On the 6th August 1914 Prime Minister Herbert Asquith announced that Britain had entered the war against Germany in defense of Belgium.
Asquith, recounted the background to the outbreak of general war in Europe in July/August 1914, placing great emphasis on the efforts of the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey to secure continued peace in the face of German aggression.
Asquith finished his speech by stating that Britain would throw her entire Empire’s resources into the struggle against Germany in order to ensure victory.
The Government then passed a number of acts over the four years of the war in order to enlist the men into the army.
January 1916 The first Military Service Act was passed. This Act called for the compulsory enlistment of unmarried men between the ages of 18 and 41.
May 1916 The 2ndamendment of theMilitary Service Act was introduced, which brought all men regardless of marital status between the ages of 18 and 41, under the provisions of the existing Military Service Act. It also allowed the War Office to extend the service of time-expired men whilst there was a war and to re-examine men rejected as physically unfit.
Near the end of the war in April 1918 the 5th amendment to the Military Service Act was introduced. This was the most drastic act yet, increasing the eligibility of male civilians even further. It lowered the minimum age of liability to 17 and increased the maximum age to 55.
As a result of the war the various leagues and football clubs around Britain were suspended as the whole country went through this awful period in history in which we saw 885,138 military deaths, 109,000 civilian deaths and 1,663,435 military wounded.
A plaque mounted on the wall in St Mary’s Church in Lavant commemorates the 27 soldier’s from the village that were killed in the first world war. It reads:
To the Glory of God and in grateful memory of the men of the village who laid down their lives, in the Great War 1914 to 1919.
M.Ring, W.Pescott, H.Morton, J.Hayler, W.Tupper, F.Stubbs, A.Stapley, E.Kerley, H.Smith, L.Small, C.Bleach, H.Hutchings, C.Dowling, W.Pratt, E.Newport, P.Sawtell, W.Howard, P.Bleach, F.Ifould, C.Pannell, R.Denman, D.Makeson, H.Norrell, F.Squires, A.Tupper, F.Shepherd, G.Irish.
Although we can not be sure it is very likely that a number of these brave soldier’s who gave their lives for their country may well have played football locally and maybe even for Lavant.
On the 11th November 1918, at the 11th hour, on the 11th day of the 11th month the Armistice was signed.
A formal state of war between the two sides persisted for another seven months until the signing of the Treaty of Versailles with Germany on the 28th June 1919.
Demobilization of the British Army followed and a scheme developed by Churchill the new War Secretary based on age, length of service and number of times a man has been wounded in battle was introduced, which generally ensured the longest serving soldiers were demobilized first.
Despite some flash points demobilization was a relatively trouble free process. In November 1918 the British Army had numbered almost 3.8 million. Twelve months later, it had been reduced to slightly less than 900,000 and by 1922 it was just over 230,000.
Demobilization, nonetheless, remained a difficult undertaking. Many servicemen, promised a ‘land fit for heroes’ by the Lloyd George government, suffered when unemployment rose rapidly and the ambitious wartime programme of reconstruction was shelved during 1921 economic slump.
In the Chichester Observer September 17th 1919 edition page? there is an article regarding the return to local football leagues after the end of the first world war.
FOOTBALL NOTES (by the SCRIBLE)
After five years of war I am again able to sit down and write some “notes” on the pastime in this district for readers of the “Observer.” We have all had our ups and downs during the past five years of bloodshed, and we all mourn the loss of some good old friends of both players and officials. We shall always treasure their memory whilst engaged in the League and friendly matches, and also from around the table whilst holding meetings. Others have also been maimed and unable to again become a “mudded oaf” but have to be content to watch their favourites, annex the cups and honours on the play-ing fields. To the youngsters I sincerely say “play the game and be British,” take a loss in the same spirit as you would a win.
I shall always be pleased to receive reports of matches, meetings, etc by the first post or second post on Monday mornings for insertion the following Wednesday in these columns, but at any other time they will appear in the next issue.
