The Great War claimed the lives of many professional and amateur sportsmen, including over three hundred who had represented their countries in one sport or another.
The Great War’s Sporting Casualties contains details of the sporting achievements and, where known, the circumstances of the deaths of those international sportsmen who were killed in the War or died as a result of injuries sustained in the War. It also contains details of nine other sportsmen who were killed in the War but who, although they did not represent their countries, did achieve something exceptional either in sport or in war.
Included amongst those listed are twenty-two Olympic gold medallists, twelve who captained their country at rugby, two who won the Tour de France and one who was a four-times Wimbledon champion. Also included are the three international sportsmen who won the Victoria Cross, one of whom was the only person to win two Victoria Crosses for deeds during the War and the fifteen who won the Military Cross.
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|James Holder was born in Somerset and, after reading law at Cambridge University, practised as a solicitor; he now works as a consultant. He is passionate about sport and has always taken an interest in family history much of which involves relations who were fortunate enough to survive the Great War. He and his wife have four children and one grandchild and live in Oxfordshire.
Andrew Brown, Oxfordshire
This is an impressively comprehensive guide to how the Great War led to the loss of so many top level sportsmen. While that in itself is not surprising –it led of course to the deaths of people from all walks of life-it is a stark reminder as to how many young, talented people were lost in the prime of their lives. The book focuses on international team sports - football, rugby and cricket - and Olympians and it is interesting to see the different rates of losses; for example, the worst hit proportionally were rugby players and Scottish rugby players in particular. The author surmises that this could be because a higher proportion of rugby players were privately educated and as a result officers who led from the front.
As well as the many fascinating and tragic individual stories in the main section of the book, I also enjoyed the appendices. One gives useful summary accounts of the many different Great War battles while one also details the losses by the internationals which they played; of the 30 players who participated in the January 1913 Scotland versus France rugby international, 14 were to die in the subsequent conflict.