Somme Football Visits School

It was one of the most poignant mementos of the First World War. On the morning of 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, soldiers from the 8th Battalion East Surrey Regiment, led by Captain Wilfred Percy 'Billie' Nevill, advanced over the top towards German trenches, kicking footballs as they went to help distract them from gunfire. Two of the balls were later retrieved from the battlefield and returned to England, one of which ended up as the centrepiece of exhibits in the basement of Clandon Park. On the ball marked 6 B (signifying the 6th Platoon B Company).

Almost 100 years later, that testament to British courage was destroyed in the fire that gutted Clandon Park, the National Trust property where it was on display. The football was among hundreds of artefacts lost in the blaze that tore through the Grade I-listed Palladian mansion near Guildford, Surrey. After the devastating blaze, Colonel Patrick Crowley, Chief Executive of the South East Reserve Forces & Cadet Association (SE RFCA), and also a keen historian, commissioned a replica football to be made. Due to the nature and complexity of the task at hand, the ball was made in Asia. The new football has since arrived and has travelled all over the County.

On Thursday 3rd March, the football came to visit the Royal Alexandra and Albert School Army Cadet Force (ACF). The cadets were briefed on its history and were fascinated; they all felt honoured that they were able to get 'hands on' time with the ball. Some brave Cadets even bounced it! On Friday 1st July 2016, 100 years after the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 25 teams will be taking part in a football competition to mark its anniversary. Surrey (PWRR Bn) ACF will be entering a team consisting of Instructors and senior cadets.

07 March 2016

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