We recently held our first veteran’s coffee morning and ground tour with Nottingham Forest legend, John McGovern, down at The City Ground. The day brought together a fantastic number of ex-servicemen and women from range of different armed forces backgrounds. One of these veterans was 94-year-old, James Bown.
We caught up with James at the start of the day to talk about Nottingham Forest and his time in the armed forces. One story which stood out took place when he was first sent out to war at just 18 years old. Aboard one of the landing crafts, he had the responsibility of lowering its connected ramp, however as James began to do this one of its chains snapped causing a massive explosion which resulted in the plane blowing up and leaving only 3 of the 21 on board alive. James said that he was hurt and covered in blood, but they just had to get on with it.
After spending 4 years in the Royal navy and being over in Japan right up until the bomb was dropped over Hiroshima, James eventually went home. He never really enjoyed home life as his mother died when he was just a boy and had to depend on his grandmother who worked tireless 12 hour shifts for most of the week. So, not long after he was back home James had every intention of going back into the Navy, however, he was told that this would not be possible due to severe nerve damage he sustained during the war. Reluctantly he stayed and took on three jobs, but he also met a girl who he’d later end up marrying.
Being back also meant that he could go back to watching his beloved club, Nottingham Forest. James explained that he’d do everything he could to go and watch the games, even when he was a teenager and couldn’t afford it, him and his friends used to swim the Trent and watch the last 30 minutes from afar as that’s when they used to open the gates and you could see some of the pitch. James has been through a lot with the club including the famous game at Hillsborough where him and his son helped carry injured people out to the ambulances in the car park. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to see the European Cup finals when Nottingham Forest managed to lift the trophy twice, as they could only scrape together enough money for him or his son to go, so he let his son go.
Although James can no longer go to the games or even watch them on TV due to his eyesight deteriorating, every match day he sits by the radio and tells everyone in his care home to be quiet for the next 90 minutes whilst he listens to every piece of commentary.
James explained that whilst he was in the armed forces, everyone bonded about football, no matter who you were or where you were from that was something that they’d all talk about together. So, events and programmes like ‘Forest Forces’ where veterans can come a long and socialise in a football environment can be extremely beneficial.
If you are interested or know anyone who might like to get involved with our Forest Forces programme simply click here.