Our resident Charles White, an ex-professional footballer met a former Southampton FC team-mate for the first time recently – 70 years after the pair represented the same club during the Second World War.
We arranged a trip for Charles to visit St Mary’s football ground as part of our personalised activities, which residents can enjoy away from the home.
Charles, now 95, played for Southampton, nicknamed the ‘Saints’ during the Second World War in the 1940-41 season and took over goalkeeping duties from first-choice Arther Houses, now 98, when he joined the Royal Navy after the hostilities broke out in 1939.
Charles made his debut with the legendary Ted Bates, who sadly passed away at the age of 85 in 2003. Bates was to become known as Mr Southampton after making more than 200 appearances for the club and also later becoming manager of the club for 18 seasons from 1955 to 1973.
In 1941, Charles was called up to fight in the war effort and joined the Royal Air Force where he helped fuel Allied sea planes in the Seychelles – 900 miles off the eastern coast of Africa. The Seychelles offered a prime position for British forces and their Allies to refuel, refit, and rest as they moved between various theatres of war in North Africa, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific region.
When the Second World War came to a close in 1945, Charles did not return to football and decided to get a job working with the electricity board. Arthur injured his arm during the War so he was unable to resume his career and became a publican.
Our Activities Co-Ordinator, Chris Martin said: “Charles was keen to visit St Mary’s and relive his footballing past and arranged the trip with Southampton FC who treated them to a VIP tour of the grounds. This included walking through the tunnel out on to the pitch, taking in the view of the stadium from the sponsor’s box and checking out the home side’s changing rooms.”
Charles was later interviewed by Southampton FC historian David Bull about his fond memories of the club and serving in the RAF before meeting Houses at his nearby retirement home.
Despite Charles and Houses representing Saints at similar times during their footballing careers, the pair had never actually met, so had a lot to talk about in their meet-up. This included sharing stories about past team-mates and fond memories of Tommy Parker, who was the manager at the time.
Chris said: “This was an extremely special visit – it was easy to see that Charles really enjoyed the trip to St Mary’s to relive such an exciting time of his life. It was wonderful hearing such interesting stories about Charles’ playing days and his time serving in the RAF. It is just another example of how our residents have had fascinating and full lives.”
“Meeting Arthur was the icing on the cake for Charles. He was reciting stories of playing for the club like it was yesterday. Charles and Arthur are some of the last survivors of the Southampton football team that played during the war. Charles was evidently very humbled to have met Arthur and was very emotional as they spoke with each other.”
Charles added: “It’s been marvellous to come and visit St.Mary’s and it was just wonderful to meet Arthur. This has been one of the best days I’ve had in a long time.”