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Games of Remembrance: Football remembers fallen heroes of World War One

The British Army and German Bundeswehr female teams

It is 100 years since the First World War ended. Everyone in Britain felt the effects of the war. Football included.

Over 2,000 players, from all 50 league clubs, were sent to serve. Around 300 of them never returned.

On Thursday 8th of November, The Games of Remembrance took place in Nottingham remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

The event, held at Nottingham Forest’s City Ground and Notts County’s Meadow Lane, saw men and women from the British Army play against the German Bundeswehr Armed forces.

British and German Armies female captains shake hands
The British Army and German Bundeswehr female captains shake hands.

“It’s a huge honour. I feel very privileged and proud to represent not only the Army but also my family,” said 29-year-old Corporal Jess Treharne.

“Some of the girls, myself included, have never played in front of a crowd of that size.”

Over 11,000 people attended – including more than 5,000 school children from 60 schools – some travelling from as far as Germany and Greece.

“My Grandfather served in World War Two. He was a staff sergeant for the Physical Training Corps,” she said.

“He was also a professional footballer who played for the likes of Preston, Wrexham and Barnsley.

“It’s been an emotional day from start to finish. He [her grandfather] was at the back of my mind before the game, during the game and after the game.”

Sergeant Yvette Kemp is the ambassador of women’s football for the British Army. She is currently on a nine-month tour of Afghanistan and took two weeks leave just to be at the games.

“It is our chance to pay tribute to all of the fallen heroes of World War One. It’s an opportunity to remember everything that they did,” said Sergeant Kemp.

Replica World War One football being signed
A replica football from the World War One era is signed at Meadow Lane.

A year after the war began, in 1915, all professional leagues in England were disbanded.

During that time the women’s game grew in popularity thanks to ammunitions factories’, where millions of British women worked, football clubs.

The most famous factory team was Dick Kerr’s Ladies. They drew huge crowds and helped raise large sums of money to aid Britain’s frontline troops.

“The fact that women were working in these ammunition factories and playing football is inspiring,” said Sergeant Kemp.

“They drew huge crowds of up to 50,000 people at a time. Seeing how much they wanted to play during the war is a huge motivation for me.”

Dick Kerr's Ladies F.C line up for a team photo
 Dick Kerr’s Ladies F.C line up for a team photo

When the war finally ended, in 1918, the lives of the people and the livelihoods of their football clubs would never be the same.

Bradford City, one of the top teams at the time, were severally affected by the war. Bradford sent nine of their players to the frontline. None of them returned.

Stories such as these are why the Games of Remembrance was created. It is an opportunity to remember, respect and honour those who served.

Stories aren’t just confined to the past, though, football is still a huge part of Army life. The British Army men’s performance analyst, Captain Matt Spruce, explained:

“Wherever we deploy – in Canada to Kenya – soldiers always have a football on them.

“Football is a common language and it breaks barriers everywhere we go.  It’s a vehicle for leadership all across the world.

“They call football a soldier’s game. It enhances moral, helps team building and creates the ethos of working towards a common goal,” he said.

This was celebrated at the Games of Remembrance by two former enemies turned allies. It serves as a reminder of our past and praises our present and how we have come.

The sacrifices made by soldiers and their families to protect the peace and freedoms we enjoy today will never be forgotten.

Deborah II replica WW1 Tank
Guy Martin’s Deborah II replica WW1 Tank was one of the main attractions in the fan park 

Educational packs for schools, community groups and grass roots football coaches, are available from The Games of Remembrance website to help everyone learn about war and football. If you would like to research more about football and the First World War you can do so here.

Connor Woolley
Connor, 26, comes from Long Eaton. As a Nottingham Forest supporter, he’ll say he is from Nottingham, but ask his Derby County supporting friends or family and they will proudly say they’re from Derby. He earned a degree in Media Studies from Nottingham Trent University in 2014. After graduating, Connor spent some time working in Public Relations. More recently, he has volunteered as a Police Special Constable. Passionate about all things football, Connor is specifically interest in goalkeeping. He still plays occasionally, although now it’s more trying than playing. After trying surfing for the first time on holiday this summer, he has found a new love, which he hopes to pursue further in the future. He also practices the Israeli self defence, Krav Maga. Connor hopes to improve his writing and broadcast skills with the Sports Gazette and St Mary’s University.
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