Coffee House

First XI of the Fallen

10 November 2012

10:30 AM

10 November 2012

10:30 AM

Who was the greatest sporting star who fought in the first world war? It is a difficult argument to settle at a century’s distance, with nobody still alive who saw them play and only fleeting glimpses from the very first steps of the newsreel era. The names are less familiar now, but contemporary accounts of their exploits and the sporting record books prove that they belong in the first rank of British sporting history.

British Future has selected an inevitably subjective ‘1st XI’ of the fallen, to help to bring the names of these sporting greats back into our public consciousness. In our new essay How should sport remember, published this weekend, Matthew Rhodes and I argue that the story of how sport went to war, with players and supporters signing up together in ‘fans’ battalions’, could prove an accessible starting point for the next generation of schoolchildren and sports fans to understand the nature of the conflict. The scale of sporting sacrifice in the war, with the closest modern analogy being Jonny Wilkinson, Wayne Rooney and Andy Murray going to war and not returning, should also begin a discussion about how sport should play its part in national civic commemorations in 2014.

Which of these forgotten greats might top the list? It is an inevitably subjective judgement.

Ronnie Poulton-Palmer, England’s rugby union captain, has a strong claim. He scored four tries in Paris to clinch a Five Nations Grand Slam for England in the final international before the war. He led England to a 16-15 victory against Scotland in the 1914 Calcutta Cup, one of eleven of thirty players who started the game that day to die in the war. The England and Scotland teams should consider undertaking a joint battlefield visit ahead of the 2014 Calcutta Cup game to remember their predecessors.

Footballer Alex ‘Sandy’ Turnbell  might be the most recognisably modern sporting competitor among those killed – winning the FA Cup for both Manchester City and Manchester United, and two league championship medals, in a controversial career. His goals helped Manchester City to the second division title before fines over illegal payments to players broke the team up and saw him join rivals United. His 25 goals the next season were crucial to Manchester United’s first ever title and he picked up two goals and a red card in the Manchester derby, the first ever player sent off in the game. A match-fixing scandal over the Liverpool-Manchester United fixture in 1915 saw Turnbell among the players banned for life from the game, though this was posthumously rescinded by the FA in 1919.

But perhaps the leading claim belongs to tennis star Tony Wilding, the only man until Bjorn Borg to win four consecutive Wimbledon titles, from 1909-13 before losing the 1914 final, and winning four doubles titles as well. Wilding helped to shift tennis from a gentle pastime to a modern sport, introducing methods such as physical and weight training. Though he was a New Zealander, who won the Davis Cup as part of an Australasia team, the fact that he lived in England, and was a prominent member of the Cliveden set, meant that the British press treated him as one of their own, and, as he did not return home after his title victories, the New Zealand press tended to agree. Wilding signed up when war broke out and was killed near Neuve Chapelle in 1915.


Memory is important to sport – creating communities of identity and allegiance to our favourite sports and teams. Sports bodies should begin to engage players and supporters in how we will want to remember, in 1914, those who died.

First XI of the fallen

Tony Wilding – the only man to win four successive Wimbledon singles titles before Bjorn Borg. Ronnie Poulton – the England Rugby Union captain who scored four tries in Paris to clinch the Grand Slam in his final match.

Jack Harrison – Rugby League great who still holds club record for 52 tries in a season, and who was awarded Victoria Cross.

Sandy Turnbell – Top scorer in United’s first ever league championship side in 1908, and FA Cup winner with both Manchester clubs.

Wyndham Halswelle – Scotland’s first gold medal Olympian on the athletics track after controversial 400m triumph in 1908.

Colin Blythe – Kent and England bowler. His 15 wickets for 99 against South Africa at Headingley in 1907 set an English Test record which stood for 49 years.

David Bedell-Sivright – Surgeon, Scottish rugby international and British Lions captain, whose no nonsense style on the field showed why he was Scottish national amateur boxing champion.

Reggie Pridmore – Gold-medal winning hockey star who scored a hat-trick in every game at the 1908 Olympics, and bowled for Warwickshire in county cricket too.

Tom Gracie – Leading goal scorer from Hearts great table-topping 1914 team, one of seven team-mates who died during the war.

