Iconic First World War football to be displayed at Portman Road
- Credit: Archant
It shows not only the spirit of the beautiful game but also the bravery of those who risked their lives for the freedom of future generations.
And now Ipswich Town fans will be able to catch a rare glimpse of a historic football kicked across No Man’s Land during the First World War when it is showcased at Portman Road this weekend.
The leather ball, used by the 1st Battalion London Irish Rifles at the Battle of Loos-en-Gohelle in 1915, is thought to be the only football in existence from the 1914-18 conflict.
During the Great War, soccer was encouraged as a way of keeping troops fit and boosting team spirit.
But commanders ordered that all balls be confiscated and destroyed before the battle at Loos-en-Gohelle.
Young rifleman Frank Edwards defied the ruling, keeping a deflated ball down his uniform front before quickly pumping it up and hurling it over the trenches to the call of ‘Play on the London Irish’ on September 25 1915.
Edwards and his team-mates Micky Mileham, Bill Taylor and Jimmy Dalby kicked the ball between them as they advanced on the German positions.
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Even when The London Irish halted the line of advance, the ball was kept in play as a way of keeping contact with units to the left and right.
The London Irish assaulted the German trenches and cleared through three lines to win the day. They held the line for around 72 hours before being relieved.
Edwards was wounded in the thigh during the assault and was aided by Mileham, who was wounded attending to him.
They were recovered to the regimental aid station while the ball itself was recovered from the German wire.
It is now kept in the Regimental Museum in the headquarters of the London Irish Rifles in Camberwell, South London.
The ball will be in the Ipswich Town FanZone on Saturday, November 3 for supporters to view and have their photo taken with the unique war artefact.
Fans will also be able to donate to the London Irish Regimental Museum before Peter Lough, chairman of the Regimental Association is interviewed on the pitch at half-time.