Football in World War 1 (Photo Gallery)

December 2014 marks 100 years since the "Christmas Truce" of World War 1.

The truce, an unofficial ceasefire between British and German troops, saw soldiers venture into no-man's land where they "walk[ed] about together all day giving each other cigars and singing songs" according a newly discovered letter written by General Walter Congreve, to his wife on Christmas day 1914.

One of the most iconic moments of the First World War, emanating from the Christmas Truce was the impromptu football match between the opposing British and German armies on the Western Front. Football transcended all levels of rivalry as hostilities ceased.

Research shows that football was a popular form of recreation for troops on both sides during World War 1, as explained by the Imperial War Museum. Not only did it serve as a distraction for nervous soldiers during tough times, it also helped to recruit men who were reluctant to join up.

To commemorate 100 years since the incredible Christmas Truce, The Open University have searched through the IWM archives to find examples showing the impact of football during WW1.


1918. The Royal Flying Corp football team of No.54 Squadron RAF line up for a team photograph in front of a Sopwith Camel aircraft. © IWM (Q 9944)


1917. A British general is about to kick off a friendly football match between the British and Italian troops on the Italian Front. © IWM (Q 26566)


1918. The football is crossed into the box as British Army troops play in the final of the Fanshawe Cup with hundreds of spectating soldiers watching on in the Trission sunshine. © IWM (Q 26362)


1917. The football team of the British Third Army Trench Mortar School pose for a picture on the Western Front, Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise, France. © IWM (Q 2481)


1918. Final of the 48th Divisional Fanshawe Cup. The 1/7th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment versus 1/7th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment. Two players tackle for the ball as soldiers scramble to get a view on the Italian Front, Trissino, Italy. © IWM (Q 26358)


1916. A handmade football net is setup by soldiers for an inter-company match on the Balkan Front on Christmas Day. © IWM (Q 32613)


1918. Huge crowds of soldiers line the football pitch to watch the Fanshawe Cup Final in Trissino, Italy. © IWM (Q 26353)


1918. Major General Thomas Herbert Shoubridge, the Commander of the 7th Division, presenting the Fanshawe cup to the captain of the winning British Army team. Soldiers crowd around in the background to watch the presentation. © IWM (Q 26667)


1915. The British Army 26th Divisional Ammunition Train get involved in a football match on Christmas Day in Greece. © IWM (Q 31576)


1918. The British 7th Division organise a football match on the Italian front, watched by crowds of Allied troops and Italian civilians. © IWM (Q 26669)


1917. An impromptu game of football kicks off between British and Italian troops, as others take some time out to rest on the hills and watch on. © IWM (Q 26884)


1917. An impromptu game of football kicks off between British and Italian troops, as others take some time out to rest on the hills and watch on. © IWM (Q 26884)


1916. British Navy officers watch on as Warship Company play a football match in Stavros, Greece. © IWM (Q 32536)


1916. A large group of the 1st Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment join in on a football match, France. © IWM (Q 1109)


1916. Christmas Day cheer as buoyant men of the Service Corps celebrate during a football match, Balkan Front. © IWM (Q 32615)

Image Copyright

All images in this gallery have been researched and sourced from the Imperial War Museum. The images have been selected by In The Company of Huskies, on behalf of The Open University, and are shared under the IWM Non-Commercial License.

Should you wish to re-distribute the images chosen as part of this collection, please credit this page on The Open University website with a hyperlink, as well as citing the appropriate IWM copyright per image.

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9 December, 2014 - 16:46