Now for a short backwards glance over the five years that have elapsed since the termination of the game in 1914. Nearly all of us have tales to tell of different places we have seen and been stationed at, some sad and some hilarious, but our thoughts have always strayed to South West Sussex, and as you have watched your favourite Regimental team, company team or otherwise, you have thought “Well that is just like Bosham used to bundle through.” Or “That is just like Felpham’s ‘nippy’ forwards,” and then you “wake up” and find it is time to see about something more serious, but it has been the “memories” of days of long ago.
I have a list of some 500 players who played, or at least were registered, in the Chichester and Bognor and West Sussex League for the last season of active football, i.e., 1913-1914 season, and I am indeed very glad to observe that 90 per cent have done their little bit in one way or other arm of H.M. Forces. Of this number something like 90 or 95 have made the supreme sacrifice, and about the same number wounded. To these lost, and those left behind, I tender my sincerest sympathy, and hope that there are better days in store for us all. Some there are who, we are glad to see, have escaped the Huns’ vengeance and are fit and well, and have, whilst serving, played for their regiment, company or ship, and these are the men who will “coach” the youngsters, who are the players of tomorrow. What better men could we have to be their instructors.
Some of the clubs have already had practice matches, and things are beginning to look rosy for them. I was very pleased indeed to see that both Felpham and North Bersted have entered for the West Sussex League. These are two of the old original village teams, and I wish them both success, and when these two old rivals meet in the league, it will be a match worth watching. They have both got business-like Secretaries, and I am sure that they will soon get their fixture list filled up. Both Clubs have lost several good players during the war, whilst they have been on active service, but I from experience that they have good men ready to take their places.
The article goes on to mention reformation of teams such as Singleton, Westbourne (newly formed club), Ashling, Yapton (Chichester & Bognor League 1913-1914 Champions), Chichester and Bognor.
There is a further paragraph relating to Lavant and it reads as follows:
The Midhurst and District League are applying to the Sussex County Football Association to extend their radius so as to include Lavant in it. I hope that this will be granted to them, so that the villagers may get some good matches on their delightful little ground. I am sure that Mr Whale works hard for the Club, and they should all be thankful that they have such a hardworking Secretary.
The book, West Sussex League 100 Years 1896-1996 page 48, mentions in the minutes of the Midhurst & District meeting of 16th September 1919, Lavant were represented Mr R.Whale and in the draw for the first round of the Charity Cup, they were drawn away to Stedham.
In that season 1919-1920 Lavant were eventual Runners-Up in the league and in the District Charity Cup.
In the Chichester Observer October 22nd 1919 edition page 4 there is a match report of Lavant vs Graffham.
Lavant vs Graffham
Lavant were at home on Saturday to Graffham in a Midhurst and District League game, and were victorious by three goals to two. The homesters were soon one up with a good shot by H.Lock, the ball hitting the cross-bar, curving in and coming out again, but the point was allowed. The play was then very even, Graffham having a look in at times, but Southin kept his goal intact. H.Lock found the net again before half-time. The score at the interval was unaltered.
Restarting, Lavant took up the running, but were beaten back, and after some smart playing in the Lavant goal mouth, Graffham scored with a shot that Southin could not see. Still keeping up the pressure, the visitors forced a couple of corners, but Lavant kept them out, Millier and Ede playing a fine game at full back. At length the homesters got going, Penfold centering finely, enabled H.Lock to put them still further ahead. The play afterwards fell off a bit, but Graffham still meant business and tried to pull the game off, and it was after another ten minutes play that they were able to find the net, a long, high shot completely beating Southin. This was the extent of the scoring , and the game ended with Graffham trying hard for the equalizer.
The homesters have a good goalie in Fred Southin, who on Saturday, played a very cool game; the backs are a good pair and Millier wants a lot of beating. The centre half, R.Penfold, was the best half, the wing halves letting Graffham men have too much rope, and therin lay the danger.