1939 – 1945: THE WAR PERIOD
Following their F.A. Cup heroics the previous season, Yeovil & Petters opened the 1939/40 season at Huish with a 2-1 win over Barry Town. But the stormy clouds of war were gathering over the country and only two more matches were played before war was declared on 3rd September – at home to Cardiff City Reserves and, finally, away to Tunbridge Wells.
All league football suspended for two months before war-time football was introduced. The Southern League recommenced on 4th November with five teams in the Eastern Section and eight teams in the Western Section. Newport-based Lovell’s Athletic finished as champions with Yeovil in fourth place.
The last match played at Huish before the ground was handed over to the Ministry of War, to be used as an ammunition dump, was against Lovell’s, whom Yeovil defeated by three goals to one.
The player’s contracts were terminated, the ground was valued, the telephone was cut off and the shutters came down on Huish. After the war office moved out Huish was then taken over by the American Army who offered to level the pitch if they could use the ground to play baseball. Their offer was not taken up.
During the war years, when the manager Billy Kingdom and many past and present Yeovil players distinguished themselves in the service of the country on land, at sea and in the air, it was strange in Yeovil on Saturday afternoons not to find crowds of good-humoured, jostling people eagerly converging on Huish.
However, the local Police XI combined with several of the old Yeovil team still living in the town in an effort to partially satisfy the sports starved local community.
Among the fixtures were quire lively games against Exeter City and Devonport Torpedo Works, whose star turn was billed as Arsenal’s England international, Eddie Bowden. Unfortunately, he couldn’t play due to injury, but he did hobble out to the centre circle to kick off.
Then, on Boxing Day, Yeovil were to play a very strong Exmouth Marines side. Crowds of people rolled into Huish but, an hour after the scheduled start, there was still no sign of the visitors. People began to get angry, so the management tactfully gave their patrons free tickets for the next home friendly. ‘Phone calls were made, but to no avail … the Marines had set out in plenty of time but nothing else was known. The crowd thinned; just a few optimists stayed on. A few sang Christmas carols; others swore. Then, around the bend by Douglas Seaton’s, came a military lorry. The eleven occupants, who had obviously carried the festive spirit a little too far, tumbled out the back and – after virtually incoherent apologies – took the field to lose to Yeovil in a farcical game by nine goals to nil.
Within a few days of the end of the War in Europe, the acting secretary of the Southern League, Mr. Hodgson, sent out a letter to all clubs asking their views on restarting league football in the 1945/46 season. The idea was that, for the first season, “two sections (Eastern and Western) would be formed in order to overcome the worst of the travelling difficulties. But many clubs were unable to return so quickly to post-war football and eventually one section of eleven clubs was formed. Yeovil’s first game after the war was at Home to Swindon Town Reserves on 25th August 1945, losing 0-3.
Billy Kingdom had returned as manager and his team included a number of outstanding ‘guest’ players from Houndstone Camp. The Southern League Cup was played in two sections, the two league winners playing off for the Trophy. Yeovil finished second to Worcester City in their section. In the F.A. Cup, the club was unable to play ‘guest’ players. Bristol City provided the opposition, the first leg finishing 2-2 at Huish, attendance 7,690, with City winning the second leg 3-0 at Ashton Gate before 13,500 spectators.
At the end of the season, Billy Kingdom retired from the game to take over licensed premises at Weymouth. He found it impossible to hang up his boots, however, and nobody played a bigger part than he in Weymouth’s revival that saw them promoted to the First Division of the Western League.