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I am a rugby historian based in Cardiff, UK.

Clem Lewis and the King’s Cup 1919

Clem Lewis is perhaps the greatest of all fly-halves today. The Germans tried to stop him from scoring in France by gassing him, but he remains as tricky and dangerous as ever”. The Tatler 3rd December 1919.

 

Clem Lewis (4)

 

Amongst Cardiff Rugby Museum’s extensive collection of historic memorabilia is an Army cap awarded to a former Cardiff RFC captain, Clem Lewis, for taking part in an extraordinary rugby tournament held in March and April 1919. The cap is a precious reminder of that tournament, and it belonged to an outstandingly gifted player, who enjoyed a long and eventful career.

John Morris Clement Lewis played for Cardiff from 1909 to 1924; for Cambridge University in 1913 and 1919; and for Wales eleven times between 1912 and 1923. A master of the unexpected, Clem had all the skills of a typical Welsh outside-half, and possessed “as many tricks as a box of monkeys”.

Unfortunately, his sporting career, like that of so many others, was severely disrupted by the First World War. Not only did it cost him five crucial years when he would have been at the height of his powers, but his wartime experiences affected his post-war game and may even have contributed to his relatively early death.

Early in the war, Clem was commissioned into the 16th (Service) Battalion The Welsh Regiment. Known as the Cardiff City Battalion, this had many rugby players in its ranks, including several internationals, two of whom, Johnny Williams and Dick Thomas, lost their lives on the Somme. Serving as a lieutenant, Clem was gassed and wounded on 31st July 1917 in the 38th (Welsh) Division’s successful attack at Pilckem Ridge, during the opening phase of the Third Battle of Ypres.

In April 1918, it was reported that, owing to his wounds, he would probably have to give up the game. However, by the end of the year, he had recovered sufficiently to play again. As he was still serving in the Army, in March 1919, he was selected to represent the “Mother Country” at outside-half in the King’s Cup tournament.

Sometimes referred to as “rugby’s first world cup”, this was actually the “Inter Services and Dominions Forces Rugby Championship” and was therefore restricted to teams of servicemen from Britain and the Dominions. The participants included Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa, while Britain was represented by the RAF and by the British Army, who played as the Mother Country. The Royal Navy were unable to enter a representative XV.

The six teams played in a league and, at its conclusion, New Zealand Services and the Mother Country tied on four wins and one defeat each. A play-off was therefore organised at Twickenham which the New Zealanders won by 9 points to 3. So Clem was awarded his Army cap, now in the Cardiff Rugby Museum, after playing in all six matches for the Mother Country. He had a fine tournament and was captain in the fixture with the Canadian Services.

Leaving the Army, he resumed his studies at Cambridge. In December 1919 – remarkably six years after appearing in his previous Varsity Match – he gave a match winning display for the Light Blues, which included kicking a vital penalty goal, in their 7-5 victory over Oxford.

He was selected three more times for Wales after the war, captaining his country in his last two internationals. He captained Cardiff in 1920-1 and played his 229th and last game for his club in 1924.

During his long career, Clem also played for Porthcawl, Bridgend, London Welsh, Handsworth, Leicester, Glamorgan, Crawshay’s and the Barbarians.

Only twenty years after his final appearance for Cardiff, Clem Lewis died, aged just fifty-four.

 

This is an amended version of an article written on behalf of the Cardiff Rugby Museum which appeared on the Sporting Heritage and the Armed Forces website.

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The Mallett Cup – The Oldest Rugby Cup in Wales. But Who Was Tom Mallett?

At the Arms Park on Saturday 11th May 2019, Rumney defeated Rhiwbina 20-17 in the final of this season’s Mallett Cup. A hundred and twenty five years is a long time in rugby and Cardiff can be especially proud of this cup competition, because – apart from the war years – it has been held every year since 1894 and is therefore the oldest still being contested in Wales. This year’s final was the 114th .