Walter Tull – Spurs and Northampton star who was second black professional footballer and first black army officer.

Basil Maclear – Irish rugby hero whose 70 yard run against South Africa was hailed as the greatest ever try in this era.

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Show comments
  • OldSlaughter

    Edgar Mobbs may not have been the best sportsman to die, especially as he was out of the England team when the war started.

    However, he died leading a Battalion he formed after being refused service for being too old. what a man.

  • salieri

    Ok, let’s put aside entirely the question of British Future’s agenda and what it conceivably expects to achieve, or to promote, through this jejune appeal to 21st-century celebrity-list cretinism. The point is that the sportsmen in question died for their country, not their sport. In that respect they should not be regarded – and more importantly would not have regarded themselves – as any different from the hundreds of thousands of others, illustrious or unknown, whose lives were hideously snuffed out in a way which is not even comprehensible to a society obsessed with overpaid footballers and transient fame. As if sporting heroes had anything to do with true heroism.

    You assert that sport can be ‘a good educational entry-point to the broader themes of the war’. I profoundly disagree. It’s quite the reverse. Approaches like yours actually detract from what you sweepingly term “the broader themes of the war” (whatever you may actually believe these to be). It is superficial and trivialising claptrap. It is also revisionist sociological claptrap. You reluctantly allow that “of course poetry, literature, culture, work and other local themes also offer ways to increase understanding of the 1914-18 war”. Not that you have even attempted any such exercise, but no, in fact they don’t. All of this cod-taxonomy merely disguises the fact that millions of individuals sacrificed their individuality as well as their lives for a higher purpose. It is that purpose which deserves commemoration, not the individual. What next – The Tomb of the Unknown Tennis-player?

    It would indeed have been interesting to consider how many writers, musicians and artists lost either their lives or their reason in the Great War – on both sides of the conflict – and from there to go on to discuss its resulting cultural effects on the following generations; but even that exercise would have little place in making WW1 any more significant in the national consciousness. The stark reality is that your appeal to inane sporting memorabilia will not be an encouragement to greater historical understanding, but a substitute for it.

    • Sunder Katwala

      Odd objection. Why should Michael Murpurgo write about a horse, doesn’t he think people matter. As it happens, we did some research into general historical understanding, including polling people’s level of knowledge, and happen to have written on sport. There is a risk here of saying nobody can comment on any aspect of anything if they are not prepared to write a comprehensive history of the war. If this doesn’t interest you, fine, but it is of course something which sports writers, bloggers, fans do very often do, because it is another way to respect or remember with regards to specific identity (eg rugby fan; Hearts supporter), as well as that which we have as citizens, for example, wearing a poppy, watching the Cenotaph ceremony, attending a local memorial, etc. I don’t see that it does (necessarily) undermine or substitute for this, and suggest it depends what schools, the BBC or others might do to build understanding more generally. I can see the potential concern. On the other hand, I have seen effective documentaries, books, plays which seem to me to evade that danger

      • Daniel Maris

        I don’t think anyone wants to stop you publishing esoteric articles on sport and WW1 Sunder, it’s just they wonder what your website is up to, funded by a Hungarian-American billionaire hedge funder, claiming to have at its heart this “British Future” and featuring loads of articles supporting immigration into the UK.

        I suppose you must think we were all born yesterday.

        Some of us weren’t.

  • Austin Barry

    God, this is awful, tasteless trivia.

    I look forward to British Future’s insight into the Holocaust with a list of British Jews who perished in concentration camps and may have had promising careers in the Arts, Business etc.

    Somehow, though, I don’t think the Jewish contribution to British life quite fits in with its agenda.

    • Sunder Katwala

      I appreciate there is an issue of tone. Many of us find the regular sports-pages features of this kind informative.and interesting. And of course one would not take that approach to the holocaust, but we do cite the England team’s visit to Auschwitz as a very well handled commemorative and educational exercise, from which the great war schools battlefield visits being promoted by the British government might learn.

      Of course the Jewish contribution to British life is valuable. Why on earth would we single it out in British society as something to ignore? There is a report on the (also sport related) book launch at the Jewish Museum of Anthony Clavane’s recent book on our website, “Does your rabbi know you’re here” and I’ve enjoyed reading and reviewing that book for another magazine, out next week. I was also happy to be invited to take part in Finchley in a synagogue discussion of social contribution and identity to mark Yom Kippur.

