of George Shipway and Hussein Hegazi. But before long they were out of all competitions and the players were probably longing for the end of the season, or at least a break. A welcome interlude to this disastrous season eventually came in March.
At the start of the Easter holiday weekend of 1913, the Dulwich Hamlet football team set off for a short continental tour. This was nothing new, in fact it had become customary over the previous five seasons – four tours to the Netherlands and one to Germany – with Dulwich being very successful and gaining a good reputation in the process.
The party of 22 included the bulk of the first team players and some reserves, as well as a few officers and friends of Dulwich Hamlet Football Club. The holiday arrangements had been exceedingly well planned, but nobody could have realised how well things would go. On Thursday 20th March the group embarked from Holborn to Liverpool Street Station, where they boarded another train to Harwich. From there they enjoyed a smooth passage across the Channel to the Hook of Holland. At dawn a further forty mile train journey to Amsterdam was undertaken. They finally reached their destination at 8.30am on Good Friday morning.
The opening match against Ajax, had been arranged for the afternoon, and it was expected that the players make the most of the morning, and possibly enjoy a couple of hours sleep before lunch. After lunch the players made their way from the hotel to meet the Dutch opponents. On arrival at the Ajax ground (pictured above in 1914), the skies opened up and a terrific storm took place putting the game under threat. The match was now expected to be called off, the deluge causing the pitch to resemble a swamp. It would have been a shame to come all that way and not play the match, so it was decided to delay the kick-off until the weather cleared up somewhat.
When the match eventually got underway, Dulwich were first to master the difficulties, coping well with the extremely atrocious conditions. The Hamlet’s Egyptian inside right, Hussein Hegazi, displayed footwork that was a treat to behold, and scored the opening goal in the second half. Ajax equalised and then Hegazi put Dulwich back in front. The defence held up well, with George Popple eminent among the half backs. Two more goals were added by Carson at centre forward, making the final score Ajax 1 Dulwich Hamlet 4.
The following day, Saturday, was purely social. A trip was made to the Zuyder Zee, Volendam and the Island of Marken. The last named being a tourist attraction, where the local people still wore the traditional Dutch costumes. On Sunday the party travelled to Rotterdam, where Dulwich Hamlet met the reigning champions of Holland, Sparta FC. Two days earlier Sparta had entertained and beaten the London Caledonians who were also on tour. The Calies were, at the time, worthy champions of our own Isthmian League and were soon to retain that honour. It is apparent that the English FA had a good relationship with its counterpart in the Netherlands. Everyone seemed to be on tour there; the England Amateur International side, which included George Shipway, the Dulwich Hamlet winger, were due to take on the Dutch at The Hague, in a few days time. Indeed, Sparta themselves, were without two or three of their first team players, who were also selected for their own national side. Holland won the game against England by 2 goals to 1.
Dulwich led Sparta 2-1 at half time, through Popple and Hegazi, in a game that was noted for fine football by both sides. The home team showed a very good knowledge of the game that surprised some of the tourists. The standard of football displayed by the Dutch compared favourably to that of the best English amateur teams. Sparta equalised soon after the interval, but Carson and Hegazi put the matter beyond doubt, Dulwich finishing the match 4-2 winners.
It was the third time the two clubs had met and Sparta were yet to win a game. In the evening a dinner was held for the players and officials, and afterwards speeches were made by Sparta representatives praising the footballing expertise of the team from South London.
On Easter Monday the party travelled to Nijmegen, a few miles from the German border, reaching the town at lunchtime. Again the opposition were no walkovers, the final match of the tour being against Be Quick FC. The conditions for the match were now much better than they were on arrival in Amsterdam on Friday, both teams displaying their skills on a dry ground. The Dulwich forwards played some exceptional combination football, and Hegazi deserved to score on several occasion, but it was Carson and Clarkson who netted the Hamlet goals in the 2-0 win. Complete success had been achieved on the field in the three matches, Dulwich Hamlet being a credit to English football.
A long train journey across Holland, and another smooth passage from Flushing brought the party home to native shores. It was no doubt, a holiday that would be remembered for years to come. The immediate effect was the boost it gave to the team when they returned to their remaining Isthmian League fixtures. Dulwich finished fifth in the table.
The Dulwich Hamlet players used on the tour:- Coleman, Clegg, Wight, Popple, Carson, Hegazi, Clarkson and Green played in all three matches. Knight, Smart, Barker and Lawrence played in two. Hagger played in one.
This article was first published in 1996 in Issue 42 of the Champion Hill Street Blues, under the alias Gravely Roberts. It was later revised for HH13. Copyright: Jack McInroy © 2011