Royal Engineers football team 1872

Royal Engineers football team 1872 (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Tomorrow, Saturday 17 May, sees the 133rd FA Cup Final, the oldest football competition in the world. It’s a world away from 16 March 1872 when a crowd of 2,000 saw the Wanderers beat the Royal Engineers 1-0 in the first final. What few people know is HM Land Registry’s links to that final.

One of the Royal Engineers team was a 22 year old Lieutenant Edmund Cresswell. 30 years later, as Colonel Cresswell, he retired from the Regiment and joined HM Land Registry as Chief Superintendent of the Map Department.

Other teams dribbled the ball, but the Engineers played a new-fangled passing game – it’ll never catch on!  An early recorded goal assist by passing was by Lt Cresswell in 1870.

In that final, Lt Cresswell was famous for breaking his collarbone 10 minutes into the match, the first injury in an FA cup final. Because then no substitutes were allowed, he insisted on carrying on to the end of the game. He was said to be a “strong fellow”.

Shortly after the final, he was posted to India where he was involved in irrigation projects. This seems to have ended his football career. In 1881 he moved over to the Ordnance Survey. He rejoined the Ordnance Survey on the outbreak of war in 1914 when he was 65 and long retired from the Registry.

Edmund was a keen cricketer and (in later life) golfer. In cricket, he turned out on a number of occasions for the Royal Engineers and is said to have played for Hampshire too.

140 years later the Royal Engineers and The Wanderers met again at the Oval. This time the Engineers were victors 7-1.

See the article on the 2012 rematch (Daily Mail article, 7 November 2012) which includes a picture of the Royal Engineers team from 1871.


Peter Mayer
By Peter Mayer,
Operations Executive at HM Land Registry, Head Office