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Milner

Sportsmans Battalions, who qualified ?

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Milner   
Milner

Does anyone know what were the requirements to enlist into a Sportsmans Battalion. Would the man have to provide evidence of some sort that they were a sportsman.

Would the Battalion take say a sunday football player or would they have to have been a bit further up the sporting ladder than that, for instance played for a well known club.

Thanks

Phil

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Steven Broomfield   
Steven Broomfield

Phil, the only contribution I can make is to quote from the History of the 23rd Royal Fusiliers (1st Sportsman's):

"To begin with, it was cosmopolitan. Practically every grade iof life was represented, from the peer to the peasant; class distinctions were swept away, every man turned to and pulled his bit. To illustrate what is meant one hut of thirty men at Hornchurch may be mentioned.

In this hut the first bed was occupied by the brother of a peer. The second was occupied by the man who formerly drove his motor-car. Both had enlisted at the same time at the Hotel Cecil, and passed the doctor at the same time at St Paul's Churchyard, and had drawn their service money when they signed their papers. Other beds in this hut were occupied by a mechanical engineer, an old Blundell School boy, a mine overseer from Scotland, a man in possession of a flying pilot's licence secured in France, a photographer, a poultry farmer, an old Sea Dog who had rounded Cape Horn on no fewer than nine occasions, a man who had hunted seals "with more patches on his trousers than he could count", as he described it himself, a bank clerk, and so on."

My guess is that these men were not 'Sportsmen' in the sense of Andrew Flintoff or Wayne Rooney, but were, rather, men who liked an sporting life - adventurers and so on - possibly who played sports as a hobby, but overall just wanted to join fellow 'sportsmen'.

The 'Football' battalions were probably different - I know a forum member if researching the 17th Middlesex (1st Football), so he might come in with some information.

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wilkokcl   
wilkokcl

I suspect Steven is correct based on research into my great grandfather and his brother. Both joined a Sportsman Battalion but I have no evidence that they were particularly sporty and were certainly not professional sportsmen.

Both were avid watchers of cricket and maybe the name 'Sportsman' was just an extra incentive to join with other like-minded people.

Mark

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Dolphin   
Dolphin

The concept of a 'Sportsman' has changed over the decades, and I think that in a Great War context it often meant people who were seen/saw themselves as honest, out-door types, rather than as members of sporting teams. In this context, it's probably worth remembering that King Edward VII, when Prince of Wales, was often described as a 'great sportsman' presumably on the basis that he went to lots of horse races, was on board yachts while they raced, shot grouse, and watched various other events. As far as I know, he didn't actually participate in much on-field activity. It was the style of the times.

Gareth

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Milner   
Milner

Thanks for the info. I have discovered that one of my grandfather's was in a sportsmans Battalion, but I don't have any evidence that he played sport.

Sadly he died in the early 1930's from a shrapnel wound he recieved to the head (brain injury) during ww1, the metal could not be removed and it eventually killed him years later.

Thanks Phil

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Steven Broomfield   
Steven Broomfield

Phil - post the details; there may well be someone on the Forum who can fill in any missing information.

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Milner   
Milner
Phil - post the details; there may well be someone on the Forum who can fill in any missing information.

Ok here goes, I'm not sure if he was in 23rd or 24th Battalion, he was from London.

Albert Henry Burt

Corps: Royal Fusiliers

Regiment No: Spr 4416

Rank: Private

Anyone have any information on him.

Regards

Phil

burt_mic.doc

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AGWR   
AGWR

The Sportsman’s Battalion aimed primarily at recruiting lovers of field sports. The ideal recruit needed to be 'strong of limb,, sound of lung, keen -eyed, cool-headed and already in part disciplined. The lie of a country will have more meaning for them than a townsman could read in it'. Successful applicants (up to the age of 44) needed , therefore, to find eminently satisfactory answers to questions such ‘Can you ride?’, Can you shoot?’ ‘ Are you a good walker?’, etc. It was seen as the battalion for ‘big-game shooters, the fox hunters, golfers, cricketers, anglers and the rest’. Some early enlistments provide both a flavour of the ‘sporting’ background and the class of several recruits:

