Museum Artefacts

A Different Ball Game

Case 5


The Football

(Click to enlarge)

The Football Charge of 8th Bn The East Surreys at The Somme

The Football Charge of 8th Bn The East Surreys at The Somme

(Click to Enlarge)

Contemporary verse by
"Touchstone" in the Daily Mail.

On through the hail of slaughter,
Where gallant comrades fall,
Where blood is poured like water,
They drive the trickling ball.
The fear of death before them,
Is but an empty name;
True to the land that bore them,
The SURREYS played the game.


On the 1st July, 1916, under heavy enemy fire, the 8th Bn. 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.

Captain WP Nevill, attached from the East Yorkshire Regiment and commanding "B" Company had purchased four footballs 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.

At 7.27 a.m., led by Nevill, "B" Company climbed out of their trenches and the attack commenced. In the face of murderous fire, and sustaining heavy casualities, they charged across the intervening ground with the footballs bouncing encouragingly 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.

The Regiment's valour did not go unrewarded that day. The 8th Battalion was awarded two DSO's, two MC's, two DCM's and nine MM's.

Extracts from the Daily Mirror, July 1916

Lieutenant Colonel H P Treeby DSO
Lieutenant Colonel H P Treeby DSO leads the cheers for the men who took part in the advance. Captain Nevill is seen in the circle.
Private Draper, one of the dribblers

Private Draper, one of the dribblers

Capain Nevill who fell during the attack on Montauban, kicked off this football, which the 8th East Surreys dribbled under withering fire right into the German trenches. This sacred emblem of the battalion's heroism and devotion has just arrived at the regimental depot, when stirring scenes occurred. On the day in question the Surreys fought the Prussian Guard.



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