Remembrance Day: Rainham man Alfie Gent lives on in the Corinthian League Memorial Shield
A football shield passed between amateur teams in and around London for nearly 40 years is one of the borough’s more unusual war memorials.
Unfortunately, the Corinthian League Memorial Shield was never actually won by a Havering team.
The shield, played for by non-league teams between 1945 and 1983, was built around pieces of wreckage recovered from the Second World War crash site in which Rainham veteran Alfred “Alfie” Gent died.
Keen amateur footballer Alfie, who had once trialled with Charlton FC, signed up with the RAF Volunteer Reserve after war broke out. His father, also called Alfred, was a First World War veteran, wounded in the 1917 Battle of Arras.
Alfie, who lived in Stanley Road, served as an air gunner and wireless operator with a Lancaster Bomber crew that would clock up 16 completed missions and whose navigator would receive a Military Medal for his part in the 1944 Le Havre missions.
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Sadly, Alfie’s story ends on September 12 that year, when his plane was hit by German anti-aircraft flak during a mission to Frankfurt. He was 23.
“The pilot circled the French town of Dampierre, which was presumed to be an attempt at an emergency landing,” explained war memorial researcher Sean Connolly.
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“In darkness, the plane crashed into a nearby wooded area, killing all seven crew members.”
Three weeks later, Alfie’s father visited the woods where the crew had died and collected some small pieces of the wreckage.
He brought the fragments back home and asked Rainham trophy dealer Mr E Dennis to produce a football shield in his son’s memory. The Corinthian League Memorial Shield was built around the pieces of Alfie’s wreckage and passed between teams in the Corinthian League and the Athenian League until the latter disbanded in the 1980s.
The nearest the shield has been to Rainham since entering the league is Dagenham, where it was held in 1958/59, 1970/71 and 1971/72.
Alfie, meanwhile, is commemorated on the war memorial beneath the clock tower in the centre of Rainham Village.