Sport on radio: Blithe spirit of the Spartan who kept the home fires burning

Sport showcases the camaraderie and teamwork that must have been so essential amid the horror of that war to end all wars

Rugby players were quick to answer the call to arms at the outbreak of the Great War 100 years ago. As we learned on First World War and Sport (BBC Radio Five Live, Monday), 130 British rugby internationals lost their lives during the conflict, including 11 Lions. Of the 60 players who turned out for four London Scottish teams on the eve of war, 45 would die.

Perhaps this should not come as a surprise. Lewis Moody, former England flanker and Independent columnist, believes “rugby was a natural fit with the military”. He adds: “You have that ingrained comradeship already. You put your body on the line.” He may be overstating the case with the latter comment: there is, after all, no comparison to be made between the rough and tumble of rugger and the steel rain of no man’s land, just as the muddy field of Welford Road is a million miles from the gruesome conditions in the trenches. But he makes a valid point that sport already showcases the camaraderie and teamwork that must have been so essential amid the horror of that war to end all wars.

Professor Tony Collins makes the point that the continuation of sport on the home front was important to maintain morale. One of the most interesting aspects of the programme was how women’s football took off during the war, especially among those who worked in factories. The sense of liberation was enormous for women who did men’s work and also played men’s games.

We hear of Bella Reay, who won the Munitions Cup with Blyth Spartans; she played from the age of 17 to 20, scoring an incredible 101 goals in 32 matches. Her granddaughter Evonne Crawford remarked: “If it had been this day and age she would have been worth a fortune.” But she adds that in 1921 “all ladies’ teams were banned from playing”.

There are other contributions to this story, such as former footballer Clarke Carlisle telling the story of Walter Tull, the Northampton Town player who became the Army’s first black officer; and Steve Williams looking at the life of fellow rower Frederick Septimus Kelly, who forced retreating troops back out of the trenches to keep fighting.

But for now let’s remember the forgotten female footballers and all those women who found freedom through sport, only to have it taken away again when the war was over.

Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable