World War 1 - Football History - 1916-23

On 15th January 1916, The Football Battalion reached the front line of the Western Front.  During their first two weeks in the trenches, 4 members were killed and 33 wounded.  Vivian Woodward was one of the wounded, sustaining a hand grenade wound to his right thigh and was sent back to England to recover.   Major Frank Buckley was also one of the seriously injured during this time, when shrapnel punctured his lungs.  Sadly, despite being sent back to a military hospital in Kent and a successful operation to remove the metal from his body, his lungs were so bad that he never played football again.

Returning to the Western Front in August of the same year, Vivian Woodwood found that his battalion had suffered heavy casualties during the offensive on the Somme in July.  The battle was continuing, but was less intense - until 18th September, when a German attack involving poisonous gas killed a further 14 members of The Football Battalion.



Vivian Woodward


Walter Tull was also in action on the Somme offensive, surviving it without injury, but suffered from trench fever and was sent to England to recover.  From there, he went to Officer Training School at Gailes, Scotland, despite military regulations of the time stating that it was forbidden for "any negro or person of colour" becoming an officer.  Tull was commissioned in May 1917 and sent to the Italian front line, the first coloured officer in the British Army.  Later, he was mentioned in dispatches for his "gallantry and coolness" when under fire.

Just one year after he was injured, Major Frank Buckley was back on the Western Front, but sadly, the first attack by The Football Battalion was at Argenvillers and the Germans again used poisoned gas.  The Major's lungs were unable to cope with this and he was again sent back to England to recuperate.  However, Major Buckley was mentioned in dispatches, due to the bravery he displayed during hand-to-hand fighting during the offensive.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Walter Tull was transferred from Italy in 1918 to France, to bolster the attempts to break through the German lines on the Western Front.  On 25th March of that year, he was ordered to take his men on an attack on the German trenches at Favreuil.  While crossing No Mans Land, he was killed by German machine guns and sadly, his body was never recovered, despite valiant attempts by several of his men.



Major Frank Buckley

1882 - 1964

Major Frank Buckley kept a record of all the officers and men of The Football Battalion.  His records show that out of the original 600 men, 500 died, either in action or as a result of their wounds.  It is believed that Vivian Woodward was part of The Football Brigade team which won the Inter-Company Football Tournament in 1916, in the final against 34th Brigade Royal Fleet Auxiliary.  The following year, he was sent back to England for training as a PE Instructor at the Physical and Recreation Training School HQ in Aldershot.  In 1918, Woodward was sent to France, to join the First Army.

The end of the 1st World War was signified by the Signing of The Armistice at Compiegne, France on 11th November 1918.  Soon after, Woodward became the coach of the British Army Football Team and in 1919, aged 39, he captained the English Army to victory, in the final of the Inter-Theatre-of-War Championships at Stamford Bridge.  Scoring

Previous Index Next