The Role of Sport – A Loughborough Perspective

It was not lost on the propagandists of the war effort that recruiting sportsmen and celebrating their leadership qualities could be useful – including the involvement of a writer well known to many in the form of Arthur Conan Doyle. Conan Doyle made a direct appeal for football players to volunteer for service; he also came up with the idea of recruiting men and women at sporting events and pursuing them to join in the war at halftimes of certain soccer games. In September of 1914, shortly after the war had begun Conan Doyle took part in a secret meeting with the head of the War Propaganda Bureau, Charles Masterman. In this meeting Conan Doyle and the other writers discussed different ways to promote Britain’s interest in the war. He eventually enlisted as a private soldier himself.

As war started sports fixtures continued. Over fifty players from Leicester Fosse Football Club fought in the War. They served in a variety of regiments, including the famous Footballers’ Battalion. Four Fosse players were decorated during the conflict, and 11 were killed in action. Many Loughborough and local county based sportsmen were killed in action.

Despite the fact that War had broken out the previous month, the 1914/15 Football League season kicked off as normal. In the first game of the season, on September 2 1914, Leicester Fosse drew 2-2 at Filbert Street in a Second Division game against Lincoln City. Between their first and second games of the season over 2 million men had engaged in battle. The Football League was finally suspended for the duration of the War at the end of the 1914-1915 season.

Away from the front and on the streets of Loughborough children continued to play. Speaking to ‘Loughborough As I Remember It’ one local resident said, “Our main diversions were street cricket or football, the latter with a tin can if a ball was not available.” Another reports, “In the winter after a hard frost, we would go down to the meadows to watch our elders skating on the ice and having a try ourselves at sliding. Some of the gang were quite adept at it but I always seemed to be facing the wrong way by the time I was halfway down finishing either flat on my face or the other way round.

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