  • eeore

    Ohhh historiography and sport, what a wonderful propaganda tool.

  • Daniel Maris

    I think these British Future postings are borderline sinister. What exactly is the purpose (common purpose?) of British Future? I have never heard anyone ever discuss WW1 in terms of a first XI of sports stars. Clearly, this article is simply an excuse to work off their obsession about race and ethnic background by getting in a mention of a black army officer. But what is the wider purpose? It seems to be to justify continued mass immigration in the naive belief that you can manufacture ersatz patriotism as good as the real stuff – but you can’t.

    And that IS dangerous. Mass immigration is causing immense damage to this country – economic, environmental and constitutional. It has to stop, and none of the parties is serious about stopping it. So British Future are part of the problem, not the solution.

    It betrays a kind of woeful historical ignorance as well.

    Years before the start of WW1 the UK had seen Black and Asian MPs, Mayors and Councillors. It proves nothing either way.

    • HooksLaw

      It seems a creepy way to look at WW1. The point is 750,000 hopes and aspirations were snuffed out.

      • Daniel Maris

        Thanks to Lloyd George, that number was a lot less than it would have been otherwise. He managed to put some manacles on the madman Haig – a complete cad: member of the Bullingdon Club (like Osborne, couldn’t add up – failed his maths exam), rewrote his diaries to present himself in a better light, opposed sending the BEF to Europe (which would have handed France to Germany).

        Here’s what B.H. Liddell Hart,foremost military historian of the 20th century said about him:

        “He was a man of supreme egoism and utter lack of scruple —who, to his overweening ambition, sacrificed hundreds of
        thousands of men. A man who betrayed even his most devoted assistants as well as the Government which he served. A man who gained his ends by trickery of a kind that was not merely immoral but criminal.”

        I couldn’t agree more.

        • HooksLaw

          A load of old cobblers. Liddell Harts opinions have been exposed for the crass rubbish they are.

          Thanks to Lloyd George the Army was given a job but not the men to do it. LG wanted to throw the Germans out of France thought you could do it by waving a magic wand.
          The army was understrength at the time of the German spring offensive, spread too thin and look what happened. Lloyd George was a manipulative schemer who cost the country dear.

          Build up from absolutely nothing, The British Army by 1918 was the only effective fighting force in the West. It won a great victory in the autumn of 1918 and was probably the finest fighting force these islands have ever put into the field. Indeed such was its prowess that after 8 August 1918 the Chief of Staff of the German Army had a nervous breakdown. Its leader takes his share of credit for that.

          • Daniel Maris

            If you are given the full resources of a global maritime empire comprised of some 400 million souls, it’s a bit difficult to make a complete hash of it…but Haig, dull duffer that he was, came very close.

            • HooksLaw

              The numbers in the Empire had nothing to do with anything. Principally Canada and Australia provided additional numbers to the UK.

              Haig was not a duffer.There are a great many WW1 generals who made bigger mistakes than him. One was Nivelle who was a favourite of Lloyd George and who was put in effective authority over Haig for a time by LG.

              Nivelle was very charming and Lloyd George found him even more charming when he said things like, most of the fighting would be done by the French (who of course suffered devastating losses on the Cheman des Dames.

              Lloyd George wanted to win the war but did not want to lose British soldiers. Unfortunately when the French Army mutinied the burden did fall on the British.

              And on the German side there was Falkenhayn who bled the German Army white at Verdun. Ludendorf made as big a mess of his Spring Offensive as did Moltke with the Schliffen plan in 1914.

              In terms of reinventing history – nobody did it better than Lloyd George after the war.

              • Daniel Maris

                Oh dear – showing your ignorance again Hooky. .Shouldn’t you check Wikipedia before you make these confident pronouncements:

                “[India] sent 550,000 overseas, with 200,000 going as labourers to the Western Front and the rest to the Middle East theatre. Only a few hundred were allowed to become officers, but there were some
                100,000 casualties. The main fighting of the latter group was in Iraq, where large numbers were killed and captured in the failed Mesopotamian campaign. The Indian contingent was entirely funded by the Indian taxpayers (who had no vote and no voice in the matter). …. The small Indian industrial base expanded dramatically to provide most of the supplies and munitions for the Middle East theatre.”

