The British Armed Forces (the Army, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force) have been playing hockey for over a century although the RAF was not formed and did not start playing until the end of WW1. Sport and recreation have always been a part of service life and the Museum has plenty of examples of service hockey at the end of the 19th century. With the number of people 'called up' during the first half of the 20th century, the Services were regular suppliers of players for the international teams. The Armed Forces were also an enormous breeding ground for the development of hockey, introducing many thousands of men and women to a sport that they might otherwise not have come across.
Some 1500 Royal Navy and 1500 Army players have represented their respective associations in Inter-services matches since 1908. Add in 1400 RAF players since 1920 and the total is 4,400, with probably 1000 of these having represented The Combined Services and a significant number who have played at International and/or Olympic level.
Some of the records of Service Hockey are well documented but much of it still has to be discovered. A very good start has been made by Naval Historian Alan Walker, with much of his work naturally being concentrated on Royal Navy hockey. However, as the Royal Navy regularly played against the RAF and the Army, the picture across all the Services is now developing. To move this significant project forward Alan does need help, especially to look at the Army and RAF histories.
The Museum’s Curator, Mike Smith, is currently undertaking a linked project looking at Hockey Military Stories. This research was prompted by the interest and publicity that has surrounded the Centenary of the start of WW1. To find our more details from this fascinating study, please click here.