One of the things that Mark Wildon and his friends no doubt looked forward to during their time in billets and away from the front line was when sporting matches were organised. Football (Soccer) was one of the most popular sports and for the 4th Battalion, December had more than its share of matches.
1st December, fine and warm all day. In the afternoon an exciting officers football match took place between the 4th East yorkshires and ourselves which resulted in a defeat 1 goal love. We had the best of the game all through but the 4th East Yorkshires had complete football kit on whereas we slithered about in the mud in our ordinary boots. At 5.30pm Capt Charlton gave an “at home”at HQs in order that he may have the opportunity of thanking his fellow officers for their wedding present and to give them the opportunity of his wedding cake and drinking the health of the bride and bridegroom – 4th Battalion War Diary
The Battalion also played against the 5th Durham Light Infantry on the 6th (2 goal tie), the 4th East yorkshires again on the 8th ( won 3 goals to 2), and a match between the officers of their own battalion and the men of W corp on the 16th which ended in a draw 2 goals all.
The first of December was also the birthday of the Battalion’s royal patron Alexandra, once Queen consort to King Edward VII and the mother of the present monarch King George V. As such, the following birthday message was sent to Alexandra.
“… to the Equery in waiting, Buckingham Palace, London – “All ranks of her majestys 4th bn humbly send their congratulations on the occasion of HM Queen Alexandra’s birthday.”
- 4th Battalion War Diary
To which the reply was…
“Please thank all ranks of the 4th Battalion of my Regiment for their good wishes which I appreciate deeply – Alexandra”
-4th Battalion War Diary
After all that football, the general dirt and grime from being in a war zone, and as a crucial deterrent to disease, by the 10th 2nd Lt Beresford-Pierce took it upon himself to mobilise 28 local women to wash the clothes of the men. Nine were chosen to carry out this important work and the remainder were placed in reserve. Head Quarters also supplied bathing facilities for 20 men per hour and made additional arrangements to wash clothes also.
The last sporting event for the month was a general sports day on the 15th. Although to us it may seem strange that the men were allowed to “play” so often and so close to the front lines, yet sports were (and still are) a very important tool during war. Not only did it keep the men physically fit and limber during the colder months, mentally it gave them something to look forward to. It further strengthened the bonds of comradery through good sportsmanship within the companies and the Battalion at large, as well as giving the men an opportunty to physically work off a lot of steam that may have been building up through anxiety, fear, grief, anger, frustration, shock and homesickness.
To play a game of football with men from your own county and often your own town against companies or battalions of rival towns or counties provided a sense of normalcy for men and boys who were far away from home in a very hostile and deadly environment.
The following are the winners and prizes of the events as taken straight out of the 4th Battalion’s War Diary.