                Lloyd George was neither a pacifist nor a dreamer. He realised British soldiers would have to be sacrificed if the war was to be won. But he also realised it was the Germans who were at the long term disadvantage. It was better to let them take the brunt of the offensive fighting rather than attempt hopeless breakthroughs. Once DLG got a grip on policy the war policy became more rational and increasingly successful.

                • Colonel Mustard

                  I’d re-think that quote if I were you. It is very clearly politically motivated and the idea that 550,000 (sic) men could be officered in the field by “a few hundred” is absolute nonsense. Whoever wrote it has no idea how the Indian Army was actually structured. It was entirely voluntary and 1.3 million Indians served during the First World War.

                • Daniel Maris

                  What are you on about Mustard? The figure of 550,000 comes from my post, but nowhere do I mention “a few hundred officers”. And the 550,000 included soldiers and labourers.

                • HooksLaw

                  You are talking nonsense. The Indian Army was 160,000 strong at the outbreak of WW1. Two infantry divisions served there for a time. and a couple of cavalry divisions.

                  It was always separate and separately officered from the British Army. They suffered 7000 casualties. The infantry morale suffered and they were withdrawn.

                  Mustard points out how much it grew. Overall however some 5 million Britons served in the army in WW1.
                  The Empire forces were important ,the best soldiers on either side were probably Canadian and Australian, but in numbers terms it was not as you imply.

                  Your reference to the labour Corps is confusing. About 21000 Indians served alongside large numbers of Chinese, Egyptians and South Africans – and alongside very large numbers of British – in various theatres

                  But this is all by the by… There were no great resources of the Empire as you suggest when compared to the vast numbers of British troops. So this assertion that it ought to have been easy to win the war is wholly misplaced. Your assertion of the ability of Haig (and other generals) is again wholly misplaced as modern research has shown.

                  Haig may or may not have made the ‘ideal dinner guest’, but his relative abilities were by no means inferior to his contemporaries from both allies or enemies and ultimately he was responsible for creating a mass army from scratch in the most challenging of circumstances and turning it into a complete all arms modern weapon that defeated Germany.

                  The story of Liddell Hart, Fuller and others and their disputes and
                  descent into controversy is an important one but I am blowed if I am
                  going to go into it any further. Suffice it to say that the notion of Lloyd George, with all his machinations and plotting against people like Roberson, getting to grips with anything is far fetched.

                  The Germans BTW stood on the defensive on the western front for almost the whole of the war. There was no question of them wearing themselves out in endless attacks. Lloyd George played a major part in directing strategies that led to the Somme Offensive in 1916, the Nivelle and subsequent offensives of 1917.

                • Sunder Katwala

                  Your figures look quite a way out. (“It was always separate and separately officered from the British Army. They suffered 7000 casualties. The infantry morale suffered and they were withdrawn”).

                  The Commonwealth War Graves Commission notes there were indeed 160,000 enlisted soldiers in the Indian army in 1914, plus 45,000 non-combatants. But you offer a skewed view of what happened after that.

                  “By November 1918, 1,105,000 Indian personnel had been sent overseas: 138,000 to France, 657,000 to Mesopotamia, 144,000 to Egypt and Palestine, Smaller continents to Aden, East Africa, Gallipolli and Salonika … [plus merchant services … army nursing services]
                  “In all 60,000 troops from Undivided India sacrificed their lives in the First World War” CWGC

                • Daniel Maris

                  Well, I am happy Sunder to back you up on this (just to show there’s nothing personal about my spikey responses to your other posts).

                  The Indian contribution was immense in both World Wars. I am sure it was much wider in terms of the overall war effort than the casualty figures suggest.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Actually, per the CWGC, India proper suffered 24,338 killed in action in WWII, which is a relatively small number for such a populous area, particularly one being starved and subjected to famine, which would presumably force up conscriptions among the starving.

                  I think the Asians had their mind made up, by this point. There was change coming, and soon.

