On January 22nd the Royal Air Force Museum London will be unveiling its latest temporary display ‘Tin Hats and Football Boots’.
This display explores the contribution made by various members of Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal Football Clubs to the Royal Air Force and Air Raid Precautions during the Second World War whilst examining how important regular competitive football was to the upkeep of the capital’s morale.
With the outbreak of the Second World War, the world of football changed. Hostilities affected clubs in every league all over the country. The Football League was suspended and then re-instated in a new guise with many professional players joining the armed services and being called upon as ‘guest’ players by clubs near their billets.
North London rivals, and RAF Hendon’s major local clubs, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur found themselves sharing Spur’s ground at White Hart Lane; Arsenal’s Highbury ground having been requisitioned by the government as an ARP centre.
Not only did these two neighbouring giants have to work together to ensure that both teams catered for their fans but also that they did so through the provision of nail-biting and stimulating games, quite often without the key players or support staff who had been so central to each team’s success before the War.
Ellen Soall, football fan and Curator of the display said:
‘ It was only whilst conducting research into local history for a Museum project that I realized how integral both Clubs were to London’s war effort. For 90 minutes both players and spectators could escape the horror of war and life would, for a brief period, assume an air of normality – all important for maintaining morale and a reminder of more peaceful times.
The aim of this display is to highlight the hidden history of both clubs. Success should not only be measured by the amount of silverware in trophy cabinets but also by the contribution made by football to the war effort.
My thanks go to the following people for their assistance: Samir Singh (Arsenal Football Club), Andy Porter (Tottenham Hotspur Football Club), Peter Cooper and the RAF FA and finally the Abelheim family for use of family photographs. ’
Entry to ‘Tin Hats and Football Boots’ is free of charge to visitors; as is entry to the Museum. It will be shown daily from 10am to 6pm until Monday 4th July in the Museum’s Historic Hangars.