George Cruikshank – Artic explorer

G.H. O’ Shea- - breeder of sporting dogs

A. Broome Walson - Engineer responsible for building part of the Brussels-Liege Rd in 1913.

Rupert Tattersall of the famous Tattersalls firm

Capt William Anderson- Wilson of ‘Country Life’

Victor Hughes Hallett- a well-known sporting author and a relative of FM Roberts

John Charleston – owner of a pack of foxhounds

Sir Norman Pringle - baronet

The majority of the original enlistments in the Footballers' Battalions were players (professional and amateur), officials or fans from a predominantly working class background. I suspect that that several men enlisted in these battalions solely because their friends and family had already done so, i.e. they had no particular interest in football.

Regards,

AGWR

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Steven Broomfield   
Steven Broomfield

Can't see him listed i the Roll of the 23rd RF - their original numebrs went up to 4075 (according the the roll in the Bn History), so that might (possibly?) put him in the 2nd Sportsman's.

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mutley   
mutley

Phil

my grandfather was a member of the 24th (2nd Sportsmans) Bn Royal Fusiliers. He was a sportsman, albeit a weekend sportsman, he was the goalkeeper for the Battersea Waterpolo team, in addition he also played football but again not on a professional level.

My grandfathers number was preceeded with the letters SPTS denoting membership to a sportsmans battalion. I have a few medals to the Sportsmans battalions but I haven't seen any medals to members of the 1st or 2nd sportsmans battlions with the letters SPR.

I have some photos of both battalions in training in England prior to going to France and a few individuals are mentioned by name, I check and see if your relative is named on any of them.

Regards

Mutley

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Milner   
Milner
Phil

my grandfather was a member of the 24th (2nd Sportsmans) Bn Royal Fusiliers. He was a sportsman, albeit a weekend sportsman, he was the goalkeeper for the Battersea Waterpolo team, in addition he also played football but again not on a professional level.

My grandfathers number was preceeded with the letters SPTS denoting membership to a sportsmans battalion. I have a few medals to the Sportsmans battalions but I haven't seen any medals to members of the 1st or 2nd sportsmans battlions with the letters SPR.

I have some photos of both battalions in training in England prior to going to France and a few individuals are mentioned by name, I check and see if your relative is named on any of them.

Regards

Mutley

I did a check at the NA. for SPR letters against the MICs and lots of men all Royal Fusiliers have SPR before their number, I also checked a couple of names and numbers against the 23rd Battalion names and they match. So SPR is 100% sportsmans, I guess it was down to whoever complied the MICs as to what abbreviations were used.

Regards Phil

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182 CEF   
182 CEF

I understand some Canadian CEF Battns that were called "Sportsmens" Had many Americans in them.

Dean

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andrew pugh   
andrew pugh

hi Phil

ive just read your story regarding the sportsmen battalions,ie the 23rd and the24thbn royal fusiliers(CITY OF LONDON).My great great uncle ended up in the 24th bn after serving in the 1st bn and the 4th bn,i dont think he was into sport he was drafted into make up the for the losses incurred by the 24th bn.He went to france in 1915 as a special reservist and was killed and lost during the german spring offensiveon the 24th march 1918 all those years in service andwas still a private when he was killed I have a copy of the war diary of the 24th bn sportsmen if you need any info.

best regards

andy

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BeppoSapone   
BeppoSapone
He went to france in 1915 as a special reservist and was killed and lost during the german spring offensiveon the 24th march 1918...

andy

special reservist - any connection with SPR?

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SilverSoldier   
SilverSoldier

Hello Phil.

An interesting thread. By coincidence I have just started reading a Book:

Fields of Glory. The Exraordinary Lives of 16 Warrior Sportsman by Gavin Mortimer.

16 Sportsman listed:

Robert Johnson VC Rugby

Tom Crean VC DSO Rugby

Donald Bell VC Football

Gerald Patterson Tennis

Georges Carpentier Boxing

Charlie Buchan Football

Edgar Mobbs Rugby (Raised his own sportsmen's battallion)

Arthur Harrison VC Rugby

Aubrey Faulkener DSO(2) Cricket

Herby Taylor MC Cricket

Cyril Lowe MC Rugby

Fred Harvey VC MC Rugby

Arnold Jackson DSO (3) Athletics

Pieter van der Bijl MC Cricket

Bill Edrich Cricket

Blair Mayne Rugby

Thought it may be of interest to you.

