At the Eleventh hour, of the Eleventh day, of the 11th Month - we will will remember them
Edward “Teddy” Bullen was born in Warrington in 1884 and brought up in Altrincham. He was a good footballer. Good enough, in fact, to play in the First Division. Bury's scouting systems must have been good even back then because the Shakers signed him up from Altrincham FC in 1906.
He made his first team debut the following year and by the outbreak of World War 1 had made 188 first team appearances as a wing-half. He would have made more but for bad luck with injuries but he was still very much part and parcel of the Bury team of the time, which was a well-respected First Division outfit.
The life of a professional footballer in those far off days was very different to those of today's Premiership stars and, like many of his contemporaries, Bullen signed up for the war effort but he continued to play for the club during wartime fixtures whilst on leave from the front.
Teddy Bullen played for Bury in a wartime fixture against Liverpool as late as February 3rd 1917. Just 6 months later, on Saturday 11th August, Teddy was killed in action at Vaulx-Vracourt, some 15 miles south east of Arras.
His was one of a number of burials later consolidated into Vracourt Copse cemetery during the 1920's. This cemetery now holds over 100 casualties from 1917-1918 who died in the village or surrounding areas.
There is a memorial to Teddy Bullen which today hangs in the Boardroom at Gigg Lane. It reads "A playing member of this club who fell in action at Vaulx on the 11th day of August 1917. Loyal to this Club, loyal to his Country. He died playing the greater game".
Teddy Bullen was the only serving Bury player the Shakers lost during world conflicts and today is the day to remember Teddy and all his comrades from the First World War and all other conflicts.
Of course, Teddy Bullen's story is not unique. Many men from Lancashire lost their lives in the mud and slaughter of the First World War. Millions of others did too and it so shook contemporary society that Remembrance Day, on the 11th day of the 11th month, became part of community and national life not just in the United Kingdom, but across the world.
Sadly wars and conflicts have continued since, as we in our generation know only too well. We have to remember the Teddy Bullen's and all his contemporaries from 1914-1918 but we will also wish to remember those lost during other wars and conflicts since; World War II, Korea, Northern Ireland, the Falklands and, lately, the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan amongst others. But we will, I'm sure, wish to take a few moments to think of those who are still involved today also.
The Teddy Bullen story took a unique twist, three years ago, with the unannounced arrival of two visitors here at the Gigg Lane. Anne and Harold Greenwood visited the club to track down some information on Anne’s Grandfather - Anne’s full name is Anne Bullen Greenwood and she is Teddy Bullen’s grand-daughter.
Anne and Harold had no idea that the club and its supporters celebrate Teddy's life and service to the nation every year as part of our now customary Remembrance Service. They also had no idea that he is remembered in the boardroom with his photograph and the brass plaque on permanent display nor had they any idea about his career as a professional football player at Bury FC apart from the fact they knew he played for the club before the War.
Anne was able to complete our story on Teddy, or as he was known to the family - Ted - and the impact that his tragic death had on the family. Teddy’s wife, Bertha, was pregnant as Teddy headed off to war. The couple had been granted a special licence to marry before he left for the front at Ypres.
Sadly, Teddy would never live to see his daughter, Marjorie - Anne’s mother – born and Bertha slipped into mourning for Teddy and took his death extremely hard. Left to raise a young daughter by herself, the family gathered round to help Bertha through her pain.
Sadly, such was her grief, that any memorabilia or possessions of Teddy from his footballing days were disposed of by Bertha apart from two old squad photographs, that Anne cherishes to this day.
Whilst a Bury player, Teddy ran a pub – The Rose Inn - in Sankey, Warrington. Bertha and her daughter took over the running of a pub in Warrington but this became too much of a burden for her and the Rose Inn, which still stands today - though much bigger, was let go.
Anne and Harold’s own children have now grown up and left home and have been actively searching for information on Teddy and were pleasantly surprised to find our story via the club's website, which eventually led to the visit to the club.
Sadly, Anne and Harold cannot be with us this afternoon as we, again, pay our respects to Teddy Bullen, due to a prior arrangement, but they now have an open invite to visit us at any time in the future and, hopefully, they will visit us next season when we pay our respects in November.
Both Anne and Harold were given a tour of the Stadium and shown all that we had on Teddy. They left Bury full of pride and delight after such a shock. Anne expected to see a name in a book, not a brass plaque hung in the boardroom or certainly didn't expect to hear that the name of Edward “Teddy” Bullen lives on at Bury Football Club and will do so forever.
The conditions endured by Teddy and his colleagues are hard to describe, hard to imagine. With modern day warfare now conducted at the press of a button, the conditions they went through remain left to the imagination.
A recent google search for his Regiment showed some old and grainy images from literally days before Teddy was tragically killed in action. For all we know, Teddy may even appear on some of these photos, we just do not know.
Teddy will be remembered, as usual by the club, on Saturday afternoon and we ask that all supporters join us in paying our respects to Teddy and every single one of the fallen.