Sport Remembers The Battle of the Somme 1916-2016

Twiggy Short - footballer, steelworker, VC winner

Friends called him Twiggy – but there was nothing fragile about William Short. The popular footballer and steelworker from Middlesbrough went to war with The Yorkshire Regiment and won a Victoria Cross at the Somme. But his bravery cost him his life.

Short, nicknamed Twiggy because he liked to go around with a twig in his mouth, was a steelworker, born in Eston, Middlesbrough, in 1885. He suspended his twig habit for football, playing for local sides Grangetown Albion, Saltburn and Lazenby United.

One of nine children, Short started work at 16, driving a crane at Bolckow, Vaughan & Co, a giant ironworks that had driven Middlesbrough’s dramatic growth in the 19th century. In 1907, the works were said to be the biggest producer of pig iron in the world.

Wounded but kept on fighting

Short showed some steel of his own in 1914, volunteering four days after war broke out. He travelled to France as a private with 8th Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, fighting in the first month of the Somme. As a bomber in an attack at Munster Alley trench near Pozières on 6 August 1916, he was hit twice, first in the foot and then in the leg which was shattered by a shell. He was urged to go back for treatment but stayed to help the attack, first throwing more bombs, then when he could no longer stand, preparing the weapons for his comrades.

Helmet first exhibit at IWM

Short, 33, died in the trench. His VC citation reads: “He was foremost in the attack, bombing the enemy with great gallantry. For the last 11 months he had always volunteered for dangerous enterprises and had always set a magnificent example of bravery and devotion to duty.” His VC was presented to his father James by King George at Buckingham Palace and he is buried at Contalmaison Chateau Military Cemetery.

Short’s helmet was one of the first exhibits in the Imperial War Museum when it opened in 1917 and is still kept by the museum today. His VC was sold to his regiment by his brother in 1979. It is on display at the Green Howards Museum in Richmond, North Yorks, and his name is recorded on the Grangetown war memorial and the obelisk in Eston Cemetery, Middlesbrough.

Remembering the Somme

This year marks the 100­-year anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. The Royal British Legion is calling on communities across the UK to take the time out from their daily lives to honour those who fell. We have created a Somme 100 toolkit which contains everything you need to organise a Remembrance event in your community.

Make your own commemoration to one of the casualties of the First World War by simply placing a virtual poppy in their memory on our Every Man Remembered website.

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