Even in the height of the Blitz, people were determined to keep calm and carry on. On 15 March 1941 a team of Allied Forces, consisting of two Poles, three Czechs, two Belgians, two Dutch and two Norwegians, took on the British Army, captained by Stan Cullis and with Dennis Compton on the wing, at Stamford Bridge. The refugees’ side lost by eight goals to two.
‘I am sure it will go down as one of the most astonishing ever played,’ suggested the writer and ex-footballer Charles Buchan, who had graced the Chelsea turf as a guest in World War One. ‘Not that the result mattered a scrap. Its significance rested in the fact that during the greatest war of all times and in the midst of visits from enemy bombers dealing death and destruction, it was possible to gather together a team of sportsmen from conquered countries in Europe, good enough to match their skill against the best England could produce.
‘Only a few thousand [10,794] were privileged to watch the game, but millions of people throughout the world heard a description of play through the medium of the BBC. It was broadcast in several languages and came as a tonic to British people and sympathisers all over the globe.’
The match had been promoted and facilitated by AV Alexander (pictured below left), using his forces and football connections. Chelsea’s First Lord of the Admiralty was also behind the charitable ‘play-off’ match between the north and south War Cup winners – for which he had Stamford Bridge provided free of charge.