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Football Echo 1917 012blog

The Aintree Munitions Ladies football team as the name would suggest rose from the factory where they spent their days building weapons of war. The Aintree LNC National Filling Factory began production in July of 1915 filling and assembling 8 inch shells. As the men had already been drafted into the war effort women took up the role of this highly dangerous job.

Just like men had done before the war the women wanted to play sport with their work colleagues.

The first appearance of the Aintree Munitions team came in the November 1917 as the Liverpool Echo announced they would play a charity match in Seacombe on the Wirral. The game was to be played at Vernon Park on Birkenhead Road against the Wilson’s Mill men’s team.

Although his was their first public game they had already beaten eight other teams and only conceded one goal.

Little mention of the men’s team was made in the preview of the game other than they would play with in handcuffs. The women’s team however had individual player analysis telling reader which players to look out for.

The Echo singled out several players to watch. One such player was M Warner who was the terror of the team fearing nothing and could tackle as well as any according to reports. The centre forward (not named) is too a player to watch as she has scored at least once in all of their previous games.

Interest in the game was high with 2000 tickets sold in advance of the game which even matched the war time attendance of local team Tranmere Rovers.

Although there was a great deal of build up to the game little was written about the actual game itself and there are conflicting reports on the score. However the Football Echo did give a brief match report.

The ladies turned out that day in long red belted tunics over black knickers (shorts) and black stockings which the Echo reporter described as ‘…both appropriate and becoming.’

The men started the first half in a very attacking manner at first not feeling too handicapped by their hands being tied. However each attack was pushed back by the strong defence of the Aintree ladies team and several men got the ladies to undo their handcuffs.

By the end of the first half however the ladies were 2-0 down and their unbeaten run looked to becoming to an end.

The second half however the ladies were a different team as they knocked six past the men’s team. The scorers according to the Football Echo were B Fredrickson, R Higgins, M Warner, L Molyneaux and F M’Allister for the ladies. The final score according to this report was 6-5 to the ladies.

The cartoon above printed a weeks after the game however states the final score being 7-3 to the ladies and referred to the team as ‘Doughty Ladies.’ The cartoon came with a poem which read

‘I’ve seen the girls at hockey, seen them sing and dance
Seen them flirt at croquet, both in England and in France
But for fun and games and vigour, the thing that beats them all
Was the munitions girls from Aintree – Grand Nationals- at Football’

This game would become the first of many the Aintree Munitions Ladies team would play before the end of the war. These early games though paved the way for the post war explosion in the women’s game and one can only wonder whether any of these ladies knew the legacy they would leave.

Nov 17 1917 Birk Adpic

The Aintree Munition’s Girls teams had made their public debut in early November against a men’s team in Seacombe. The game had been greatly enjoyed but as the Wallasey News stated ‘Neither side could be said to take the game seriously, but the spectators did not expect to see League football.’ You have to wonder whether this was because the men’s team lost…

Regardless the Aintree Ladies had secured their second public game arranged for the 17th November at the Pool Bank Enclosure in Port Sunlight. The charity game was again collecting for the Sportsmen’s Ambulance Fund and the Ladies were to play the New Ferry Bible Class men’s team who had won their last six games.

A large crowd was expected to witness what the Birkenhead Advertised described as ‘…a real tit-bit, as the girls are not ‘duds’ at the game…’ To draw more attention to the game the Port Sunlight and Bromborough Pool Bands would march around the area collection donations and encouraging spectators to follow them to the ground.

The Munition’s Girls team had few changes from the game at Seacombe with only a few extra reserve players. What was quite noticeable was the addition of a trainer, a Mr J Gemmell, who had refereed the game at Seacombe. Gemmell according to the Birkenhead Advertiser was a ‘…well known player, and under his careful tuition they are performing in great style, plying vigorous, bustling football.’

Nov 21 1917 Birk Adpic

The Birkenhead Advertiser went on to say the ladies team had beaten eight other ladies teams from their factor, scoring twelve goals in one game. They apparently challenged any ladies team in the country.

Turning out in the same kits at Seacombe (long red belted tunics over knickers and black stockings) the ladies team won the toss. Like at Seacombe the men’s team were to play with their hands tied.

The ladies looked determined to win from the outset with a hard battle being fought in the midfield. However first blood went to the Bible Class as H Jones scored.

But with in a matter of minutes the Ladies had take the lead with Miss Frederickson equalising and F McAllister putting the ball into the back of the net to make the score 2-1 to the Ladies.

After dusting themselves down the Bible Class team began several strong attacks which resulted in a goal. J Parry equalised for the men after some clever passing the Birkenhead Advertiser stated. No sooner had Parry scored the equaliser he scored again to put the Bible Class head 3-2.

The second half got under way and appeared to be just as hard fought as the first half. Miss Frederick scored her second of the day equalising for the Ladies and was soon followed by McAllister to put the ladies ahead. But Bible Class captain Nall equalised as the ladies lost their lead again.

The game continued to be tit for tat as the Ladies and Bible Class scoring one after another until the final whistle was blown with the score at 6-6.

The game raised ₤60 for the Sportsmen Ambulance Fund.

The Ladies next game would be played at the Birkenhead North End ground but instead of men they would play women.