Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
11 November 2014
As tour leaders of the Wiliiment Sport Travel groups in UK and France this winter (mostly following the 2014 All Blacks) Dave Loveridge and myself, with our wives, had been acutely aware that the inclusion of a 2-day breakaway trip from London to northern France and Belgium would be particularly poignant this year. 80 supporters were down to visit familiar battle sites for New Zealand war historians; places like; Messines, Passchendale and Ypres.
And so we did, standing bare-headed in the chill morning sun in Belgium on the 11th of the 11th of November, as the New Zealand national anthem rang out in front of the Messines Memorial to the fallen New Soldiers who lie in the impeccably kept Commonwealth war graves. Wreathes were laid by both Belgian and New Zealand officials, Binyon's ode was read and silence rang out across the frosty meadows of the nearby farmlands.
Later I was able to reflect that of the 13 All Blacks who died in World War I four were killed in a fortnight more or less right where we were standing this week. The Memorial to the fallen New Zealanders is at the top of the ridge where the great battles took place for the German-held village in June 1917.
As best I can here is a list of the All Blacks and where they fell in World War I. But I publish it with full respect to the memories of many other fine Kiwi sports people of all codes who died in those horror times. And also of the thousands of others who lie in graves, many unmarked, in what is now a serene and very peaceful part of the world.
There was real poignacy for Dave Loveridge who was with us this week. Not only is Dave an ex-All Black test captain, but he is very aware that the first ever 'All Black' team leader Dave Gallaher (of the famous 1905-06 team) is buried only kilometres away from Messines in Poperinge.
And the Reg Taylor story adds more too. He was one of the others who died where we were standing. in Messines in 1917 in fact. He, like Dave Loveridge, was an All Black farmer who originally hailed from Inglewood Taranaki.
RIP the dead ALL BLACKS from World War One; (in alphabetical order)
James Baird - died Messines, Belgium June 7 1917, France
Robert 'Bobby' Black - died France (Battle of The Somme) 21 September 1917
Henry 'Norky' Dewar - died Gallipoli August 9 1915
Ernest Dodd - died France 11 September 1918
Albert 'Doolan' Downing - died Gallipoli, 8 August 1915
Dave Gallaher - died Passchendale, Belgium 4 October 1917 (Buried Poperinge, not far from Messines)
Eric Harper - died Palestine 30 April 1918
James 'Jim' McNeece - died Belgium, June 21 1917 in Battle of Messines Ridge.
Alex 'Jimmy' Ridland - died France, 5 November 1918 (six days before the end of WWI)
George Sellars - died Messines, Belgium, 7 June 1917 (carrying a wounded colleague away from battle)
Reginald Taylor - died Messines, Belgium 20 June 1917
Hubert 'Jum' Turtill - died in France 9 April 1918 - (Was one of the first All Blacks to go to rugby league ('northern Union'). He joined the war with the British Armed Forces)
Frank Wilson - died France 19 September 1916 (Battle of the Somme)
Thus the ABs beat the Lions 18-17. Shocking really - but hey! We'll take it!
The only trophy for competition between two of the Five Nation teams, the Calcutta Cup is played for between England and Scotland.
The trophy originated in India where the Calcutta Football Club, started by some former pupils of Rugby School in England, found itself facing recession after only four years of existence. Rugby was not suited for the summer-like conditions of India.
The club had only modest resources, but as a closing-down gesture, rather than spend their remaining monies on a dinner or a ball, the members withdrew their remaining rupees from the bank and had them melted down. The silver was worked by the finest of Indian workmanship and shaped into a handsome trophy with three distinctive handles shaped like cobras and an elephant mounted on its lid.
The Calcutta Cup was presented to the Rugby Football Union in London in 1878 for competition between England and Scotland. Since then (with the exception of the war years) it has been a much-prized trophy in the annual Five (and now Six) Nations match.
There is an anomaly in the recording of annual results on the base of the cup. It was first played for in 1879 yet the results of England v Scotland matches from 1871 to 1878 are etched into the plinth of the trophy, years before the trophy came into being!
The original Calcutta Cup is now seldom seen in public. Whether the annual game is held at Twickenham or at Murrayfield the original is stored, for security reasons, in a safe vault. In its histroy the Cup has often been the subject of mistreatment by the players of the day. It is often a full-size replica of the cup which is kept for display at both grounds.
(With thanks to John Mcl. Davidson – Honorary Historian Scottish Rugby Union)
In which town or city was the first international rugby match played in Wales?