The Ruhleben Football Association: How Steve Bloomer’s Footballers Survived a First World War Prison Camp

Paul Brown

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From the publisher:

In 1914, at the outbreak of the First World War, several of Britain’s greatest footballers were interned in a brutal prison camp at Ruhleben, near Berlin. Among them was Steve Bloomer, the prolific England striker widely regarded as the best player of his generation. Surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards, living in squalor and on meagre rations, and with their families and freedom far out of reach, Bloomer and the others found salvation in what they knew best – football.

They bartered for balls, marked out pitches, and formed the Ruhleben Football Association, organising league and cup competitions involving hundreds of players and watched by thousands of spectators.

The conditions at Ruhleben – a former horse racing track – were appalling, with around 4,500 men packed into 11 filthy stables. Food was scarce, the guards were cruel, and the commandant was incompetent. Gradually, though, as the Great War for Civilisation raged around them, Bloomer and his fellow prisoners established some order within the confines of the prison camp.

This is the true story of how the prisoners used the game of football to survive, and how some of them used it to escape.

The book contains more than 30 photographs and illustrations.

Media coverage:

“The real Escape to Victory! Amazing story of Derby County and Middlesbrough superstar Steve Bloomer in WWI.”  Sports Journalists’ Association

“The research is outstanding, the storytelling well-paced and sensitive. This is a book to savour, a true original.” – Martin Cloake, The Football Pink

“A riveting tale that deserves the biggest possible audience.” – Peter Sharkey, Sports Book of the Month

“A fascinating tale.” – Drew Whitworth, When Saturday Comes

“Having read the book, I would certainly now like to see the movie. Paul Brown’s detailed account of this remarkable enterprise is, I venture to suggest, the real-life Escape to Victory, and worthy of consideration by a filmmaker.” – Steve Bloomer and the real Escape to Victory – Anton Rippon, Derby Telegraph

What was the Ruhleben Football Association?  Outside Write podcast

How Britain’s Best Soccer Players Survived a First World War Prison Camp: The extraordinary true story of the Ruhleben Football Association  Medium

The Ruhleben Football Association  Football and War Network

The Newcastle United player and the World War I real-life Escape To Victory – Dave Morton, Newcastle Evening Chronicle

The Norwich City defender who survived a First World War prison camp – Daniel Moxon, Eastern Daily Press

POW FA: The two Middlesbrough stars who organised a WW1 prison camp football league – Anthony Vickers, The Gazette, Teesside Live

South London Memories: The Real Escape to Victory  South London Press

Everton’s real life Escape to Victory: The story of how Blues survived football’s first shut down – Chris Beesley, Liverpool Echo


Goal Post
14 x 22 cm
300 pages
February 2020