Witley, July 3, 1917

Tuesday     Weather Sun, Mon & today was great. Today we had AM route march before noon out & round thru Godalming Aft: did a little Gun laying & cleaning up Played A sub at indoor baseball lost 16.6 my first match In the pink

baseball CWMPercy had not known baseball in his childhood and youth in Britain, but it was a popular game in Canada, and many soldiers in the Canadian Expeditionary Force must have felt as did the sports editor of The O.Pip:

“Strolling around in one’s few leisure hours, one can almost picture himself back in Canada watching a lot of kids on the sand lots working out to be big leaguers. With the advent of the beautiful Spring weather some three weeks ago baseballs, bats, mits [sic] and gloves seemed to appear from nearly every kit bag.” (1)recruiting poster US baseball

Sports are increasingly seen not only as recreational, but as a real contribution to the physical training of a soldier. The link is explicitly made in an American recruiting poster.  A Guide to Military Sports and Recreational Training, published later this year, recognizes the value of sports for developing skills, strength and teamwork, as well as improving morale. (2)

Games at Percy’s level might be competitive, but they were decidedly amateur, but increasingly — especially after the United States entered the war and sent baseball players overseas — baseball games of high seriousness were organized, drawing spectators from the civilian population as well as from the ranks. Early next year, the Canadian Military Athletic Association will be formed to enable winners of local competitions (in baseball but also in other sports) to compete with their counterparts from other commands culminating in a national championship. At that level, baseball is not longer part of training, but a spectator sport — and a hugely popular one. (2)

Back at Witley, however, it’s everyone’s game. “Wherever one goes he sees the boys trying out their arms and their eyes. War may be a sport for kings, but give the boys the old ball game every time.” (1)

The photograph is from the George Metcalf Archival Collection in the Canadian War Museum (CWM 19920085-807). It shows a game taking place somewhere behind  Canadian lines.

The recruiting poster is in the Library of Congress.

(1) “Sports. Baseball.” The O.Pip. 1:2 (May 1917).  14.
(2) See Horrall, Andrew (2001) “‘Keep-A-Fighting! Play the Game!’ Baseball and the Canadian Forces during the First World War,” Canadian Military History. 10: 2 (2001).See also, Craig Greenham. “On the Battlefront: Canadian Soldiers, an Imperial War, and America’s National Pastime.” American Review of Canadian Studies. 42: 1 (2012). 34-50.

Copyright 2017. See “More about this project.”

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