                • Daniel Maris

                  When one quotes figures in a disputation of this sort, it’s normal to give some sort of citation. How do we know you aren’t just making up those figures?

                  How do you conclude that half million people from India are “no great resources” ?

                  I never claimed it was easy to win the war. But it was easy to lose it, and Haig came close with his absurd man-eating offensives.

                  Yes, until 1917 the Germans pursued a far more sensible policy than our side. But that just underlines how criminally irresponsible was Haig’s policy.

    • Sunder Katwala

      Daniel, This is a very strange objection. I’ve written a blog saying Tony Wilding, Ronnie Poulton-Palmer and Sandy Turnbull were perhaps the three greatest sports stars killed in world war one, and that it would surprise many to realise how illustrious the sports stars who died were, and you respond that it is obsessed by race, because Walter Tull is included in the list of XI sportsmen! The obsession may be yours. Tull is more famous than the others on the list, for example being the one sportsman mentioned by the Prime Minister in his Imperial War Museum speech last month, because he was the first black army officer, but this piece was mainly about the forgotten sporting champions, so highlighted Wilding in particular.

      There are three arguments here. Why not decide which you agree or disagree about on their merits?

      1. 2014 is an important chance to improve historical knowledge. British Future has found, as the Sunday Telegraph reported last weekend, that 65 per cent of people know what year the war began, 56% what year it ended, and that knowledge of anything more the detailed are shakier. Two-thirds of people have no idea what the scale of casualties were. Just under half know that Australian soldiers and a similar slightly smaller number about Canadian or Indian troops.

      2. Sport has a special responsibility to participate in commemorative activities, because it was so central to recruiting men to fight, indeed up to half of the volunteers in 1914 and ’15. Some people worry about remembrance at sport, on grounds of politics or ‘miitarisation’ but that misses this history, we argue.

      3. Sport can be a good educational *entry-point* along with family and local history to the broader themes of the war.

      The argument here is that some of these local stories are well known, notably that of Hearts FC and some of the Rugby clubs, like Rosslyn Park, but that many are not. I suspect there are many followers of tennis who don’t know the name of Wilding, for example, or United and City fans who won’t have heard of Turnbull. Clearly, it would be silly if sport was the only focus – British Future looked at basic historical knowledge, then at sport – and of course poetry, literature, culture, work and other local themes also offer ways to increase understanding of the 1914-18 war.

      One could agree or disagree with those points, but few of them have much to do with race. If we did all know the history, then that would be a good thing. I don’t see why you would want to write out bits of this overall history – for example, the Indian volunteer army – just because not everyone in it was white, but that is an odd reason to object to a better understanding of the history for the next generation in particular, which was the focus of this look at sport and the war

      • Daniel Maris


        British Future’s interest in sport is fake and purely race-based, as the following article off your site demonstrates:

        I don’t think you’ll find any obsession with race in what I post, although I am perfectly happy to talk about race, since clearly there are very large differences in the appearance of the races. However, generally speaking, the last thing British people like to do is have a rational discussion about race.

        However, what REALLY comes across on your website is your overriding interest in immigration and a desire to promote mass immigration by arguing immigration is good for the country and new immigrants can, with relative ease, be integrated and made to feel “British” (as defined by you). I don’t accept any of those propositions and I think it is a way of avoiding real debate about mass immigration.

        1. This is an absurd argument. What do you know about the Napoleonic Wars? What do you know about the Crimean War? Why on Earth should you know any details about the Napoleonic Wars or the Crimean War?

        We are talking about a war that happened 100 years ago. People can’t even remember the details of the Falklands War, the two Gulf Wars or our involvement in Afghanistan. Good luck with trying to get them to have a grip on the Great War.

        The idea that knowing when that war started is important to our national life is ridiculous. The point is that history either resonates or it doesn’t, and people have decidedly different views of history, which is why no doubt Barrack Obama returned the bust of Winston Churchill, given what happened to a lot of Kenyan prisoners in British torture camps.

        The Great War will resonate for some people especially those who have stories about it passed down in their families. You can’t expect recent Somali immigrants, for instance, to have any real interest in it.

