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Heroes & Heroines of the First World War

For soldiers sport was of huge importance as a way to alleviate boredom when spending time behind the lines. It kept them fit and active and helped to maintain morale. At home women working in factories were encouraged to join sports teams with football and rugby being particularly popular. Matches were played between different factories and drew large crowds.
Sporting Heroes and Heroines of the First World War highlights individuals with sporting prowess who served their country from 1914 – 1918.

Raquets

Captain John Jacob Astor

'...probably the wealthiest person to have won an Olympic gold medal for Great Britain.'

Learn about Captain John Jacob Astor

Rugby

Lt Col Edgar Mobbs DSO

'400 men including many rugby players from Saints and Bedford as well as supporters and ordinary Northamptonshire men joined the 7th Battalion of the Northamptonshire Regiment. The battalion was also known as the “Mobbs Own” or “Sportsman’s Battalion”.'

Learn about Lt Col Edgar Mobbs DSO

Fencing

Captain John Jenkinson

'Captain Jenkinson died carrying out his duties...standing up under a murderous fire to see that his men were properly extended, and thus doing all in his power to minimise their losses.'

Learn about Captain John Jenkinson

Lacrosse

Ladies’ Lacrosse Association

"The Scottish Women’s Hospitals have many good friends, and deserve them all. The Ladies’ Lacrosse Association arranged a Scotland v. England match for them in London."

Learn about Ladies’ Lacrosse Association

Rugby League

2nd Lieutenant James Parkinson

'Parkinson's plucky action undoubtedly saved at least three lives, and pleased the boys of the battalion, with whom he is justly popular.'

Learn about 2nd Lieutenant James Parkinson

Rugby

Revd Edward Fitzhardinghe Campbell DSO

'Only Mr. Campbell's determination enabled him to perform the work; his assistants and working parties had frequently to be changed.'

Learn about Revd Edward Fitzhardinghe Campbell DSO

Rugby League

Newport Ladies’ Rugby Team

'We loved it. It was such fun with all of us together on the pitch, but we had to stop when the men came back from the war, which was a shame. Such great fun we had.'

Learn about Newport Ladies’ Rugby Team

Football

2nd Lt Walter Tull

Walter became 2nd Lieutenant Tull of the 23rd Middlesex Battalion; one of the first black officers to lead white men into battle'

Learn about 2nd Lt Walter Tull

Rugby League

Captain Robert Randerson

'I am not a fighting man; I don’t like to fight, but I ought to go and fight at a time like this'.

Learn about Captain Robert Randerson

Shinty

Lt Dr John Cattanach

'Natural ability, superb physique and a scientific approach to the game left Cattanach head and shoulders above many outstanding contemporaries.'

Learn about Lt Dr John Cattanach

Water Polo

Sergeant Charles Forsyth

'Forsyth scored a hat trick in Great Britain’s 9-2 win over Belgium in the 1908 Olympic water polo final.'

Learn about Sergeant Charles Forsyth

Rugby League

2nd Lt Jack Harrison VC MC

'Jack had it all, a great speed, a great swerving ability...'

Learn about 2nd Lt Jack Harrison VC MC

Rugby

Captain Charlie Pritchard

'“Have they got the Hun?” asked Charlie with his final few breaths. When the answer came back as ‘yes’ he simply added, “well, at least I’ve done my bit.” '

Learn about Captain Charlie Pritchard

Football

Portsmouth Ladies Football Club

'Miss Anscombe possess the “soccer” talent, and generally succeeded in scoring when she broke away, threading through the opposing defence in quite the accepted fashion.'

Learn about Portsmouth Ladies Football Club

Football

Flight Lieutenant Frederick Creek MBE, MC

'He displayed the greatest skill and determination'.

Learn about Flight Lieutenant Frederick Creek MBE, MC

Hockey

Captain John Yate Robinson MC

'He won a gold medal with the English hockey team at the 1908 Summer Olympics in London.'

Learn about Captain John Yate Robinson MC

Boxing

Army Boxing

'As an active and martial sport, boxing had long been one of the most favoured games practised by the Armed Forces.'

Learn about Army Boxing

Rugby

Lt John Morris Clement Lewis

'Clem Lewis is perhaps the greatest of all fly-halves today. The Germans tried to stop him from scoring in France by gassing him, but he remains as tricky and dangerous as ever'

Learn about Lt John Morris Clement Lewis