WW1 trenches football goes on display

Mon Mar 14, 2011 5:33am EDT
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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A football that British soldiers kicked across No Man's Land as they advanced toward German trenches during a World War One battle has been put on display in a London museum.

The leather ball, which had been stored in a garage, was dribbled across No Man's Land by soldiers of the London Irish Rifles as they came under machine-gun fire during the Battle of Loos in 1915.

They had originally planned to kick all their footballs into the German front line but were prevented from doing so by an officer, who punctured one ball on the eve of the battle and ordered that the rest be deflated.

Private Frank Edwards, captain of the regiment's football team, managed to save one of the balls.

"As captain of the team, Edwards felt the reputation of his team was at stake. He intended to make sure at least one football was going to score a goal in the enemy trenches," said Nigel Wilkinson, curator of the London Irish Rifles Museum.

Yvette Fletcher, Head Conservator at The Leather Conservation Center in Northampton, spent three days restoring the ball.

"It had quite a lot of damage, it had a number of splits," she told Reuters. "It was in danger of becoming lost."

She added that she did not repair one of the tears, which was believed to have been caused when the ball landed on barbed wire in the German trenches, "so the football still looks like it's been through a war."

The London Irish Rifles Museum is in Camberwell, southeast London, website www.londonirishrifles.com.

(Reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Steve Addison)