Monday 19 May 2014

The Great War, football and Birmingham

On Christmas day 1914, German soldiers of the 134th Saxon Regiment met with men of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in no man’s land, for a game of football.

A  momumental event in football history - where two armies put down their guns to pop over for a quick game.  But the story of football during the war runs far deeper than this brief moment of humanity.

The Football Association chose not to cancel matches through 1914 and 1915, as had Cricket and other sports, and while clearly popular with the men of German and British Forces, it was also popular with the Munition workers - the lady 'Munitionettes', particularly in the North of England. I've had a quick dig around, and could only find this cutting for a game in Birmingham (St. Andrews) between two of the more well known teams from St. Helens and Stoke.

Football was already seen a means of keeping fit and raising morale.  While Lady's football was a little frowned upon (note demise of the English Ladies' Football Association after Great War)  football as a whole was encouraged.

Troops had time to spend playing football on the front - Presumably football was also played in and around the hospitals of Birmingham?

The 1st Southern General Hospital in Birmingham, based mainly in Selly Oak, was one of the many hospitals and convalescence care services based in and around Birmimgham - during the war over 130,000 military casualties were treated in Birmingham Hospitals.  A brutal reminder of those who did not recover remains in Lodge Hill Cemetery.

As a playday coordinator, I'm also interested in football on the streets too, played mainly by children in Birmingham.  What record is there of these games?  This year playday falls on 6th August - two days after the centenary commemorations for the beginning of the first world war - at Swan Corner we will be inviting inclusive teams of mixed gender, age, ability, to take part in what will be the start of Playing out street closures across Birmingham.

Please send me any information or links about football, Birmingham and the Great War - or contact me if you can join us for a quick game on National Playday.