A HUNDRED years ago, as soldiers spent Christmas on the Western Front, one householders moved to spread from Christmas cheer to troops.

The Oxford Mail has discovered a 1914 letter from our Oxford Times sister title from a lieutenant thanking an Oxford resident for sending them a football.

The Boxing Day letter from Lieutenant Edward Hermon-Hodge thanked 174 Cowley Road’s Annie ‘Queenie’ Harper and Doris Alden.

It said: “It is extremely kind of you and Miss Doris Alden to have sent me a football for the use of the men of the Oxford squadron.

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“It will be most useful as football matches are taking place now wherever possible, and a more useful present could not have been sent.”

The Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars Lt Hermon-Hodge, son of former Conservative Southern Oxfordshire MP 1st Baron Wyfold, sent the letter.

The Hussars were the first territorial British Army unit to see action and were based in Nooteboom, 13 miles from Ypres, from November 22 to January 13. The ball was sent to the Oxfordshire Yeomanry on December 13 from the Cowley Road.

The letter concludes: “I hope it will not be very long before you see your friends and relations in the Squadron home safe and sound after the hardships they have been through and which they have faced so cheerfully.”

The Oxford Times:

Oxfordshire Yeomanry historian Michael Cross, above, said: “This is a wonderful account of how Oxford citizens showed support to their men at the front.

“We have photos in our archives of regimental and squadron football teams during their time on the Western Front, always displaying the match ball, maybe even that very ball that the young ladies sent over at Christmas 1914.”

It is not known whether the ball was used in any famed Christmas truce games of 1914, where opposing armies played football on Christmas Day.

And there is no record is known of who the ball was sent to. The historian said William Harper – of the Cowley-based A squadron – could have been the intended recipient. Private Cecil Alden and private Denis Alden were among those also serving at the time.

Oxfordshire-born Edward Hermon Hodge served in the 2nd Boer War before sailing to France in September 1914 as a lieutenant. He was captain of the A squadron and became Major that December. In 1919, he was awarded a Distinguished Service Order.

He died aged 55 in 1937.

According to the 1911 census, Annie Harper and husband Frank lived at 174 Cowley Road with their childreFrank and Olive.

Mr and Mrs Harper are buried in Rose Hill cemetery and Frank Harper Jr had a daughter Patricia who died in 1946.

Do you know more? Call us on 01865 425425 or email ckeown@oxfordmail.co.uk

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