Despite recent changes and reorganisation in local rugby, the Mallett Cup is still going strong. Before this season, it was the premier competition of the Cardiff and District Rugby Union. But from 2018-19, the Mallett has become the senior cup for the newly constituted East District Rugby Union (WRU District B) into which Cardiff and District has merged. S A Brain & Co., another Cardiff institution, remain as sponsors, as they have been since 1976.

But who was it named after? Who was the “T H Mallett” inscribed on the trophy?

Thomas Henry Mallet was born in 1840 at Appledore in Devon. A carpenter by trade, he came to Cardiff in 1875 to work as a foreman in a railway wagon works. He was keen on sport throughout his life and took an active interest in athletics, cricket and baseball. But rugby was his greatest love.

When he later became the licensee of the New Market Tavern (today’s Old Market Tavern) in Trinity Street in 1891, it was said that he was the oldest non-playing member of Cardiff Rugby Club. Quick to recognise the pub’s potential, he invited players and supporters to frequent the “Home of Athletes”, which he advertised as only a minute’s walk from the Arms Park and five from Sophia Gardens. He even laid on hot and cold baths for players to use after a game.

So, as it was such a popular venue for rugby followers, it was the New Market Tavern which, in November 1892, hosted delegates from sixteen local clubs who met to form the “Cardiff and District Football Union”. Because of his support for the game in Cardiff, Tom was elected the District’s first President and later Patron.

Not long after this important meeting, he took over the licence of the Blue Bell (today’s Goat Major) and it was there, in November 1893, that he presented the District with the magnificent silver cup which still bears Tom Mallett’s name. It cost him £20 guineas (£21). This was a considerable sum, which would be worth well in excess of £2,000 in purchasing power today. But it was a smart move on Tom’s part because the District had already transferred their headquarters to the Blue Bell.

Fifteen clubs competed in the first Mallett Cup of 1893-4. Those still in existence are Cardiff, Barry, Canton, Llandaff, Pentyrch and Whitchurch. The other (long defunct) Mallett Cup pioneers were: Blackweir, Cardiff Hornets, Cardiff Northern, Cardiff Star, Cathays, Garth, Grangetown, Grange Stars and Splott Crusaders.

The competition was an immediate success with the public. For instance, when Cardiff Reserves met Llandaff in the first round, more than 2,000 spectators turned up to the Arms Park to watch. Even the Blackweir v Cardiff Hornets match drew a crowd of 500. Over a thousand supporters were at the Harlequins Ground for the final held on 14th April 1894 and played between Cardiff Reserves and Canton. It was a closely fought contest which Cardiff were a little fortunate to win by 8 points to nil. They were helped by the presence of a young Gwyn Nicholls in the centre. He of course captained Wales to victory over New Zealand in 1905, but winning his Mallett Cup medal that afternoon was the first of his many honours in the game. Canton were not without stars of the future either. Playing at fullback for them was Viv Huzzey who later won five caps on the wing for Wales before turning professional.

So Cardiff RFC became the first of the thirty-six clubs who have won the trophy over the hundred and twenty-five years of its existence. Besides Cardiff, the other thirty-five Mallett Cup winning clubs include: Caerau Ely, Canton, Cardiff Metropolitan University, CIAC, Dinas Powys, Fairwater, Glamorgan Wanderers, Llanishen, Llanrumney, Pentyrch, Rumney, St. Albans, St. Josephs, St. Peters, and Whitchurch; as well as twenty clubs which no longer exist: Canton Wanderers, Cardiff Barbarians, Cardiff Crusaders, Cardiff Dockers, Cardiff Gas, Cardiff Northern, Cardiff Romilly, Currans, Grange Baptists, Grange Stars, Grangetown, Guest Keen, Mackintosh, Melingriffith, Old Howardians, Old Sandonians, Roath, Spillers, St. Davids, and St. Pauls.

Cardiff did not defend the Mallett Cup the following season, probably because for the next two years, the competition was organised as a league rather than a knock-out. Cardiff never entered a team in the Mallett Cup again. Canton, however, after being runners-up three times, won the first of their five Mallet Cups in 1896-7.

