For Team and Country: Sport on the Frontlines of the Great War
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Imagine Wayne Rooney, Andy Murray, and Mo Farah exchanging the glamour of their careers for the brutality of war—and quietly giving their lives for their country. Today the news would be dominated by the sacrifice of Britain’s most famous sporting icons. A century ago the brightest sporting stars of their generation did just that: hundreds of thousands of sports stars rallied to their country’s colors: many never returned from the mechanised carnage of World War I. The names of Walter Tull, Edgar Mobbs, and Percy Jeeves are unfamiliar today—lost in the terrible lists of the dead of World War I. But they belong among the pantheon of true British sporting heroes. All were—quite literally—at the top of their game; all made the ultimate sacrifice in "the greatest game of all"—war. For Team and Country reveals how sport itself was Britain’s first and most vital recruiting sergeant in the fight against Germany, and tells the remarkable and inspiring stories of the sportsmen whose prowess on the field was matched only by their bravery in the King’s uniform.
to the rank of major in March 1916, field promotions having become the norm in a war which was by then claiming the lives of thousands of men a month. He assumed command of the 7th Battalion a month later and was quickly promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. After three further wounds and being twice mentioned in dispatches, Edgar Mobbs was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in January 1917. In July 1917 he was killed in action at Zillebeke, Belgium, during the Third Battle of Ypres
privilege who morphed seamlessly into an officer’s tunic – wrote to newspapers back home arguing that news of the exploits of their favourite clubs helped ease the pain of life in the Flanders mud. Harry Allwood’s letter in Athletic News was typical: ‘If football does not appeal to the imagination of certain gentry at home, it has a great fascination for the gallant fellows at the Front. They do not want it stopped.’ But such voices were largely drowned out by the clamour of those demanding an
side. German Leutnant Johannes Niemann, who served with the 133rd Royal Saxon Regiment, reported playing a game against Scottish troops on Christmas morning. The mist was slow to clear and suddenly my orderly threw himself into my dugout to say that both the German and Scottish soldiers had come out of their trenches and were fraternizing along the front. I grabbed my binoculars and looking cautiously over the parapet saw the incredible sight of our soldiers exchanging cigarettes, schnapps and
and his death was met with grief by the men of his regiment (according to his commanding officer ‘almost every man was weeping’) as well as throughout England. Such was the impact of his death that his father was convinced the Germans had deliberately executed his son so as to damage British morale. Alfred Maynard was in every way a warrior. At Cambridge University he established a fearsome reputation in the second row of the scrum – locks being traditionally regarded as a team’s enforcer.
end of the 1913−14 season, Glasgow Rangers began negotiations with Northampton. But before he could sign the transfer papers war was declared. Tull immediately abandoned his career and was among the first players to join the Footballers’ Battalion. Here, once again, he came face to face with the old enemy: racism. Walter Tull in Tottenham Hotspur whites, circa 1910. � Getty Images According to The Manual of Military Law, black soldiers of any rank were not desirable. Despite the