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National Football Museum Launch Exhibition To Mark WW1 Centenary

Fri 12th Dec 2014 | Football Industry Events

A first-hand account of one of the First World War’s most enduring stories forms the centre-piece of a new exhibition opening at the National Football Museum on 19 December.

The handwritten account, told in a diary kept by Lt C.B. Brockbank of the 6th Bn Cheshire Regiment, details the famous Christmas Day football game of 1914.

The exhibition, ‘The Greater Game – Football & The First World War’, commemorates the centenary year of the conflict, and the roles played by a number of footballers who gave everything for their country. The exhibition was made possible by a grant of £88,700 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Visitors can expect a poignant and moving experience, with stories of sacrifice and hope told through the national game.

By 1914 football was Britain’s most popular spectator sport and is forever connected to the First World War through stories of Christmas truce matches or troops advancing behind a football. However, there is plenty more to discover in ‘The Greater Game’, from the controversy surrounding the continuation of the 1914/15 football season during hostilities, to players of the ‘Footballers Battalion’ who fought and died.

Separating fact from fiction, the exhibition dissects the Christmas truce matches as well as commemorating the sacrifices made by players from clubs across the land.

As well as Lt Brockbank’s diary, a ball kicked ‘over the top’ by Captain W.P. Nevill on the first day of The Somme reflects the camaraderie that was found in Europe’s bloodiest battlefields.

Other objects on display include Wilfred Bartrop’s FA Cup Winner’s Medal awarded to him in 1912 following his part in the success of ‘Battling Barnsley’ who reached the cup final in 1910 and won it in 1912. Bartrop lost his life in the conflict, just four days before the end of the war. The exhibition also explores the popularity of women’s football and how they participated in the war effort, through objects and photographs from Mfanwy Trippier, a member of the Women’s Land Army who went on to play for Bolton and Manchester Ladies.

Present day conflicts are noted through the lens of photographer Sean Sutton, showing men, women and children affected by armed violence and conflict in association with charity organisation, Mines Advisory Group.   Meanwhile, artist Malik Thomas has been commissioned to produce a series of artworks inspired by individual stories and artefacts in the exhibition.

A website www.footballandthefirstworldwar.com, is an on-going project to create a central database of information about football and footballers during the conflict. The public are being invited to add their own stories as the site brings together an archive of both footballers who fought in the war, and how football continued at home during the war years.  It features stories and detailed information about a number of the key figures featured in ‘The Greater Game’ exhibition.

Kevin Moore, National Football Museum Director, said: “Even in some of the world’s darkest times, the love of football and the spirit of the game continues. This is captured beautifully in ‘The Greater Game’ with never before seen film footage and first-hand accounts. 

“We are grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for funding this exhibition, which for the first time is allowing us to reveal the truth behind some of these stories. The historical artefacts on display are unrivalled and we hope that everyone will come to learn more about this fascinating period of footballing history. 

Sara Hilton, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund North West, said: “We’re delighted to see the opening of ‘The Greater Game’ which couldn’t be timelier in the Centenary year of the First World War. The exhibition was made possible by money raised by National Lottery players and draws on the modern passion for football to provide an accessible and unique gateway into wartime football heritage.”

Posted by: Aaron Gourley 

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