World War One: Inter-Allied Games
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We opened our free Folio Gallery exhibition, Enduring War: grief, grit and humour (19 June-12 October) last week. The exhibition is international in scope, although naturally enough, its focus is British. That said, we have included a number of Canadian items, as well as West Indian material: Phil has already blogged on Squidge. We had a number of US items lined up (the United States entered the war in 1917, as you know), but the demands of the space and exhibition storyline meant that they were returned to the stacks. However, we can take advantage of this, and begin an ongoing series of items that didn't make it into the gallery.
The first of which is shown above, a programme for the Inter-Allied sports day that took place in France, 22 Juneâ€“6 July 1919. It is a recent acquisition, and we also hold a volume summarizing the organisation and the results from the games at RG.2014.b.13 (a digitised copy from Cornell is available via the Internet Archive).
The games were an inclusive event, and included tug-of-war to soccer, tennis, basketball, fencing, water polo, boxing and equestrian events, as well as track and field, many of which took place at Pershing Stadium at Vincennes, France. Constructed by the US military in cooperation with the YMCA, the stadium was gifted by the Americasn people to France after the games. According to the editors of the companion volume, 'the games were played before crowds so immense that the number of spectators could not have been increased except by the use of aeroplanes or observation balloons.'
Indeed, the games were not limited to terra firma, but included an 'Aeroplane Parade' as a grand finale. The planes flew in formation, west to east over the stadium, dropping parachutes with the flag of each nation participating in the fly past (France, Italy, Belgium and the US). The five American planes included a captured Fokker, which was due to 'climb to a good altitude and engage in combat with two [US] spads].'
It didn't quite work out like that. The captured Fokker instead fell from the sky and crash landed at the nearby racetrack (with the unhurt captain displaying 'splendid airmanship in his enforced landing'). The crowd tore the plane to pieces for souvenirs. A handwritten note on the tentative programme reads, 'I saw this plane drop. This is a piece of it. don't lose it or cut it.'
The note was ignored, and the piece is not present (fear not, it wasn't there when we acquired it either).
To make up for this, if you can come to the Folio Gallery before 12 October, you can instead see a fragment of a Zeppelin, picked up in Essex, as well as progammes for other sporting events that took place during the war.