Date: 8th March 2012 at 10:24pm
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The day after the disaster, the Sunday Pictorial, the precursor to today’s Sunday Mirror, reported on what had happened. Under the title ‘The Most Horrible Game Ever Played’ they told the nation what had been seen, both by the anonymous journalist and eyewitnesses.

Except for the photo of Mr. Dutton the referee, we reproduce the front page and the continuation of the main article which went over onto page 2, alongside a photo of a G.I. and his English bride and child being reunited in New York and a story about Britain’s first pre-fab pub.


The conscience of the nation will be shamed this morning by the news that while thirty-eight people lay dead at the Bolton v Stoke Cup Tie, mangled and suffocated, the players were ordered to go on with the game.


Thirty-eight spectators at Bolton, two of them women, were trampled to death and 500 injured when two crash barriers collapsed under a seething weight and sent thousands surging downwards in a terrible, irresistible wave yesterday.

It was the greatest disaster in football history.

A quarter of an hour after the start of the game the crowd at one side swayed downwards hopelessly propelled in to a helpless dive by thousands behind, swollen by hundreds who had got in through a hole in a hoarding.

A waist high crash wall, built to keep crowds back, collapsed under the tremendous weight of struggling humanity, hundreds were shot down a slope, to be trampled on by the oncoming, seething mass. On and on went the frightful, screaming surge, and finally two iron crush barriers bent and cracked.

They tumbled and fell helplessly to death and injury knowing that they were trampling on other human beings. Those at the front were swept in their hundreds on to the pitch and the game was stopped. Soon, the news spread through Bolton and an anxious, weeping crowd gathered outside the ground demanding information.

Hysterical Screams

On the orders of the referee the players pushed their way through the crowds back to the dressing room, and mounted policemen, ambulance men and stretcher bearers were mixed together.

Still the ghastly screams went on as bodies crashed downwards until soon they were four deep.

“Doctors??quick, are there any more doctors here?” yelled officials as the seemingly hopeless task of rescue began.

Meanwhile, the whole of the town`s resources were hurriedly called together – ambulances, N.F.S. trucks, and even police Black Marias.

Frantically bodies were tugged out. Within minutes there were thirty-two corpses pushed to one side and hundreds of bleeding and torn injured, some yelling hysterically for help.

Altogether 500 people were injured, mostly with injuries to the head and chest, and some so seriously that it is feared the death toll will mount.

Mr Christopher Stone of Crompton-way, Bolton said “When the crowd began to move forward I felt as if my ribs were being crushed, and I gradually lost consciousness. When I came round I found myself being carried over piles of four deep.”

An ATS girl, Private L.D. Taylor of Bolton-road, Bamfurlong, Wigan, who had arrived home on leave, was among the spectators who did heroic work.

A police officer told the Sunday Pictorial that she worked like a trooper and deserved a medal. She went among the injured giving first aid and directing stretcher-bearers, and after it was all over she was on the point of collapse.

She had come in a motor-coach with a crowd from Wigan, and after she had done all she could she was helped back to the coach and went off home. Several ambulance personnel spoke of the magnificent work the girl had done.

Eye-witnesses add that, considering the circumstances, it would not have been surprising had there been many more deaths. The chairman of the Bolton Wanderers club, Mr Norman Banks, told the Sunday Pictorial that it was outside their control.

He went to the scene immediately he heard about it and did all he possibly could to get the injured away.

When he realised that the crowd was pouring in, although the gates had been closed, he took it upon himself to reopen a stand which was requisitioned for the Ministry of Food.

The stand immediately absorbed 2,900 of the crowd and relieved the pressure. In the meantime thousands had gone on the pitch, and mounted police were called in to get them outside the touchline.

The death roll is the highest in the history of British football.

Mr. Frank Roberts, manager of the Victoria Hotel, and an old Bolton Wanderers football, said “I was sitting in the stand and we saw some of the casualties carried off, but I thought they were people who had fainted. I didn`t hear of the pitiful news until I got home afterwards.”

Twenty-six minutes after the first screams, the dead had been moved to the corner of the stand, and the injured were being attended to as quickly as was humanly possible.

The referee called the twenty-two players out, looked around, blew his whistle and the business of playing a football Cup-tie continued.

The crowd roared for goals while stretchers carried away the dead.

Mr. S.F. Rous, F.A. Secretary said last night: “All football officials and players, as well as the whole sporting public, will have been shocked to learn of the terrible accident.

The F.A. Council wishes to offer its deepest sympathy to the relatives of those who have lost their lives and to those who suffered injury.



The man in charge of the macabre match was Mr. G. DUTTON, of Warwick, who refereed the Cup Final in 1940.

It was for Mr. Dutton to decide whether the game should go on or not after the disaster. He himself took a hand in the rescue work, but then he called the players back on to the pitch and ordered the game to continue.

Thousands of the onlookers did not know of the extent of the disaster – at least they gave no indication that they did. For when play was resumed there was all the usual cheering and excitement of a Cup-tie, while under the stand the bodies of the ill-fated fans lay, waiting for transport to the mortuary.

The referee was perfectly in order in continuing the game. According to the rules of the Football Association he is in sole charge and it is for him to decide whether or not to abandon the match.

Mr Dutton`s decision was supported by the Deputy Mayor of Bolton, Alderman W. Bradley. “If the match had been stopped I think there would have been a riot as so many spectators would have been unaware of what had happened. It may seem unsympathetic, but that was my feeling at the match.”

But one of the linesmen at last week`s match between Bolton and Stoke City was the Rev. H.J. Pethybridge, vicar of Birkenhead. He told the “Sunday Pictorial”:

“If I had been in charge today I would certainly have stopped the match. If I had been a linesman and the referee had ordered play to continue I would have remonstrated with him.”



The people of Bolton who were outside the ground were unaware of what had happened until after the match was over.

Then, as they saw the crowd streaming away from the match they refused to believe rumours that a disaster had occurred in the middle of the game.

Then, when the facts were confirmed and the news began to spread, Bolton was amazed and shocked.

The vicar of the town, Canon W.J.H. Davidson told the “Sunday Pictorial”: “Although I do not know all the circumstances, I am appalled that the game should have gone on afterwards.

“I should like to know why, and unless there is a very good reason, I can only condemn such a decision.

“The human thing to have done would have been to stop the game and send the people home.”


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