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Trench Football Game

  • Trench football

This game of ‘trench football’ was produced in 1914 during an emotional tide of British patriotism. It is an unusual children’s game as it has no educational purpose but is rather used as an item of propaganda to poke fun at the German Military Command structure and bolster feelings of British nationalism.  

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The aim of the game is to manipulate a ball through the complex network of German trenches and past caricatures of key Commanders such as Chief of the General Staff Von Moltke (1848-1916) and Grand Admiral Von Tirpitz (1849-1930). All of these characters look humorous and idiotic. When the player has skilfully outwitted the German high command they could score a goal by firing the ball into the mouth of Kaiser Willhelm II (1859-1941). A game of football was actually played in no mans land on 25th December 1914 in a rare show of humanity between the opposing sides. This has become known as the Christmas Truce. It caused consternation amongst the commanding officers, who were appalled at the comraderie shown towards the opposite side.

The Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916 saw the heaviest casualties in British military history, with 57,470 men killed or injured. Amid the slaughter, four footballs were kicked toward the German lines by the men of 8th Battalion East Surrey Regiment. Captain Billy Nevill had bought his men footballs to reassure them with something from home. As Nevill led his men over the top, he promised a reward for the first platoon to score in enemy trenches. The Surrey Regiment captured their objective, but sustained heavy casualties from enemy machine gun fire. Captain Nevill was gunned down just outside the German trench and never fulfilled his promise.

Key facts: 
  • Britain entered WW1 on 4th August 1914, following the German invasion of Belgium
  • Most people thought war would be over by Christmas. Instead, there was stalemate in the trenches, and the war stretched on for four years. Armistice came on the 11th November 1918
  • Many items of memorabilia and souvenirs with patriotic designs were produced to encourage support for the British and Allied Troops, and to boost morale.

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