Over the Top: 'A Foul; a Blurry Foul!'

Adams, Iain Christopher (2012) Over the Top: 'A Foul; a Blurry Foul!'. The International Journal of the History of Sport, 29 (6). pp. 813-831. ISSN 0952-3367

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09523367.2011.642552


Part of Britain's folk memory of the First World War is of long lines of Tommies resolutely going over the top into a storm of machine gun fire and walking bravely to their deaths; following a piper if Scottish or kicking a football if English. However, rather than eventually becoming a conventional act of bravado, evidence suggests that the ‘football charge’ was limited to a 10-month period between 25 September 1915 and 1 July 1916. The most famous example is that of‘B’ Company of the 8th Battalion of the East Surreys led by Captain Nevill atthe Battle of the Somme. However, it was first performed, and possibly mostsuccessfully used, by the London Irish Rifles at the Battle of Loos on 25September 1915. This article examines what actually happened on the 25September 1915 and explores the underlying rationale of the first ‘football charge’.

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