The Royal British Legion is calling on the UK’s golfing organisations, associations, clubs, teams and individuals to commemorate the role played by golfers on the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.
The campaign, called Sport Remembers the Somme 1916-2016, was officially launched at The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers headquarters, Tower of London last week by sporting legends Sir Nick Faldo MBE, former world golf number one and six times Major Championship winner, England Rugby World Cup winner and former British Army officer Josh Lewsey MBE, England’s all-time record cap holder and former goalkeeper Peter Shilton OBE, Olympic gold medal winner Sally Gunnell OBE and former England cricket captain Mike Gatting OBE.
Sport Remembers, which is attempting to unite sport in Remembrance, launches with the backing of The R&A, Professional Golfers’ Association, the European Tour, The Ladies’ European Tour and the Home Unions of England, Scotland and Wales.
The Battle of the Somme, which ran from 01 July – 18 November 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 – sometimes en masse as an entire team and its supporters.
The Legion is now encouraging professional and amateur golfers to join in the commemoration of the service and sacrifice made by the Nation’s sportsmen during the Battle of the Somme. Each Club is being invited to register for their own Sport Remembers toolkit at www.britishlegion.org.uk. Information is also available through golf’s national network of support organisations. For Club Professionals through the PGA, for Club Secretaries and Managers through their own Members’ Association and for Club Captains and individuals through their National or County Golf Union. Further plans will be announced in the weeks ahead, following the Official Ceremony of Remembrance at The Thiepval Memorial on the 1st July 2016.
The charity has produced 100 Sportsmen of the Somme stories – including the story of Private Albert Tingey, a founding member of the PGA, who led the recruitment of the Niblick Brigade to go and serve the country. The Niblicks fought to the end of the war, regularly reinforced by pros, greenkeepers, caddies and clubmakers.
James Goodwin from The Royal British Legion said, “The Battle of the Somme is the costliest in British history. It symbolises the waste and the tragedy of the entire First World War. Its losses were felt particularly deeply by sport. With sport in the UK suspended for the war, athletes and players served and fell in great numbers at the Somme. The Royal British Legion is calling on sports at all levels, both amateur and professional, to commemorate their contribution. Sport has the ability to touch every community and we hope that Sport Remembers will unite our nation in ensuring their sacrifice is never forgotten.”
Sir Nick Faldo MBE, former world golf number one and six times Major Championship winner, said, “The Royal British Sport Remembers effort recognises the athletes who made historic contributions to our Nation through service or sacrifice at the Battle of the Somme and during the First World War. It is an honour to represent our sport in salute of the golfers and associated professionals who will forever be remembered for their contribution to our national history through ultimate service to our country.”
STATEMENTS OF SUPPORT FROM GOLFING ORGANISATIONS:
Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said, “The Royal British Legion’s Sport Remembers campaign is a fitting commemoration of the many sports people who served and, in many cases, lost their lives at the Battle of the Somme and in the First World War. Golf clubs throughout the country, along with every section of the community, felt the terrible losses of the War and the memorial in The Royal and Ancient Clubhouse in St Andrews attests to those members and staff of the Club who gave their lives in the service of their country. We owe a debt of gratitude for the sacrifice they made and it is entirely appropriate that golf comes together as a sport to remember and honour their memories.”
Sandy Jones, Chief Executive, The Professional Golfers’ Association, said, “The Professional Golfers’ Association and its 7,500 members who are based around the world joins with all other sporting bodies in remembering those who gave their lives in service to their country. An unknown number of PGA Professionals from all communities served their country in battle but were sadly never to return to their loved ones and friends at home. The Association is totally supportive of the Royal British Legion Sport Remembers Campaign and is so inspired by this campaign that it has undertaken a commitment to find the names of those members who fell in battle and create a record of remembrance so that future generations will never forget the debt of gratitude that we owe to them all.”
Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of The European Tour, said, “Sport in general is a tremendously unifying force and golf particularly so – you only need to look at the 36 nations whose countrymen have triumphed on our Tour since 1972 to see that. It is sobering to contemplate that many, if not all of these countries, will have lost loved ones in conflict over the years too, which is why The European Tour is proud to support the ‘Sport Remembers Campaign’
Ivan Khodabakhsh, Chief Executive Officer of The Ladies’ European Tour, said, “The Ladies European Tour is pleased to support the Royal British Legion’s Sport Remembers campaign, which is an appropriate tribute to the many sports people who died during the First World War. Many of our Members will have relatives amongst the Fallen and will be proud to support the campaign in order to honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice in this tragedy for Europe.”
Nick Pink, Chief Executive of England Golf, Andy Salmon, acting Chief Executive of Scottish Golf, Richard Dixon, Chief Executive of Golf Union of Wales, made the following joint statement, “Our community of golfers, spanning young and old, men and women who comprise the Nation’s golfers represented by England Golf, Scottish Golf and the Golf Union of Wales, all commit our support today to The Royal British Legion’s Sport Remembers Campaign. Many golfers left their families, friends and loved ones from towns and villages in every corner of the land, only to never return, instead paying the ultimate sacrifice. Those million lives lost are acknowledged today, as they will be at local clubs and courses throughout Britain and Ireland over the next 141 days of Remembrance. We join together united with sportsmen and women everywhere to remember the Fallen”.