Book shows importance of sport to military

Posted by vm64 at Dec 03, 2010 04:40 PM |
Book launch at the National Army Museum on Thursday 9 December 2010.
Book shows importance of sport to military

Front cover of 'Sport and the Military'

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 3 December 2010

Review copies available

The vital role that sport has played in the military during times of war  - and peace - is analysed for the first time in a major new book.

Sport and the Military: The British Armed Forces 1880 to 1960, by sports historian Professor Tony Mason, of De Montfort University, and imperial historian Dr Eliza Riedi, of the University of Leicester, has been published by Cambridge University Press and is based on an exceptional range of new material gathered over almost ten years.

Sport and the Military traces how sport came to be recognised by the armed forces as making a vital contribution to fitness, morale and esprit de corps.

The book examines how organised sport developed in the Victorian army and navy, became the focus of criticism for Edwardian army reformers and was officially adopted during the Great War.

It also shows how the services adapted to the influx of professional sportsmen, especially footballers, during the Second World War and the National Service years, and how sport helped bridge the gap between civilians and the armed forces.

Professor Mason said:  "Sport and the military are two important social institutions of Britain and this is the first time that anyone has attempted to look at their relationship over a long period of time.

"The book shows how organised sport became more and more important to society and how it was not surprising that the armed forces took it up. The services increasingly realised the advantages of sport in relieving boredom and increasing physical fitness. 

"Playing or watching sport was also something that took servicemen away from the horrors of war and became a link with society back home where sport was so popular.

"Dr Riedi and I found a letter from someone in the trenches in the First World War who was being sent copies of the Athletic News. He describes how everyone wanted to read it as it was a reminder of life at home and boosted morale.

"Sport in the military did not come about in some sort of Road to Damascus moment with someone saying, “right, sport is the thing we need to introduce to help our troops” it was a gradual thing and that is what this book traces."

Dr Riedi said: "We always knew it was a worthwhile project but we had no idea how much material we would find.  

"As well as using the diaries, letters and regimental records held by archives like the National Army Museum and the Imperial War Museum we were also allowed to read the documents held by a wide range of service sports organisations like the Army Football Association and Royal Navy School of Physical Training.  

"From the late nineteenth century the civilian media showed great interest in service sport, and we have been able to include some fascinating illustrations ranging from the Victorian period to the 1950s."

Their research was funded by a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) award project. 

Professor Richard Holt, Director of the International Centre for Sports History and Culture at De Montfort University, said: "This is a work of  meticulous scholarship, lightly worn and engagingly written, throwing new light on a neglected aspect of British  military  history and opening up a new area of our sporting life for the first time."



The launch of the book will take place at the National Army Museum in London on Thursday 9 December from 4pm to 6pm.

To attend and for interviews please call Professor Tony Mason on 01926 852851 or contact Dr Eliza Riedi at 

For a review copy of the book please contact Hannah Ellis-Jones, at Cambridge University Press, on 01223 325930

Or e-mail her on

For further pictures, information and illustrations of the front cover call Chris Johnston, media projects officer, De Montfort University, on 0116 207 8010 or 07500 071071.

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