With the Olympics in full flow, a new display case at the Tank Museum is highlighting the importance of sport in army life by recounting the sporting success of tank men.
Interpretation Officer Sarah Lambert, who assembled the objects from the Supporting Collections Store with curatorial colleagues, explained why sport is such an integral part of military service.
“It creates and strengthens attributes which are so vital on the battlefield,” she said. “Leadership, teamwork, fitness, identity, improving morale, achievement and perhaps most importantly, the will to win”.
As important as helping keep soldiers fit and alleviating boredom, sport has helped generations of soldiers build bonds within their units.
Amongst the numerous sporting awards in the collection is an engraved Tug-of-War medallion won by Sergeant Walter Charles Green and his team in July 1918 at a 10th Battalion Sports Competition in France. Tug-of –War (right)
was an Olympic sport until 1920, and it that tested the participant’s strength, stamina, resilience and team work. Almost a year before his victory Green had demonstrated both; winning a Distinguished Conduct Medal and Croix de Guerre for conspicuous gallantry at the Battle of Cambrai.
Green had commanded a tank that was in the thick of some heavy fighting. Having expended all his ammunition, and although his own tank was badly damaged, he directed the rescue and evacuation of the crew of an immobilised tank and returned them back to British lines.
But sadly, Green was killed in action on 8th August 1918, just a month after celebrating his sporting victory.
In the months that followed the First World War, many sporting events were arranged to occupy the victorious British Army on occupation duties in Germany.
Gunner W.R Baker of the 4th Battalion Corps was awarded a Cross-Country medal in late 1918, and the aptly named Lieutenant Speedy of 9th Battalion Tank Corps won a medal in the 1 Mile Relay at the Rhine Athletic Championships in 1919 (left
Since then, the Tank Corps, and later Royal Tank Regiment soldiers, have competed in a variety of competitive sports.
A particularly prolific and successful sportsman from the Tank Corps was one Francis Patrick Crawley. He joined the Tank Corps in 1918, and during his service career excelled at numerous sports and became the pride of the 2nd Royal Tank Corps. Crawley (right)
competed in sports ranging from swimming to cross-country, but it was in boxing that he made his name. In 1925 Sergeant Crawley achieved the impressive title of European Amateur Middleweight Championship and went onto become the Amateur Champion of Great Britain between 1926 & 1927.
We have a number of intriguing army sports uniforms in our collection, amongst a variety of silverware, including a pair of sports blazers, football shirts and two contrasting cricket tops.
On the left is the cricket shirt worn by Captain Nicholas Wildbur, Queen’s Royal Lancers, on the Royal Armoured Corps 2012 cricket tour to India. Such sporting tours also allude to the importance of sport in building diplomatic relations abroad.
To the right it is the much older and more basic cricket jumper worn in 1938 by Major T.R. Brice of the Royal Tank Corps. The brown, red and green stripes represent the colours of the Royal Tank Regiment -colours established in the First World War and symbolic of the ‘mud, blood and green fields beyond’ of the Western Front.
Today the Royal Tank Regiment and the Royal Armoured Corps continue to excel in a range of sports from the rugby, football cricket to winter sports, and even sky-diving.
More recently, Dame Kelly Holmes, well-known for her sporting achievements visited the Tank Museum. What might be less well-known is that she started her sporting career in the army, when serving with the Army Physical Training Corps. Dame Holmes won two gold medals at the 2004 Athens Olympics, amongst numerous others won at international sporting competitions, with her mental and physical toughness being ascribed to her early training in the Army.
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