Borough Road Stand

In September 1939 the outbreak of the Second World War meant an end of normal life for millions of Britons throughout the country. Factories went from making cars to tanks and the workers traded in their overalls for khaki uniforms. Footballers were no different as thousands put down their boots and picked up rifles.

Big names in football such as Joe Mercer and Tommy Lawton enlisted to do their bit in the war effort. Some Tranmere players enlisted and other worked in the protected industries such as Cammell Lairds building the ships of the Atlantic convoys.

Unlike in the First World War the FA judge the severity of the situation well and suspended League football until the war ended, even though the 1939-40 season was already underway. This decision would see no competitive Football League matches take place for over six years in England.

However every Football Club in the country was also a business and simply shutting up shop for the duration of the war was not an option. With heavy demands on transport from the military, travelling to distant clubs was difficult and so local leagues were established.

Clubs like Tranmere also looked at new ways to get fans through the turnstile by starting a baseball team. Friendly were also arranged against Army teams and Tranmere most famous played Czechoslovakia during the war.

But with some many players either being in service or working in protected industries putting a team out suddenly became a challenge. Before the war the players in most teams would have been in their mid 20s to 30s with every few youth players breaking through to the first team.

The Tranmere trainers during the Jimmy Moreton and Billy Gaskell however saw that the potential of using their youth players during the War and so endeavoured to use them in the first team. Alongside the youth players guest players were also a regular fixture at many clubs. Players who were on leave or in services based at home like the RAF would regularly turn out for teams in the war time leagues.

But the attendance to war time games was fairly low with so few people being available due to the war effort. Added to this the competitive nature of the local teams was lost as the players changed from match to match making results inconsistent.

In May 1945 victory was declared in Europe shortly followed by victory in the Far East. For the people of Britain the pre war normality could return and in turn so could the Football League.

However the six years of the Second World War had left Britain in a dire situation. The country was heavily in debt, all its major industries had been heavily damaged from bombing and everything was in short supply.

Football too had the scars of the war which needed to be mended before football could be played again. Many grounds had received damage from Germany bombs with Old Trafford, in the heart land of the Salford docks being almost totally destroyed. Even Prenton Park was down to three stands as the Borough Road stand had been damage.

As well as grounds, players who had left to join the war effort in 1939 six years later had lost most of their form due to lack of fitness and general age. This meant club’s needed to build completely new teams from scratch. Clubs like Tranmere however, who had worked with their youth team, had a new generation of players to put out.

With such difficulties to over come the Football Association decided not to restart the Football League until the following year (1946-47 season) meaning football fans across the country had to wait one more year.

The FA did however start the FA Cup again to at least give some air of normality back to the countries football fans. Unfortunately for Tranmere they only made it to second round before being knocked by Rochdale. The FA Cup was suspended in 1939 which meant Portsmouth held on to the trophy for six years but they had to pass it on to Derby County in 1946 who beat Charlton 4-1 in the first post war final.

By the summer of 1946 the country had spent seven years without any competitive League football. By late August of 1946 the wait would be over as once again teams from across the country took to their fields of play to entertain the thronging crowds.

For Tranmere their ground still only had three sides, the team looked nothing like the team of 1939 and some of the great statesmen of the club could no longer be found in the changing rooms or executive seats. It was a new dawn not just for Tranmere but for every club in the land.

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