Tom presented the cup to the winning team immediately after that first final. He attended many more cup finals and presentations over the years and he continued to support Cardiff RFC for the rest of his life. He died aged 85 in 1926 only a few days after watching the Blue and Blacks at the Arms Park.  By then, the Mallett Cup was thirty-two years old and had become a much loved Cardiff sporting institution. Tom Mallett therefore deserves our gratitude.

 

For much more on the origins of rugby in Cardiff and its growth and development in the nineteenth century see: This Rugby Spellbound People: The Birth of Rugby in Cardiff and Wales, published by St. David’s Press, Cardiff.

 

This is an amended and extended version of an article which appeared in the programme for the Mallett Cup final at Cardiff Arms Park on 11th May 2019.

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Fred Perrett (Neath and Wales): mortally wounded in the last week of the First World War.

Foreword

It is widely asserted that Fred Perrett was deliberately omitted from lists of international players who died in the Great War, simply because he had turned professional.

For example, a quick online search will locate the same recycled claim using the rather curious terminology that he “is often left out of lists of the Welsh international war dead due to his supposed defection to the professional game.”

This is a serious accusation for which no real evidence is presented. The story may well have its origin in Fred Perrett’s omission from Edward Sewell’s “Rugby Football Internationals’ Roll of Honour”, which was published in the immediate aftermath of the war in 1919, only a few months after Fred’s death. Eighty-nine players are memorialised in the book but Fred Perrett is not one of them. At least 135 international rugby players died, so Sewell’s “Roll of Honour” was never a definitive list. Fred Perrett was not even the only Welshman overlooked by Sewell, since David Watts of Maesteg, is not amongst the eighty-nine either and he never became a professional. In any case, Sewell clearly had no prejudice in this matter, because he included the English international William Nanson, who did later turn professional.

For a very long time, though, Sewell’s book was the only comprehensive source of its kind available to later writers and researchers. The Official History of the Welsh Rugby Union was published in 1981, long before access to the internet made research easy and when, in any case, there was little interest in, and publication of records about, the First World War. So the authors of the Official History understandably relied on Sewell; and this is why the names Fred Perrett and, crucially, David Watts are not included alongside those of the other eleven Welsh internationals who died.

It is simply unthinkable that the Official History deliberately omitted Fred Perrett due, as some would have it, to his “supposed defection”. He is, of course, commemorated on the WRU Memorial Plaque in the Millennium Stadium.

 

13 Fred Leonard Perrett (3)

By the end of October 1918, Fred Perrett had been on active service on the Western Front for three years and, having already been twice wounded, he may well have felt that he had done his bit.  For three months now, the German army had been on the retreat and rumours of a ceasefire were spreading.  Tragically, however, only a week before the Armistice was signed, Fred was to be caught up in the last major British offensive of the war, the Battle of the Sambre.

Fred was born in 1891 in Briton Ferry, a small industrial town on the River Neath in south Wales.  His father was a ship’s pilot and when Fred grew up he took a job as a steelworker.  When he was nineteen, he joined Briton Ferry RFC, his first of five clubs in as many years. Before the end of the season he was invited to play for Aberavon.  He was a well-built and vigorous player who, despite his youth, was often described as the best forward on the field.

At the beginning of 1912-13, he then switched clubs again.  At Neath RFC, his rapid trajectory to the top of the game continued.  Only a few weeks after arriving at the Gnoll, he was selected to play for Glamorgan County; then for the Whites v the Stripes in the Welsh trial; and finally for Wales.  He was still only twenty-one.

His first appearance for Wales took place in December 1912 against the touring Springboks, a game which ended in an agonisingly close 3-0 defeat. Also making their debuts for Wales that day in Cardiff were Billy Geen and Horace Wyndham Thomas, who were also destined to become victims of the war.  Fred retained his place in the Welsh pack for the rest of the season, taking part in the victories over Scotland, France and Ireland, although he was on the losing side against England who went on to win their first Grand Slam.

