100 Years of Coconuts is sorry to report another recent death in the Cambridge United family: that of Jack Bishop, a skilful outside left who, with his full-back brother Bob, played for the U’s in the 1950s.
When the Bishops played in Jack’s debut game, the club’s first ever in the Eastern Counties League, against Great Yarmouth Town on 18 August 1951, they lined up with another sibling pair: Antonio ('Tony') and Jose ('Joe') Gallego. Jack went on to play 47 times for United, contributing five goals. His career in football followed wartime army service that saw him survive detention in a notorious prisoner of war camp and a forced march of hundreds of miles.
Born in 1923 at Southminster in Essex, the youngest of three sons, Jack Bishop showed his talent at football and cricket on a local level at an early age. In 1941 he joined the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards, where his training as a tank driver included work on Duplex Drive ‘swimming’ vehicles, equipped with flotation screens enabling them to be launched at sea.
Six-thirty on the morning of D-Day (6 June 1944) found Jack in the first wave of tanks landing on Gold Beach to assault the Normandy settlement of La Rivière. He had been ashore for three weeks when his tank was hit and blown up by an 88mm armour-piercing shell near Caen. Jack tried to help his captain, who had been wounded, but he was captured and transferred to the infamous Stalag VIII PoW camp in Silesia.
With the approach of the Red Army in late 1944, prisoners were evacuated from many camps in order to delay their liberation, and forced to march westwards. Jack’s route took him through Czechoslovakia and Bavaria, then north through Germany before, after 1,500 miles, he was finally freed by British troops in Hamburg. After being flown home and then sent to serve in the 1945-47 Palestine conflict, he was demobbed in 1948.
He went on to establish himself as first-choice left winger for most of the season, with Joe Gallego playing inside him at inside left, and demonstrated his commitment during a 3-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur ‘A’ in October. He insisted on continuing after receiving treatment for a head injury in the first half, but after the match an ambulance was called as concussion was suspected. Jack refused it and left the ground the way he had arrived: wheeling his bicycle.
United finished fourth in their first ECL season, but then Gallego was switched to the left wing and Jack’s first-team outings were scarce until he rejoined Bury Town in March 1953. He later played for March Town United and continued to show his talents as a cricketer.
Jack was married to Audrey, who survives him, They lived in Bury St Edmunds, where Jack worked as an engineer. He died on January 18.