No 12 Call To Arms

Discussion in 'Non Hampton and Richmond Borough FC related' started by Les 1949, Nov 19, 2017.

  1. Les 1949

    Les 1949 Member


    Things you may not know, or didn’t know you knew!

    No 12 CALL TO ARMS

    How Sport was used as a recruiter to the Military in 1914

    When the Great War started in August 1914 there was very little idea what the country was letting itself in for. Previous wars fought by the British were, in the main, colonial and fought against native troops who were poorly armed in comparison to the ‘Redcoats’. The Boer War fought in South Africa at the end of the 19th century was a wake-up call, as the Boers were well armed and fought a guerrilla war. But, even so, no one was prepared for a war on such an industrial scale. The common feeling was that after a few skirmishes it would be all over by Christmas. Lord Kitchener, Minister of War, thought differently and forecast the war would involve millions of men and last at least three years – he was not far wrong.

    At first, life, certainly in the sporting world carried on much as normal. The County Cricket Championship carried on, the crack of willow on leather. Then teams suddenly found that players were being called up and they were scratching around for adequate replacements. It has to be said that Rugby Union led the way as teams joined the colours wholesale. Football, though, lagged behind and footballers came in for a great deal of criticism.

    The Football Association failed to give a lead and dithered about fixture problems, player contracts and loss of income. Eventually the level of criticism began to grow to such an extent that the FA were forced to abandon their stance and actively persuade players to join a ‘Footballers Battalion’.

    There was, of course, no Hampton Football Club at the time however I have looked at the nearest ‘big’ club, Brentford to see what happened to some of their players. At the time Brentford were competing in the Southern League Division 2 (they would not become a Football League Club until 1920).

    17 players served during the war, including Patsy Hendren who also played cricket for Middlesex.

    Two were killed; George Littler & Henry Purver. Sergeant Littler served with Kings Rifle Corps and died on 11th May 1915 on the Western Front, near Bethune. Private Purver served in the 24th (Service ) Battalion (2nd Sportsman’s) and was killed on 31st July 1916 and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

    Whilst the idea of serving with your ‘pals’, colleagues, or even neighbours from your own village or town was used to get volunteers to join up in the early part of the war seemed sound, there were to be unintended consequences. The first day of the Somme saw 60,000 plus casualties and many ’pals’ battalions were virtually wiped out which meant, in reality, that whole communities suffered in greater proportion than other places. The sporting world (Football, Cricket, Rugby etc) also took a ‘hit’.

    In the 2nd World War there were no such ‘pals’ battalions and recruits, including sportsmen, were spread amongst the various military units to prevent heavy losses being felt in particular communities.

    Perhaps this is one of the reasons that the Great War still leaves us with the impression of a ‘lost generation’.

    The Old Historian

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