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)
Protests of all kinds against Apartheid on this cheerless day at Eden Park. But the Springboks go home losing to the ABs by 25-22.
Founded in 1884, Abertillery is another of the traditionally strong scrummaging Welsh club teams which always provide rugged opposition. The club has rarely dominated the Welsh scene, but in combination with neighbouring Ebbw Vale has provided many a touring team with strenuous mid-week opposition.
Abertillery has a pretty home ground, The Park, situated at the foot of the mountains and it is there that Haydn Morgan discovered his love of rugby and a talent that was to make him the club’s most celebrated Welsh cap. Morgan, a ﬂanker, played 27 times for his country and toured twice with British Isles touring teams – to New Zealand and Australia in 1959 and to South Africa in 1962.
Other prominent Welsh internationals from Abertillery have been Alun Pask (26 internationals for Wales between 1961–67 and two tours with the British Isles – to South Africa in 1962 and to New Zealand in 1966); John Webb (20 internationals for Wales 1907–12 and with the British Isles in South Africa in 1910); and Allan Lewis (six caps for Wales 1966–67, and a New Zealand tour with the British Isles in 1966).
Abertillery plays in green and white hooped jerseys. It celebrated its centenary in 1984 with a match against a touring Japanese team. After a close encounter, Japan won 17–13.
Who said; 'Rugby League is a simple game played by simple people. Rugby Union is a complex game played by wankers?'