Bramall Lane on Sheffield’s front line during WWI

Sheffield Pals Battalion drilling at Bramall Lane
Sheffield Pals Battalion drilling at Bramall Lane
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A flag is flying at half mast at Bramall Lane – in remembrance of the centenary of the outbreak of World War One and the role the famous stadium played in the conflict.

As the biggest public space in the city centre, the home of Sheffield United and Yorkshire county cricket was at the heart of events a century ago, according to club historian John Garrett.

“Young men were recruited during matches and Bramall Lane became a training ground for troops who fought in the conflict – there are some emotive pictures of enlistment campaigners in front of the Kop at half time in a Sheffield derby,” he said.

“There are also photos of recruits preparing to travel to their fates across the Channel by being put through drill at the stadium.”

The Sheffield Pals Battalion went through basic training at the ground before being sent up to the moors at Redmires where mock trenches had been dug.

Later the cricket pavilion was converted into a temporary hospital for the wounded sent back from the front.

John said the 1914-15 football season was completed as normal before being suspended for the duration.

“And so it was that Sheffield United remain the only club to win the FA Cup during a World War,” John said.

“The FA Cup was kept going very much as a propaganda tool – it was something light-hearted that would deflect minds from the carnage taking place across the Channel.”

In 1915, Old Trafford staged what became known as the Khaki Cup Final, due to the number of soldiers in the crowd – the usual venue Crystal Palace had been turned into a troop recruitment centre.

The Blades beat Chelsea 3-0 but there were none of the usual celebrations.

“The team was brought back to Sheffield by train at midnight under cover of darkness to avoid any crowds,” John said.

“There was no victory parade, no celebration dinner was held until 1920, and in the official portrait the players were told not to smile.

“It was a sensitive issue as many people thought the league and cup should have been abandoned – national football did end after the summer of 1915.”

United’s own toll saw one of their best known players make the ultimate sacrifice – outside left Jimmy Revill was killed in France in 1917, leaving behind a family.