What is it about?

The Second World War, according to a British Government report, applied a ‘knockout blow’ to sport. This, the same Home Intelligence correspondent wrote, was due to lack of preparation by sports bodies for the conflict - an extraordinary example of buck passing in January 1940 considering that the military fiasco of Norway was looming and the overwhelming defeat of the British Army and evacuation from Dunkirk was a matter of weeks away. This article looks at Government and public attitudes to sport between 1939 and 1945 by examining Cabinet papers and the Mass Observation and Home Intelligence files at the University of Sussex.

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Why is it important?

The article traces the journey from where sport was halted in the earliest days of the war - sometimes at the behest of governing bodies, on other occasions due to lack of resources such as blackout material - to it becoming an ‘essential ingredient in bolstering domestic morale’.

Perspectives

This article shows that the British government showed a level of interest in leisure that is perhaps surprising given its other priorities between 1939 and 1945. Analysis of documents reveals that ministers devoted substantial resources into monitoring sport because they and their advisors considered leisure to be a vital element in maintaining morale. It was, as a Home Intelligence report stated, ‘a safety valve’. Except the public were reluctant to use that safety valve.

Dr Guy Hodgson
Liverpool John Moores University

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This page is a summary of: Fields of battle: UK government and public attitudes to sport in the second world war, Leisure/Loisir, April 2019, Taylor & Francis, DOI: 10.1080/14927713.2019.1613167.
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