Where All Blacks Fell; Standing at a famous Rugbyman's grave.

Where All Blacks Fell; Standing at a famous Rugbyman's grave.

6 May 2015

I consider it a very good fortune from my life to have visited the gravesite of the first All Black captain Dave Gallaher a number of times. I first went in 1991 with some All Blacks of the second Rugby World Cup team. But that day one of the team behaved very badly by goose-stepping between the rows and rows of quietly standing headstones. When the player even stuck two fingers under his nose and raised one arm in a disgusting 'Hitler Salute' as he marched I could have killed the young bastard!

But on other trips, sometimes with film crews or with All Black tour supporter's groups, it has always been a place of real reflection and respect. This time it was the same. We were a small family group and no one else was in the Nine Elms cemetery at Poperinge in Belgium when we arrived. I took the opportunity to write on a small cross the names of the people in our group and I pushed our modest tribute into the turf right there.

Dave Gallaher died in the battle of Passchendaele on October 17 2017. He had lied about his age to go and fight for his adopted country of New Zealand (remember he had been born in Northern Ireland).

World War I was his second entry into serious war experiences. He had been in the Boer War in 1899-1902 as well. By 1903 he was an All Black and in 1905 he led the famous 'Original All Blacks' on their superb tour of UK and France. As they were the first New Zealand team to be called 'All Blacks' Gallaher was therefore the first true 'All Black captain.'

It was a measure of the respect Aucklanders and Kiwis in general had for his memory that only five years after his death and burial all Auckland senior club rugby teams began to play, as they still do today, for the Gallaher Shield.

It was wonderful to be back to Poperinge again.

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