Date: Fri 09 Nov 2018

By David Simpson

The Football Battalion

Lest We Forget

"I knew nothing of professional footballers when I took over this battalion.

"But I have learnt to value them. Their esprit de corps was amazing. This feeling was mainly due to football - the link of fellowship which bound them together.

"Football has a wonderful grip on these men and on the army generally."

Colonel Harry Fenwick

The 17th (Service) Battalion, Middlesex Regiment was an infantry battalion of the Middlesex Regiment, part of the British Army, which was formed as a Pals battalion during the Great War.

The core of the battalion was a group of professional footballers, which was the reason for its most commonly used name, The Football Battalion (also the footballers' or players' battalion). The 23rd (Service) Battalion, Middlesex Regiment was formed in June 1915 and became known as the 2nd Football Battalion.

The battalions fought in the Battle of the Somme in 1916 among others. Soldiers who fought in the 17th and 23rd Battalions included Second Lieutenant Walter Tull, who was possibly the first black infantry officer in the British Army.

A total of 1,500 men lost their lives across the two Footballers' Battalions.

Read more at :

BBC: The Last Pass

BFI National Archive