Dorset County Football Association Remembers
"They gave their tomorrows, so we could live our todays"
Dorset County Football Association will be laying a wreath at the War Memorial in St Michael's Churchyard, Hamworthy to remember all those who gave their lives, so we could live ours, we remember all those who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations and the contribution and suffering of all those who have served over 100 years ago and in the days since.
When war was declared on 4 August 1914, it was expected that the Football Association (FA) would follow the example set by cricket and cancel all matches. Despite opposition, matches were played in the Football League throughout the 1914 -1915 season and the FA Cup was held as normal. For the remainder of the war, the Football League suspended its programme but allowed clubs to organise their own regional competitions.
Much of the opposition to the continuance of professional football stemmed from the concern that many men preferred to play and watch football rather than join up. However, football was also seen as a useful recruiting tool. All Dorset FA competitions were effectively in abeyance, suspended for the duration.
Football in Dorset During the War Years
Football was also a popular form of recreation for troops on both sides and was encouraged to boost morale. On 1 July 1916, men of the East Surrey Regiment, encouraged by Captain ‘Billie’ Nevill even went over the top kicking footballs. This was probably intended as a distraction for nervous young soldiers but was widely reported as a demonstration of British pluck.
Many professional footballers served in the forces. Those killed in action included former Tottenham Hotspur player Walter Tull and Bradford Park Avenue’s Donald Bell – the only professional footballer to be awarded the Victoria Cross.
During the First World War, more than 900,000 women worked in munitions factories. Most factories employed a welfare officer to monitor the health, wellbeing and behavior of their new female work force. Sport, especially football, was encouraged and many munitions factories developed their own ladies football teams. One of these factories was the Royal Navy Cordite Factory, at Holton Heath, manufacturing cordite for the Royal Navy.
A century ago, when the First World War began, Holton Heath, near Wareham was heathland bordering Poole Harbour. Within a year everything had changed and the heath had been transformed into a busy construction site for the highly secret Royal Naval Cordite Factory. The site employed more than a thousand people during WW1 and Holton Heath station was built to help people get to work. Many of the workers were women, the so-called ‘munitionettes’. This was extremely dangerous work and we must recognise the courage of these women, who were performing dangerous work, handling explosive materials, whilst exposed to toxic chemicals, they risked their lives every day.
Women like the ladies at Holton Heath’s team the Royal Navy Cordite Factory team (RNCF) began to play informal games of football during their lunch breaks. After some initial apprehension, their superiors came to see these games as a means to boost morale and increase productivity. Teams soon formed and friendly matches were arranged and on the back of the suffragette movement women’s football began to grow.
In the post War years, in Dorset and up and down the breadth of the country rebuilding and healing of a nation began, relating to family needs and resumption of employment, the two often closely related, there were feelings of fellowship, a togetherness, through shared War-time experiences, a number of football teams formed with ‘Comrades’ in their title and in Dorset the resumption of football had a few difficulties, a number of clubs had their grounds requisitioned by the military or for growing food, transport to get to and from arranged fixtures was difficult, with rail strikes and prohibited movement, reforming teams after a gap of six years, however post war match attendances were recorded at a record highs as people saw Football as a means of boosting morale, camaraderie and finding a way forward.