World War One - Football History - 1914-16

World War 1 (1914 - 18) notably recorded a Christmas Truce in 1914.  Unofficial ceasefires took place through the week leading up to Christmas and parties of German and English soldiers arranged burials.  Venturing into 'no-mans land', the troops exchanged gifts and souvenirs.  Troops from both sides also became friendly enough to enter into games of Football with one another.

The Football League continued with the 1914-15 season, the professional players of clubs mostly being unable to enlist, because they had contracts with their clubs.  The club had to be willing to cancel the contract before they could join the armed forces!



Christmas 1914 - a Truce between British and German Troops in the trenches

The Football Battalion was formed on 12th December 1914.  More correctly titled 17th Service (Football) Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment, the first person to join was the England centre-half Frank Buckley.  Buckley had already had some experience in the army and was first given the rank of Lieutenant, rising eventually to Major. But it was mostly amateur players and non-footballers who joined in the beginning, swelling the ranks within weeks, to a full compliment of 600 men.  The non-footballers joined simply to be amongst their heroes!

Supporters of Chelsea FC wanted to be with Vivian Woodward, an England capped player of amateur status, who was one of the best headers of a football of his time.  Woodward scored 34 goals in 116 games playing for Chelsea.  A real cup winner.

By March 1915, over 120 professional footballers had joined The Football Battalion, including the entire Clapton Orient (now Leyton Orient FC) 1st team, three of whom were later killed during the fighting on the Western Front.  Walter Tull, of Tottenham Hotspurs FC, joined the battalion and Major Frank Buckley, recognising his leadership qualities, soon promoted him to Sergeant.  Tull, whose father was the son of a slave, had arrived in England from Barbados in 1876.  One of 6 children, Tull's mother died when he was 7 and spent much of his childhood in an orphanage.



Walter Tull




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