For Services To Grimsby Town

Cod Almighty | Article

by Peter Anderson

18 June 2023

In 1972 Town held a competition to design a new club badge. The story of the winning designer should be celebrated, yet is not widely known. GTFC Crest

It's 1972 on a weekday evening in fourteen-year old Jan Palejowski's New Waltham family home. The teatime scene of father and son at the table talking obsessively about GTFC isn't noteworthy in itself. Manager Lawrie McMenemy has elevated the Mariners into something more than a football club. An entire region has been revitalised by the performances and, perhaps more importantly, the character of their local team. The Cod War would once again dominate the news later that year but, for now, football is all anyone in GY talking about.

What brings us to the Palejowski kitchen on this particular occasion is they've paused talk of Brace and Tees, Worthington and Boylen, at least for an hour or two. The Evening Telegraph and GTFC are running a competition to design a new club badge and Jan's dad George, an architect by trade, has enlisted his help on a sketch destined for immortality.

Town had an existing badge but, like many clubs at the time, didn't own the copyright to it. Any budding entrepreneur could make and sell their own badged merchandise and the club wouldn't see a penny of the proceeds. As chronicled in the Beautiful History, the solution for Town and several other clubs was to invite fans to design a new badge, to be owned by the club. The Evening Telegraph competition brief was simple: the badge should reflect the town's association with the fishing industry.

The details of the contest and its winning designer is one of the great stories, not just about the DNA of the football club but of Grimsby itself. It's a piece of history everyone should know, perhaps never more so than in the current social climate. George Palejowski was a native of Poland and in 1939 was called to serve his country as Nazi Germany swept across Europe. A member of the Carpathian Lancers, his regiment was involved in some of the most notable battles of WW2 and eventually billeted in Weelsby Woods in 1945. Cruelly, having defeated one foe, the Soviet occupation of Poland after the war meant that the Lancers were unable to return to the home they had so bravely fought to free. Many, like George, chose to settle in Grimsby and the surrounding area.  

As if their journey from formation in Syria in 1940 across the battlegrounds of Europe isn't extraordinary enough, for several years the regiment had a bear as a serving member. Yes, an actual bear. Wojtek started as a private before managing a promotion to corporal and is commemorated with a statue in Weelsby Woods, erected by George and the Anglo-Polish Society in 2011. If you have a spare moment I urge you to look up the remarkable story of Wojtek and indeed the Lancers. You won't be disappointed.George and Wojtek

Sadly, George is no longer with us, having died in 2016 but I contacted Jan for his memories of that evening in New Waltham and his dad's iconic creation. Now living in Oxfordshire, he shared the thinking behind the badge, one that will cast a fresh appreciation of familiar features and perhaps open your eyes to some new ones hiding in plain sight.

This begins with the elegant exterior outline, chosen by his father to match that of a scallop shell. I've always found there to be something satisfying about the badge curves and proportions, a golden ratio sense of it being just right without knowing why. Until now. Looking at the badge in this new light, even the stripes suggest the ridges of a shell.Scallop shell

A trawler was to be the focal point of the badge, as the most obvious symbol of the fishing industry. Crafting something so iconic using only several simple lines did not come by accident or luck. George had long conversations with friends on the docks and trawler owners to research the characteristics that distinguished a trawler's profile from other vessels. Key aspects were the shape of the bridge and deckhouse, but it is the mast which epitomised George's eye for the finer details. Protruding slightly above the rigging lines, it allows a space at the top for the trawler's characteristic red light, giving it an unmistakable form.


The three fish also have significance, even if the number attracted some confusion and misinformation. In the 1990s, Four Four Two magazine carried a story that the GTFC badge was a fishy version of the three lions on the England team's badge. Jan contacted them to put them straight at the time, the simple explanation being the original Town badge had three trawlers, and his father had used three fish as a nod to that. And yes, the fish had eyes.

The initial kitchen session was just the start. As you'd expect from an architect with passion for his subject, multiple versions were created as George refined his entry. Unfortunately, like the evolution of any project, drafts are not always kept once the right design is settled upon. Jan sought them afterwards without success, believing them to be either disposed of by his dad or handed over to Town. As part of the condition of the competition, George surrendered all rights to the badge and it wouldn't have been unusual for Town to have requested any associated sketches.

The competition received hundreds of entries but was settled without fuss. No shortlists or alternative designs were made public and the winner was chosen by the editor of the Telegraph and club directors. 

George Palejowski rose bowl

The prize as Jan recalls was £100 but George declined to accept, with his reasoning being he'd entered for the enjoyment of it. Instead, the club presented him with a season ticket and a silver rose bowl inscribed "To George S Palejowski, in appreciation of services to Grimsby Town". Like the badge, I'd suggest that George got this spot on. Whilst a cash prize could always come in handy, it would not persist as the fine memento Jan and his family still have to this day.

As you'd expect, despite moving away from the area, Jan is still a Mariners fan and regular matchgoer. With his father designing the badge, it's also not surprising that Jan himself is an avid collector of pin badges bearing it, with an estimated 200 in his collection. Jan's badge collection

The elephant in the room during our discussion, or more accurately the flag on the trawler, is Town's 2021 redesign of George's badge. Personally, I didn't like it at the time. Having heard Jan explain the care and thought that his father put into the design, I now like the redesign even less. George went to great lengths to create an elegant masterpiece, to place a superflous flag on it is, at best, clumsy and it needlessly detracts from the badge.

Jan is obviously speaking from a position of bias but agrees that the flag is out of character with the rest of the badge. Worse still, the mast no longer protrudes above the rigging leaving no space for a red light. If the intent was to have 1878 represented on the badge, there were places more suited. Sponsor text for example, such as Europe's Food Town, has been positioned around the badge in the past. The work done by Rich Lyons has merit; graphical standards were needed but the flag seemed random and change for change's sake. The saving grace is that, even with the changes, it's still unmistakably George's design.

Reading touching memories on social media a few years ago of George's warm and humorous spirit and how fate brought him to Grimsby prompted me to get in touch with Jan. I am grateful for him taking the time to share his recollections. As a Town fan, the background of the badge competition was of interest. In equal measure, the story of his father along with his fellow Poles who settled in the area is worthy of similar attention. George, as an architect, shaped parts of the town in a literal sense as well through his contribution to the area through organisations such as the Grimsby Branch of the Catenian Association, the Rotary Club and the Anglo Polish society. And, of course, he left an enduring legacy for GTFC. Both town and club are richer for him having done so.