Athletes Volunteer Force Field Day Notice

Following the outbreak of World War One there was a general push from the concerned citizenry to create volunteer units for Home Defence. It would be fair to say that the War office was not overly keen on these units and there was little official support or co-ordination in the early days. Many of these units were based around existing social clubs and their infrastructure, including athletic clubs who already had the infrastructure in place to support a body of men. A 1914 leaflet explained:

There are thousands of sportsmen in Great Britain who, although physically fit- by reason of their participating in sports- are not eligible to join the regular forces, and, having no knowledge of the use of arms, feel helpless, but desire to obtain some training, so as to be partially prepared for emergencies.

The leaflet went on to suggest suitable drill activities for these men, places to exercise and explored the difficulties of finding rifles. Units sprang up across the country, often only loosely affiliated with one another and with varying degrees of organisation and equipment.

In April of 1916 these units were all amalgamated into the Volunteer Training Corps (VTC) and came under the control of one central organisation with far more involvement from the War Office. In the last month before this absorption however, the North Birmingham Athletes Volunteer Force held a field day in Sutton Park and released this single page flyer with details as to how the exercise and mock battle would run:

Sutton Park is a large park near Sutton Coldfield in North Birmingham that covers 2400 acres and has a mix of heathland, moorland and woodland which would have made it ideal for training purposes. The park was used in part for a training camp for regular soldiers during the Great War, but was certainly large enough to accommodate both this and have space to allow local volunteers to train. During a debate in the House of Commons in 1916, Jonathon Samuel MP for Stockton on Tees described the training of the VTC in some detail:

We have had in my district, on the Tee-side, something like 2,500 men under training since the Volunteer Training Corps were established. I have seen these men at work night after night training. I have been out with them on Sunday, when they have marched five or six miles, and done field operations in a most military style. They have been trained by men who have had experience, as the last speaker said, and they are men who take this matter seriously. We live, as I say, within the war zone, and these men could be of immense service to the country

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