        What really resonates with the British people is not the Great War but World War Two, where the details are surprisingly well known and will, I think, continue to be well known. They have been fully embodied into our national myth – with very good cause.

        2. War has always been fought by fit young men. Sport has always been played by fit young men. Beer has always been drunk by fit young men. Perhaps brewers have a special responsibility to promote your remembrance industry as well.

        3. If I had to think of a good “entry point” for understanding the war I couldn’t think of a worse starting point than “sport”. How about reading a book or watching a film? That’s what most people do, not exactly difficult.

        Lots of things were linked to the war: knitting, schools, food, companies, local authorities, boats, technological innovation, empire, politics…yes, surprise, surprise in a total war everything is linked to the war.

        I’ve nothing against mentioning the Indian Volunteer Armies, or indeed the Chinese labouring gangs on the Western Front. But equally,the whole story has to be told when you get to history. In the second world war, there was an Indian National Army fighting with the Japanese against us – the INA are recognised as heroes in India today.

        Finally, I think it is perfectly legitimate to look upon the Great War as a horrendous event that should not be remembered with any positive feelings at all. It is arguable it was a fight between dirty-handed imperialists who were plundering the world. I don’t like this idea you are promoting that there is just this one (albeit bland) view of the war.

        • Colonel Mustard

          “War has always been fought by fit young men.”

          Not always. You should better acquaint yourself with the demographics of 18th Century professional armies where the majority of men were in their prime and many considered, for the time, to be of middle age. Steadiness in battle and stamina in marching were much more important then than being able to run fast.

          • Daniel Maris

            You’ll note I didn’t say “exclusively”. But the Great War certainly had a a preponderance of young men, as did WW2.

            There’s probably a good argument for older armies now.

        • Sunder Katwala

          My interest in sport is authentic. Examples of my engagement would include eg having a Goodison Park season ticket aged 12; one at Roots Hall, Southend for several years after the family moved (while still watching Everton); taking my kids to the Olympic athletics, equestrian and women’s football; and watching the women’s basketball too live; and everything else on TV; and having spent more time on sport than maybe anything else for many years of my life, though having a bit more balance after the age of 20! I was interested in sport before I had heard about race; and to some extent being a football fan brought me into contact with racism, and with the very significant progress this country has made, probably more than any other country, in tacking overt racism over the last 25 years.

          If you want a World Cup or FA Cup history quiz team, I would be a good person to have on your side.

          But perhaps you can advise what one would need to do to have an authentic interest?

          British Future’s Team GB research was a light, topical study looking at the country’s attachment to the Team. It is clearly an evidence-based, factual snapshot looking at our medal winners and their different routes to being proud Britons; it simply shows that the make-up of Team GB (one in three medal winners had a grandparent who came to this country) is broadly similar to that of the country (where one in three people in England had a grandparent who came to this country; 50% have grandparents all within England’s borders, even within the UK). I don’t myself think that tells us anything about multiculturalism; I do think it demonstrates the benefits of integration, when integration works. We know from Ipsos-Mori polling that 75% of us say we cheer equally for all Team GB athletes, whether British or foreign-born, and 13% say they have a stronger attachment to British-born Team GB athletes; and that 75% of us think the Olympics showed a confident, multi-ethnic Britain.

          That seems to me good news. It certainly doesn’t, as I have written very clearly, mean people are not going to continue to have concerns about the level or pace of immigration, or deep concerns about areas or issues where integration doesn’t work well.

          • Daniel Maris

            You don’t seem able to follow what people say.

            I said British
            Future’s interest in sport was fake. I said nothing about your personal
            interest in sport. I fully accept that you are an enthusiastic sports
            fan. So am I in my own way. That’s irrelevant. Unless you are saying
            that you and British Future are identical then your response is
            completely meaningless. You can be a sports fan. British Future from all
            the evidence is obsessed with race and mass immigration, not sport.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Why is it up to you to “look” at anything? Who appointed you? Who elected you? Why do you have to try and engineer the way this is remembered by Britain or spin a particular focus? These remembrances are both collective and personal, on a national and community scale, in urban and rural settings. They belong to the people already. They exist already. As far as our future is concerned they should evolve naturally as part of our collective heritage and not be manipulated or harnessed to serve some propaganda purpose on behalf of a small collection of transient politicians who believe they have a remit to determine how our past should be remembered and how our future remembrances are set out.

