Fro Team And Country : Sport on the Frontlines of the Great War
Imagine Wayne Rooney, Andy Murray and Mo Farah exchanging the glamour of their careers for the brutality and bloodshed 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 them rallied to their country's colours: many never returned from the mechanised carnage of The Great War, making the ultimate sacrifice in 'the greatest game of all'.
In this original and highly accessible book, Tim Tate reveals how sport itself was Britain's first and most vital recruiting sergeant in the fight against Germany and how sportsmen applied their unique talents on the battlefield, but also how a shared sporting spirit offered humane common ground amidst the horror of combat. Above all, For Team and Country 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.
Undoubtedly one of the key images of the First World War is that of junior officers kicking footballs out over the trenches on the First Day of the Somme. This book provides an interesting account of how sport influenced the War and the lives of the men who fought it. In 1914 British men were as obsessed with sport - either as players or spectators - as they are now, so it was inevitable that soccer, rugby and cricket in particular would quickly be harnessed to the war effort.
Initially sporting matches were used as a way of recruiting men, but with little effect. As the war dragged on so the numbers joining up fell away. Closer to the front, sport played a big part in keeping morale high. Unit war diaries are full of the results of football matches played against other units. Sporting heroes of the time joined up. And many fell in the 'ultimate match' as the propagandists called it. Many of their stories are told here.
But as this book suggests sport - more than any other aspect of Edwardian Britain - demonstrates the innocence that was lost for good in the trenches. Before he went over the top at the Somme 2/Lt Frederick Key, who played for Lichfield Cricket Club, wrote a note to his parents 'If you receive this you will know that I have been out middle peg. You can be sure however that I batted well.'
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