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Full Name: James Henry Bates
Born: 14 March 1891
Came from: Woolwich Arsenal Went to: Released
First game: 31 October 1914 Last game: 31 October 1914
Appearances: 1 (1/0) Goals: 0
Bates made just one appearance for Argyle, in the first year of the First World War. Little was know about the player for over 100 years, with him listed as simply J. Bates from the Army, or even as R. Bates from the Royal Navy.
We now know that he was James Bates, born in Richmond in 1891. He was signed as an amateur by Argyle in October 1914, having been previously registered with Woolwich Arsenal (who had moved north of the river to Highbury the year before, and soon after changed their name to Arsenal Football Club). There is no evidence that he played for Arsenal’s first team, but he did play as an amateur for their reserve side in the South Eastern League between December 1912 and January 1913. There is also a suggestion that later in 1913 he played for Woolwich FC, who were an offshoot from Woolwich Arsenal and continued to play at The Manor Ground, Plumstead after the latter had moved to north London.
Whilst his Southern League registration with Argyle shows that he was previously on Woolwich Arsenal’s books, Bates at this time was a soldier in the British Army. He enlisted at the age of 17 in August 1909 and by 1914 had reached the rank of Sergeant in the 4th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment, who at this time were stationed at South Raglan Barracks in Devonport. The East Surreys were well known for their sporting prowess, and a fortnight before his one game for the Pilgrims, Bates played at right-back for his regiment against Argyle Reserves. On the day before his first team appearance, the Western Daily Mercury reported that he was once again in the Regiment’s line-up for a second match against the Reserves. What happened then is not known, but 24 hours later he was at right-back for Argyle’s first team at Elm Park, Reading, with his transfer recorded in the Southern League ledger of October 1914. Argyle played poorly that day, losing 2-0, and in its report of a very one-sided game, the Reading Mercury said that the home side's left-winger “dashed past Sergt. Bates and tested Horne with a terrific shot”.
Sadly, Bates died when only 34, on 1 October 1925, just over ten years after his only game for Argyle. He was still serving with the East Surrey Regiment, at that time stationed in Jersey, and passed away in hospital after a serious operation from which he was at one stage making a good recovery. His death was much mourned by his Regiment and he was buried with full military honours.
Footnote: for more about discovering the background of Sergeant James Bates - see the 'Your Contribution' article below.
If you can add to this profile, perhaps with special memories, a favourite story or the results of your original research, please contribute here.
From Andrew Chapman (GoS contributer) in Leeds on 14/12/2015 ...
As the player profile suggests - very little was known about Bates for the century after that single game in 1914. The only book on PAFC's early history, W.S. Tonkin's "All About Argyle" published in 1963, listed him as R. Bates from the Royal Navy, but we now know this to be wrong.
More recent researches suggested that he had Army connections and that he was with the East Surrey Regiment (who were stationed locally). Attempts at identifying the player from the soldier had failed and in the end he was identified as a player, then a soldier, thanks to a local press clipping which listed him as part of an East Surrey Regimental football team as "Sgt. Bates (Woolwich Arsenal)".
This led Greens on Screen to contact http://www.thearsenalhistory.com and they identified him as having played games listed for both Woolwich Arsenal Reserves and Woolwich FC through local press archives.
This then led to a contact at the National Football Museum who checked their archive ledgers and ... More
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