1. Resource Pack
Sport in World War I
Developed for World War One Centenary: Continuations and Beginnings by Richard Marshall,
University of Oxford (August 2012). Free, high quality educational resources on new
perspectives of the First World War. http://ww1centenary.oucs.ox.ac.uk.
2. Rugby union footballers are doing their duty. Over 90% have enlisted. British athletes! Will you follow this
glorious example? Available via the Library of Congress, in Public Domain.
"This is not the time to play games" (Lord Roberts). "Every player who represented England in Rugby
international matches last year has joined the colours." - extract from The Times, November 30, 1914.
Printed by Johnson, Riddle & Co., Ltd., London, S.E. .
3. Young men of Britain! The Germans said you
were not in earnest. "We knew you'd come -
and give them the lie!" Play the greater game
and join the football battalion. Available via
the Library of Congress, in the Public Domain.
Extract from Frankfurter Zeitung: "The young
Britons prefer to exercise their long limbs on
the football ground, rather than to expose them
to any sort of risk in the service of their
As professional footballers were thought to be
setting a bad example by not volunteering their
services (the professional season was underway
and many players felt they could not leave their
clubs), a Footballer’s Battalion (17th Middlesex)
was raised in December 1914, and encouraged
whole teams to enlist.
Designed and printed by Johnson, Riddle & Co.,
Ltd., London, S.E. 
4. The sportsman battalion's recruit who wrecked
the zeppelin and won the V.C. Follow his lead and
join the sportsman's battalion. Available via the
Library of Congress, in the Public Domain.
The Sportsman’s Battalions (23rd and 24th Royal
Fusiliers) were raised as a means of encouraging
recruitment among upper- and middle-class young
men. Poster illustrated with the image of Sub.-Lt.
R.A.J. Warneford, VC. Although initially joining a
sportsman’s battalion, he transferred almost
immediately into the Royal Naval Air Service.
W. Straker, Ltd., Printers, 13, Coventry Street,
Picadilly, W. 
5. Jump into your place in the Sportsman's
Company of the Irish Canadian Rangers.
Available via the Library of Congress, in the
As well as sporting interests, local and
national sentiments were also taken
advantage of for recruitment purposes. So
an Irish Canadian battalion (the 199th) has
formed a sportsman’s company, following
the example of British sportsman’s
battalions. Montreal : Montreal Litho. Co.,
Ltd., [between 1914 and 1918]
6. OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPH TAKEN ON THE BRITISH WESTERN FRONT IN FRANCE. The W.A.A.C's in France have
responded to a suggestion that they should in their spare time assist in the recovery of convalescent
soldiers in hospitals in France, by inviting them to W.A.A.C. camps to take part in sports. Cricket. Available
via the National Library of Scotland as CC BY-NC-SA.
Member of the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps batting in a game of cricket. The players do not seem to have
much experience in the game: the wicket-keeper has had a long-stop placed behind him. Although cricket
had mass appeal in this period, the sport languished as a pastime behind the front as it required special
equipment. Games of football were easier to organise and could be played on much rougher ground.
7. Lt. Ronald William Poulton Palmer. Available via Wikipedia Commons as CC BY-NC-SA
Ronald Poulton Palmer player for Harlequins and Liverpool F. C. (later Liverpool St. Helens). He captained
the unbeaten England XV in the 1914 season, scoring four tries against France in the last test match before
the war. Volunteering for service in 1914, he was commissioned into the 1/4th (Territorial) Bn. Royal
Berkshire Regiment, and was killed by a sniper on 5th May 1915 while supervising work from the top of a
8. OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPH TAKEN ON THE BRITISH WESTERN FRONT IN FRANCE. The W.A.A.C's in France
have responded to a suggestion that they should in their spare time assist in the recovery of convalescent
soldiers in hospitals in France, by inviting them to W.A.A.C. camps to take part in sports. Hockey.
Available via the National Library of Scotland as CC BY-NC-SA
From the same series as the previous picture, though here an actual game seems to be in progress.
Members of the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps playing hockey with British and New Zealand soldiers.
9. BRITISH OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPH FROM THE WESTERN FRONT. Black Watch hold sports whilst resting. Gas
helmet V.C. race. Available via the National Library of Scotland as CC BY-NC-SA
Battalion sports day event, involving a race while wearing gas helmets (early gas masks). Such athletics
contests were often organised by units while resting out of the line, and not only helped relax the men, but
also had obvious training benefits.
10. OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPH TAKEN OF THE AQUATIC SPORTS OF CAVALRY BEHIND THE LINE - A race in
progress. Available via the National Library of Scotland as CC BY-NC-SA.
Note the group of French women and children on the right bank. Local people frequently came to view
military sporting events, and were often officially invited to be spectators.
11. OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPH TAKEN ON THE BRITISH WESTERN FRONT IN FRANCE - Divisional Sports. The first
time round. Available via the National Library of Scotland as CC BY-NC-SA
Sports days could be very elaborate affairs. Divisional events often included horse-races; as the army was
largely dependant on horse transport, and some officers were able to bring their own mounts to France,
competition was often intensive.
12. Photograph of the football team of the 4th East Yorks. Contributed to the Great War Archive by Sandra
Cane. Available under the JISC Model Licence.
Many units organised semi-permanent sporting teams to take on rivals; the 4th Bn East Yorks football team,
even had their own strip, presumably paid for out of battalion funds. According to accompanying notes,
this picture taken at Hornsea in 1916. However, the 4th Bn. was by this time serving in France.
13. Details of football match from Royal Naval Divisional Artillery Christmas celebrations programme.
Contributed to the Great War Archive by Mrs Jill Cross. Available under the JISC Model Licence.
Page 2 of a programme for Christmas celebrations, 1918, humorously advertising a football match: ‘there is
to be no kicking below the belt… To make the ground more level, volunteers are required from spectators
to lay in the shell holes… players are reminded that the fewer the survivors there are, the larger will be the
rum ration’. After the armistice, such events played an important role in keeping soldiers occupied while
waiting for demobilization.
14. OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPH TAKEN ON THE WESTERN FRONT. Scotch troops at the entrance to their hut on
New Year's Day. Available via the National Library of Scotland as CC BY-NC-SA
Picture encapsulating the main recreational activities of British troops during the war: music (here
bagpipes and drums), drink, cigarettes, and football. Although images of organised matches predominate
in official photographs, many men would gather together for a kick-about behind the lines; games often
drew in surrounding troops and spectators, and sides of 50 or more players were not unknown.
15. Bavarian Football team relaxing on Eastern Front. Drakegoodman collection, available via Flickr as CC BY-
Note on reverse "Rußland“ [Russia]. German troops from Bavaria relaxing on the Eastern Front with a
football, much like their British counterparts. Uniform details and historical context suggest photograph
taken in summer of 1917.
16. 2nd Lt. Donald Simpson Bell VC. Available via Wikipedia as CC BY-SA.
Donald Simpson Bell played as an amateur for Crystal Palace and Newcastle United, before signing as a
professional with Bradford (Park Avenue) in 1912. He became one of the first professional footballer to
volunteer for service in the war, joining the West Yorkshire Regiment as a private and rapidly rose through
the ranks. Commissioned into the 9th (Service) Bn. Yorkshire Regiment, he won the Victoria Cross for
destroying a machine gun and its crew at Horseshoe Trench on 10th July 1916, during the first phase of the
Battle of the Somme. He was killed five days later in a similar act of bravery.
17. Photograph of two men in boxing ring on HMS Queen Elizabeth. Contribute to the Great War Archive by
Helen Elletson, available under the JISC Model Licence.
Boxing had long been popular in the Royal Navy, and men often competed within and between ships,
the ultimate accolade being ‘champion of the fleet’. Part of a collection relating to Frank Harold
Elletson, Royal Marine Artillery. Date uncertain, but the collection is described as including: "Diary
[photo scrapbook] of HMS Queen Elizabeth, January to May 1915, plus photographs c. 1918".
18. Original caption: Two officers curling on a frozen canal with ice blocks. Available via the National Library of
Scotland as CC BY-NC-SA
Opportunities for sporting diversions were few and far between in the harsh winters usually experienced on
the Western Front during the Great War. Here, two officers of the Royal Artillery take part in an impromptu
game of curling, using blocks of ice in place of the polished stones.
19. Major Hesketh-Prichard. Available via Wikipedia Commons as CC BY-SA.
Major Hesketh-Prichard drew upon his experiences as a big-game hunter to organise the first formal
training of snipers for the British army, setting up schools of instruction in France. Many devotees of target
sports served as scouts or snipers during the war, and many privately-owned target rifles were donated for
the use of the soldiers.
Hesketh-Prichard was also a talented cricketer, playing first-class matches for Hampshire and touring
internationally with various MCC teams before the war. For a short period at London County (since defunct)
he was the teammate of W. G. Grace.
20. Original caption: OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN ON THE BRITISH WESTERN FRONT IN FRANCE. Cyclist
scouts going forward to watch the movements of the enemy. Available via the National Library of Scotland
as CC BY-NC-SA
Prior to the outbreak of war, the Territorial Force possessed nine cyclist battalions, recruited from civilian
cycling enthusiasts, and in 1915 an Army Cyclist Corps was formed to control bicycle infantry. Cyclist troops
served primarily as scouts, messengers, and mounted infantry, the latter riding to the front but dismounting
for action. Bicycle units did not require the complicated training and logistics of cavalry, but their
opportunities on the terrain of the Western Front were few, and most served at home or in other theatres.