Battle of the Somme football

On the 1st July, 1916, under heavy enemy fire, the 8th Battalion East Surrey Regiment were waiting in their trenches ready to go “over the top” in the first Battle of the Somme. Their objective was Montauban Ridge.


Queen’s Royal Surrey Regimental Museum:
WW1 Somme football
Copyright: Image courtesy of Brian Wood

Captain WP Nevill, attached from the East Yorkshire Regiment and commanding “B” Company had bought four footballs [Note: there is strong evidence that only three were bought and two were kicked across No Man’s Land on July 1st, 1916 – see more here] for his platoons to kick across No Man’s Land “subject to the proviso that proper formation and distance was not lost thereby”.  Captain Nevill promised a reward to the first platoon to score a “goal” in enemy trenches.

In the face of murderous fire, and taking heavy casualties, they charged across the ground with the footballs before them.

The combination of Nevill’s initiative and their gallantry proved successful and they gained their objective on the Ridge. Sadly, Nevill was not there to pay the reward. He had been killed just outside the German wire.

Two of the footballs were found there later. This is one of them.

Useful Links

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East Surrey Regiments’ ‘football’ charge: July 1st 1916

Queen’s Royal Surrey’s Museum

Contact details for museums in Surrey

One thought on “Battle of the Somme football”

  1. Aled says:

    It’s kind of sad really. There was an unveiling of a statue of him in Dolfor College and I couldn’t go as it is too far away from where I live.. Me and my family would of gone but we also didn’t have enough money for travel… That’s the sad thing, he was my great, great uncle… I actually felt proud for once that a family member of mine has done something with their life. Not trying to be mean to anybody else though but to think that I am related to WP Nevill, it is amazing. Still sad I couldn’t see the unveiling but hopefully, I can visit their one day and see what it looks like. I’m sure it would be amazing.. I am very proud…

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