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History

FIRST WORLD WAR FOOTBALL AT PORTMAN ROAD

2 November 2018

Battle of Loos football in FanZone for Preston clash

The only football still in existence from the First World War will be at Portman Road tomorrow for Town’s Remembrance Day match against Preston North End.

The ball, which was kicked across ‘No Man’s Land’ by men of the 1st Battalion, London Irish Rifles at the Battle of Loos in 1915, will be showcased in the FanZone before kick-off and on the main pitch at half-time.

Football was encouraged during the Great War as a form of fitness and bonding however the high command ordered that all balls be confiscated and destroyed before the battle at Loos-on-Gohelle.

But a young rifleman called Frank Edwards kept a deflated ball down his uniform front before quickly pumping it up and hurling it over the trenches to the call of “Play on the London Irish" on 25 September.

Edwards and his team-mates Micky Mileham, Bill Taylor and Jimmy Dalby kicked the ball between them as they advanced on the German positions.

Even when The London Irish halted the line of advance, the ball was kept in play as a way of keeping contact with units to the left and right.

The London Irish assaulted the German trenches and cleared through three lines to win the day. They held the line for around 72 hours before being relieved.

Edwards was wounded in the thigh during the assault and was aided by Mileham, who was wounded attending to him. They were recovered to the regimental aid station while the ball itself was recovered from the German wire.

Now it is kept in the Regimental Museum in the HQ of the London Irish Rifles in Camberwell, South London.

Pictured: ITFC Managing Director, Ian Milne (left) and Tony Robinson, former corporal in the London Irish and now Ball Major.

The ball will be in the FanZone from midday tomorrow for supporters to view and have their photo taken with a unique war artefact.

Fans will also be able to donate to the London Irish Regimental Museum before Peter Lough, chairman of the Regimental Association is interviewed on the pitch at half-time.

Photo credit: Mike St Maur Sheil


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