The Royal British Legion is calling on the nation’s sporting organisations, associations, clubs, teams and individuals to commemorate the role played by sportsmen on the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.
The campaign will commemorate the service and sacrifice made by the nation’s sportsmen during the First World War, including that of former Bedford Modern Schoolboy Edgar Mobbs.
At the outbreak of war, England Rugby star Mobbs, then aged 32, was told he was too old for a commission. Undeterred, he enlisted as a private soldier, rallying a further 264 men to sign up after playing rugby at his home club in Northampton.
During his military career, he rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, leading his men, known as Mobbs’ Own, into battle at Loos in 1915, The Somme in 1916 and Arras 1917.
He was to lose his life at Passchendaele in an attempt to take out a German machine gun which was bringing down his comrades.
Mobbs’s body was never found and his name is among the 54,000 on the Menin Gate at Ypres. Of more than 400 men who served in the Mobbs Own D Company, only 85 came through the war unscathed.
The Legion’s campaign, Sport Remembers the Somme 1916-2016, was launched by current sporting legends, including Josh Lewsey MBE, World Cup-winning England rugby player and former Royal Artillery officer.
He said, “I am humbled and honoured to help commemorate these players and soldiers by representing rugby in the Royal British Legion Sport Remembers campaign.
“Many of these players fought and some of them died at the Somme, including the extraordinary Edgar Mobbs who, because of his age, was turned down for commission so joined up as a private and raised a company of rugby fans and players that became known as Mobbs’ Own.”
The Battle of the Somme, which ran from July 1 to November 18, 1916, was one of the most difficult and costly battles of the First World War.
To aid the war effort, virtually all professional sport had been suspended for the duration by the time the Battle of the Somme began.
Athletes and players from sports at all levels had volunteered to enlist,
After the war, more than £2,000 was raised in an appeal to commemorate Mobbs. His bust is on a memorial in Abington Square, Northampton and, from 1921 to 2011, the Barbarians played at Northampton in the Mobbs Memorial Match.
In 2006, a new link road to the A45 was named Edgar Mobbs Way.
For more information about the campaign, go to www.britishlegion.org.uk