        • Daniel Maris

          Yes, that rather is the nub of the matter. Do we need this “history factory” pumping out ready-made history bites for mass consumption? Why would we, since history already exists: both in academia (in vast, vast quantities – literature on WW1 is only surpassed by that on WW2), in the popular media (in films, TV series and computer games) and in people’s memories (with little vignettes being passed down through families).

          Why do we need this funded effort meeting no demand, either from established or new communities in the UK? George Soros, the Hungarian-American billionaire hedge funder, no doubt has his reasons for supporting British Future, but a deep concern for Britain’s future is probably not one of them. Hedge funders generally aren’t known for their patriotic impulses.

        • Sunder Katwala

          Free speech in a democratic society?

          Can you explain what type of “appointment” system you wish to introduce to licence comments on issues of history or identity. Why is expressing a view engineering?

          Of course remembrance belongs to people. It is marked in many ways, some of which arise from civic discussion, as for example with growing emphasis on family history, or other aspects, such as local histories, the role of women. The longer essay is about how sport was a major part of the recruitment effort, and how sporting bodies, clubs or fans might want to reflect that. Let’s see what they do. Clearly, if there is no interest or appetite to do so, nothing will happen. There have been some interesting examples of this, such as Orient fans making a trip to the battlefields, and the England team making a memorial trip to honour Colin Blythe. There has been a lot of activity at Hearts FC because supporters take pride in this history. By all means complain about such efforts, but who appointed or elected you to veto them?

          • Daniel Maris

            When your site – called “British Future” – is backed by a billionaire Hungarian-American hedge funder, then I think people are entitled to talk about “engineering”.

            You are entitled to your view, but your view is backed up by big money.

            Big money backs mass immigration and the sort of tinsel town patriotism that your site promotes.

            The rest of us live in a real country called Britain with real problems.

          • Colonel Mustard

            But it is not just “expressing a view”. You represent a think tank with a specific agenda to influence and manipulate. You have set yourselves up as an organisation with an objective: “Building a modern British identity which helps us to build an inclusive citizenship, where we can all be confident about who we are, and which recognises the national and local identities we hold in Britain today too.” I don’t need my British identity “building”, thank you, and I am confident about who I am already. And “modern” – what does that mean? Is the British identity I had when I was born and raised by my parents, the identity I had in the long years of service to my country, somehow now redundant before I am even dead?

            The very notion that my British identity must be determined for me and “modernised” according to the notions of your organisation is deeply offensive. No one appointed or elected me to veto anything, but my British identity belongs to me, not you. I’m not seeking to determine the identities of others – you are. And no one appointed or elected you.

            • Daniel Maris

              Well said, Colonel Mustard. I don’t think anyone here is taken in by Sunder’s pose as the “little guy” exercising his free speech rights. LOL
              Not when he’s backed by Hungarian-American billionaire hedge funder George Soros. 🙂

              I do agree with you that it is very presumptuous of British Future to come along and tell 60 million people how they should feel about being British. The only correct response to such an approach is: F*** o**.

    • 2trueblue

      One thing that would help is cancelling all translation facilities that are currently supplied at our expense. This is not a facility that is provided anywhere else, so why do we do it? In America they discovered that it created a disadvantage for the Hispanics as it slowed their progress in adopting the local language.

  • Colonel Mustard

    “an accessible starting point for the next generation of schoolchildren and sports fans to understand the nature of the conflict.”

    Which also runs the risk of trivialising it. One might wish an imperative of drawing the next generation up to an understanding of the broader impact of the conflict rather than reducing it to a microcosm to lure. What about writers, or artists, or thespians, or music hall acts, tradesmen, whole posses of factory and estate workers or a generation of schoolboys that never had a chance to become anything other than the sacrificial demonstration of values no longer taught and our glorious dead?

    • Daniel Maris

      Absolutely, Colonel. The BF crew’s approach is completely ahistorical, theme park stuff. Most of the people who died as heroes in world war one would have understood they were dying for king, country and empire. They would have assumed the superiority of Christianity, English culture and the Germanic races of Europe.

