Sport a balm for soldiers’ souls
Major Sydney Middleton, a pre-War Olympian in rowing and rugby, became organising secretary of the AIF Sports Control Board in January 1919.
Plucked from leading the 19th Battalion, Middleton was told to “get busy and keep a couple of hundred thousand home-hungry soldiers contented.”
According to Lieutenant G.H. Goddard, author of Soldiers and Sportsmen, sport replaced drill as an extensive program was played at inter-battalion, inter-brigade and inter-Corps level, and at the Paris Inter-Allied Games in June 1919.
Syd Middleton rowed in the Australian eight that won the King’s Cup at Henley Peace Regatta in July, and in the King’s Cup rugby tournament, Australia came third behind New Zealand and a British Army team, Mother Country.
Military Cross recipient Gerald Patterson (Dame Nellie Melba’s nephew) led Australia’s tennis team that won the Allied Armies Championship then lifted the Wimbledon singles title amid headlines ‘Wimbledon Taken Over by Invaders.’
Sapper Harold Hardwick was heavyweight boxing champion at the Inter-Theatre of War Tournament while an Australian XI lost only four of 34 cricket matches with captain Herbie Collins scoring five centuries.