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Reliving WWI Shrovetide football

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: July 30, 2014

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MEMBERS of the Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide Committee have taken a ball back to a village in France where it was used to play the game during the First World War.

The 1916 ball was taken back to the spot in Sus St Leger, where the match was played, by members of the Sherwood Foresters Regiment.

It was part of a research trip as the game's organising committee gathers pictures and information ready for a commemoration in 2016.

Members are planning to commission a painting of the game played against the backdrop of the buildings that remain in the village, which was largely untouched during the war.

A limited run of 300 Royal Doulton figurines depicting the soldiers kicking the ball will also be produced.

Committee chairman Brell Ewart and secretary Mick Betteridge, along with an interpreter and a driver, met the village's Mayor, Marc Dufour, and elder statesman Charles Gavory for a walk through the streets.

Mr Ewart said: "This visit has been a number of months in the planning.

"There are very few records of the game and, with the committee planning to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the game in 2016, a visit was essential in order to establish links and gather information.

"One of the principal reasons for the visit was to photograph the village to produce an accurate backdrop for the oil painting.

"We knew the game was played in Sus St Leger, as this is recorded on the ball goaled by Cpl J H Robinson, of Parwich. We also knew that men from Ashbourne in the Sherwood Foresters were billeted there at Shrovetide in 1916."

The game was played in snow and Lt Colonel Goodman arranged for two companies to play as Up'Ards and two more as Down'Ards.

Mr Ewart added: "The 2016 anniversary is very special.

"Sending a ball to France in 1916 for the game to be played by men from the town is probably one of the most prominent actions ever taken by a Shrovetide committee."

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