      On the other hand there would have been a sizeable minority there under sufferance, who espoused what would now be considered extreme left wing views of wholesale nationalisation, power to the workers, and an international brotherhood.

      Also, in the country as a whole, there was a very sizeable religious/political pacifist minority, running to at least a million or so I would say. Pacifism is now a very discredited creed from both the perspective of contemporary left and right.

      But British Future aren’t interested in any of that. They are too busy turning the wheel of their “Patriotic Pasta” machine.

      • Coffeehousewall

        Why does the Spectator keep giving British Future (not any future I choose) space when they are clearly a common purpose front with the common purpose agenda. We have already pointed out the leadership of this group is from the left.

        • Daniel Maris

          Yes, a great puzzle. The British Future Party have no real constituency in the country. Most British people aren’t obsessed with race in the way they are. Most wouldn’t believe British Future’s antiseptic version of history. Most don’t want to live in a multi-cultural future, they like the pretty much monocultural version we have now of booze, football, explicit films, traditional architecture, free speech, comedy, English language, democratic politics, free mixing of the sexes etc. Most people think newcomers should get in line with those traditions, and not try and change this country out of all recognition.

          British Future is clearly trying to get everyone to accept multiculturalism and sign up to a stone-washed version of the past, a conflict-free view of the present and a non-British future.

          It’s insiduous and in my view highly dangerous. The fact that the Spectator is promoting British Futurism is particularly worrying. Does the paper of Auberon Waugh, Shiva Naipaul, Boris Johnson and Jeffery Bernard really want to turn itself into a propagandist for full-anaesthetic, supine-on-the-table multiculturalism?

          It only takes one person to turn the key that opens the gates that lets in the barbarians.

          • Coffeehousewall

            Unfortunately we know, because they have told us, that the editors, and one assumes the owners, of the Spectator, think that immigration and multi-culturalism are a good thing, and that therefore we are all rather stupid for not realising this.

            • Daniel Maris

              Yes, I suppose we have been told. It’s just difficult to believe, and events , dear boy, can change people’s perceptions in a blink of an eye. The events of 9-11 and 7-7 really destroyed first wave multiculturalism. British Future is really the response to those events – second wave multiculturalism which tries to graft on a thin, artificial layer of flimsy “patriotism” on to the multi-cultural body. But in a sense that is why it is more insiduous, because it is consciously setting out to create this political nano material: artificial polypatriotism, which has nothing to do with the real life of this country. Meanwhile they are still encouraging mass immigration which is destroying the economic, cultural, environmental and constitutional fabric of this country.

              First wave multiculturalism was “hard” – patriotism didn’t matter. Don’t expect newcomers to be patriotic.

              Second wave multiculralism is “soft”: let’s invent this faux ahistorical patriotism which we will expect both newcomers and established communities to subscribe to.

          • Sunder Katwala

            I’m not an advocate of multiculturalism, but rather a (constructive) critic of it, though we are certainly irreversibly a multi-ethnic society, which needs a common citizenship. (I find “multicultural” as a descriptive term rather conflates the social facts with the political choices we can make about them). So I was writing about what I saw as the limits of multiculturalism back in 2000-2001 in my mid-20s, sometime before it became a more orthodox view. A 2004 piece, agreeing with Trevor Phillips critique of multiculturalism, is at the bottom of this Observer feature

            • Daniel Maris


              I think we can all accept we are where we are. But what about the future? Do you favour continued mass immigration of 400,000-500,000 per annum for the UK. Simple question requiring a simple answer.Because it sure looks like that’s what British Future wants.

              I understand you are advocating a “soft” multiculturalism (“We can unite around a core curriculum of patriotism”) against the original “hard” multiculturalism (“We are what we are – get used to it.”). But this is not a forum for vague imaginings. The good thing about this forum is people challenge you on very specific grounds.

              Do you want any real caps on immigration? Let us know.

      • 2trueblue

        All of the things that constituted the history of the UK was systematically destroyed by Blair and his government. They infiltrated all aspects of our lives and dished us up their version of what life should be like. It is amazing how little time it took them to trivialise what was essentially English and surlpant it with a vacuous culture. Everything has to reduced to role playing.