Maitland Football Club (FC) will undertake a unique football trip to commemorate the Centenary of Anzac in England and France, where members of the 34th Battalion played football on the battlefields to relieve the pressures of war.
The 34th Battalion was formed in 1916 and represented volunteers from Maitland and surrounding areas that went on to fight in World War 1. The 34th Battalion members were also known as ‘Maitland’s Own’.
Six of the nineteen players in the Under 17 squad that have been selected for the trip had direct descendants involved in the conflict and all believe is an amazing opportunity to pay their respects.
Maitland FC Under 17 player Regan Payne, 16, has two ancestors that have represented the Battalion, one in the 31st and the other in the First Pioneer, he says the trip will mean a lot more than just playing football.
“We are playing with our mates and representing the 34th Battalion just like they went with their mates 100 years ago,” Payne said.
On May 1st, 1916, the 34th Battalion departed Farley train station to Sydney where they embarked for England on May 2nd. Upon arriving in England they were encamped at Larkhill, Salisbury for further training prior to deploying to France.
The Battalion was deployed and fought in France from 1916 – 1918 at locations including Messines, Ypres, Polgyon Wood, Passchendaele, Somme, Villers Bretonneux and the Hindenburg Line.
During this time, soldiers of the Battalion like others from other allied nations played football on a regular basis, with the games recorded in the war diaries of the 34th Battalion.
Games were played in England (Larkhill) – July/October 1916 and France – November 1916, March 1917, 1st Jan 1918, 5th March 1918 and 15th September 1918.
Whilst details of the opposition teams are not defined, it would be imagined it was against other battalion members and allied nations.
During the fighting, 481 soldiers were killed with 1,727 wounded.
The highlight of the tour will be the match in the Somme, where many Australians died, in towns such as Villers Bretonneux.
Team members will lay wreaths at the Australian War Memorial nearby, in memory of their descendants lost on the battlefields.
Maitland FC see the project as very important in terms of establishing the football club as an integral part of the Maitland and Hunter Valley community.
The man behind all of this, Ian Mather, Maitland FC Under 18’s Coach says it is an honour for him to be able to develop this trip.
“It’s an honour for me, it has always been about the lads and giving them an opportunity to represent themselves, their families, their community and also represent those men of the 34th Battalion who played football in their local communities 100 years ago. It is also a great honour to represent Maitland FC in matches against Amiens and Camon,” Mather said.
‘This is an interesting community day for our football family and an opportunity for Maitland FC to showcase a ‘trip of a lifetime to remember the sacrifices of a lifetime ago’.
Maitland FC will also be holding a match day for the whole club on April 22nd, 2017 for their senior and youth NPL players.