Terry W.

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jhill   
jhill

I can give a quick comment on one of the Canadian "Sportsmans" battalions.

The 202nd (Edmonton Sportsmen's) Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force began recruiting in Strathcona (South Edmonton) in February of 1916. The building which housed their headquarters still stands on Whyte Avenue not far from where I am writing this.

The commanding officer was Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Edwin Bowen, who had returned to Canada after having been wounded at 2nd Ypres. Pete Bowen was a well known 'sportsman' of the day. He was particularly known in rifle shooting circles. The idea for a sportsman's battalion was undoubtably due to the example of the corresponding units in England. 'Affinity' battalions had not initially been approved, but by 1916 many innovations (many of them ill-advised!) had been approved.

The 202nd openly appealed to men active in various sports teams and organizations, and tried to maintain 'high standards', for example in terms of physical stature. Sure enough, their men are definitely taller and younger than those of other battalions recruiting in the area at the same time. I have not checked many, but the names of several of the men I have looked at had figured in the sporting page of the local newspapers. One must admit, I am afraid, that their 'high standards' also included standards which we would today term 'discriminatory' or even 'racist' The 202nd men were much more white, anglo-saxon and protestant than was the poplulation at large, or than were other battalions located at the same time in the same area. There were practically no men of 'foreign' birth, for example, with the exception of U.S. born men, who accounted for more than 100 of the more than 800 men eventually enrolled.

By the beginning of 1916, the pool of available manpower had been pretty much depleted, so the battalion never recruited up to full strength. One could speculate than even this unit had to compromise its standards to get men.

There is undoubtably much I do not yet know about these fellows.

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Jack Sheldon   
Jack Sheldon

I have got to go with AGWR on this one. In the Edwardian era a sportsman hunted things in the widest sense of the word. He might have stuck wild boar with a lance, rode to hounds, shot birds, hoofed and other game or fished for game fish. He might have played rugby, football or cricket etc as well, but those were not sports; they were games or pastimes.

This sporting analogy was extended to hunting the enemy and was applied especially to early fighter pilots. There is a classic Great War print depicting a (gunner?) officer on the battlefield, looking up at a British bi-plane swooping low and cheering him on with, 'Good hunting, old sportsman!'

Prior to the 1944 invasion of Normandy, Montgomery was still wishing his men, 'Good hunting on the continent of Europe.' This is, of course, a bit hard to accept when we have ice dancing, synchronised swimming and beach volleyball as Olympic sports - but there you go, folks. Words change their meaning!

Jack

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Steven Broomfield   
Steven Broomfield

So are you implying that Beach Volleyball ISN'T a sport :o

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Jack Sheldon   
Jack Sheldon

I thought it was designed to up the TV ratings: hence the requirement for ladies to wear bikinis and not large ones at that!

Jack

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Steven Broomfield   
Steven Broomfield

That probably explains why none of the girls at work wanted to enter my sweepstake for the last Olympics

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Ken S.   
Ken S.

I know this isn't really applicable to the OP, but this a good a place as any to post this, I suppose. The Canadian "Sportsmen's" battalion that I've researched basically was designated as such as a recruiting ploy, since by that period in the war--early 1916--recruiting was already becoming somewhat more of a challenge. It seems that many of the Canadian-born sons of the local upper crust were a little less enthusiastic about getting involved in the war, and since many belonged to various athletic clubs, it clearly was a way of trying to appeal to them. The recruitment of Canadians was always something of an issue, and this was also probably thought of as a way of drawing Canadian "fans" of these local athletes to enlist. In the end, I believe about 50% of the recruits were Canadian-born which is rather high I believe. Apparently the sporting demonstrations that the battalion put on were something to behold, and drew many people--few of whom would enlist, though. The newspaper accounts of this general lack of enthusiasm is interesting reading; really makes one realize just how mythologized things have become over the last 90 years.

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