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Mystery of Great War photo that was sent to Woodside

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: July 15, 2014

By Dan Shaw

Did any of these First World War footballers come from Woodside, Dudley?

Did any of these First World War footballers come from Woodside, Dudley?

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THIS photograph shows us that some soldiers of the First World War did enjoy some respite from the mud and blood of the trenches. Morale was vital for the troops' wellbeing and football matches between regiments, and other sports, were played within the sound of the front line guns.

The picture was recently passed to Len Hughes of the Woodside Memory and History Group and we hope that readers may be able to tell us some more about, even recognise one of the faces.

Almost nothing is known about the picture and we can't with any certainty name any of the men shown. But written on the back of it are two names – Hill and Mrs Smith, Woodside. Then there is a message in a different hand, written in ink that has faded to purple over the years. Here it is, with its spelling mistakes: "I ham sending you this photo I dont no what you will think of it. I expect you will find me alright. So that is all this time."

Do you recognise any of the men in the picture? Do the names mean anything to you?

The men in uniform appear to be wearing the cap badges of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment – is this another clue?

Interestingly, while these front line footballers had their kit they did not appear to have football socks or boots as they are wearing puttees and their army boots. In fact, some of the players seem to have steel toe-capped boots!

And can you make anything of the message written on the ball? It looks to be either "DRUNS" or "ORUNS 1917-18 BEF"

As well as keeping morale high, football also helped to keep the men fit while they were away from the firing-line. Matches were organised between battalions and regiments but the most famous football games of the war must be the impromptu ones between the British and the Germans that took place in no-man's land at the first Christmas of the war in 1914. This fraternisation was frowned upon by the authorities and at subsequent Christmases any seasonal sporting rapprochement between the troops was suppressed.

Footballs were sometimes kicked from the trenches at the start of an attack, most famously on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916 when men of the East Surrey Regiment kicked footballs into no-man's land as they went over the top.

The Royal Warwickshire Regiment raised 30 battalions in the First World War, three of them were known as the "Birmingham Pals". The regiment won 70 battle honours and five Victoria Crosses in the course of the war, and lost 11,610 men.

Two of the most famous commanders of the Second World War served with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in the first – Bernard Montgomery served with them on the Western Front while William Slim fought in Gallipoli and Mesopotamia. Both were wounded and decorated for their bravery while with the regiment.

Can you name any of these footballers? Contact dshaw@blackcoun trybugle.co.uk or write in to 41 High Street, Cradley Heath, B64 5HL.

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