It had been an extra-ordinary season for Fred.  Having made such an impact as a resolute tackler and a hard grafter in the scrums, it was widely expected that he would continue to be a regular choice for Wales.  However, personal circumstances now intervened to interrupt his blossoming Welsh career.  Fred had previously rejected offers to become a professional from several Northern Union clubs, including Leeds.  However, when in May 1913 he found himself out of work, he was unable to resist the new and generous terms offered by Leeds.  It was claimed in the Welsh press that his signing-on fee was the largest ever paid to a forward up to that time.

It seems that initially he took a little time to adjust to the new game at Leeds.  So towards the end of the 1913-14 season, he was transferred to Hull FC, where he was therefore under contract when war broke out in August 1914.  Described as tall and heavily built and a teetotaller and non-smoker, Fred made a good impression at Hull.  His form there was much improved and he was praised for his all-round skills in scrummaging, loose play and vigorous tacking. In all, he played thirty-three times for Hull FC. One of his new team-mates there was Jack Harrison, who was killed in action in 1917 and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.  In June 1915, the Northern Union announced that all normal competitions would henceforth cease for the duration of the war and that clubs should stop the payment of wages to players.  Fred was therefore now free to join up.  Leaving his supplementary job as a plater’s helper at a Hull shipyard, he enlisted in the Welsh Guards in July 1915.

Fred fought with the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards in the Ypres Salient and on the Somme in 1916, often experiencing bitter hand-to-hand fighting, particularly at Ginchy.  Impressed with his conduct, his commanding officer recommended him for officer training.  When Fred made his formal application for a commission, he gave his occupation as “professional football”. Commissioned as a second lieutenant, Fred joined the 17th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 38th (Welsh) Division, at Armentières in October 1917.

Despite his new responsibilities, there were still occasional opportunities for rugby at the front.  The highlight of these games for Fred though would surely have been when he took part in the Welsh Division’s well deserved 13 points to 9 victory over the New Zealand Division.

Sadly, however, he was wounded in late April 1918 and again in early October.  He had been back at the front only a matter of days when the Welsh Division received orders for the assault on the Forêt de Mormal, near the River Sambre. This formidable obstacle was the largest wood in this part of France.  The attack took place on the 4th November, the same day that the war poet Wilfred Owen was killed, at the nearby village of Ors.

The Welsh Division successfully cleared the enemy out of the wood.  Their initial advance involved the 17th Royal Welsh Fusiliers who took all their objectives.  However, in doing so, they suffered over fifty casualties and Fred Perrett was severely wounded as he led his men under heavy German machine-gun fire.  He was evacuated to a casualty clearing station and then taken to a Red Cross Hospital at Boulogne.  Tragically, however, his condition deteriorated and he succumbed to a secondary haemorrhage just three weeks after the Armistice on the 1st December 1918. He left a widow and two sons.

Fred Perrett is buried in the Terlincthun British Cemetery at Wimille, near Boulogne.

He was the thirteenth and last Welsh rugby international to die on active service overseas.

 

For a longer account of Fred Perrett and of the other twelve who lost their lives during the war, see:  ‘Call Them to Remembrance’: The Welsh rugby internationals who died in the Great War. This is available through the publishers St. David’s Press  http://welsh-academic-press.shopfactory.com/contents/en-uk/p27.html and from Amazon.

 

This is an amended and extended version of an article which originally appeared on 1st December 2018 on the World Rugby Museum: From the Vaults blog on the centenary of Fred Perrett’s death.

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Whitchurch War Memorial, Cardiff

In Proud & Honoured Memory

Ceri Stennett and Gwyn Prescott

A new book containing details of 125 men named on the Whitchurch Memorial, as well as 94 others from the locality who died in the First World War but who are not commemorated on the Memorial.

There are several local rugby players mentioned in the book, including John Lewis Williams who played thirteen times for Wales and who died of wounds in July 1916.

For further details please contact: ceristennett@gmail.com

In Proud and Honoured Memory FRONT RGB

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Dai Westacott (1882-1917): the Grangetown Docker who Played for Wales

 

40 DWest (2)

 

“Dai” Westacott had just one cap at forward for Wales but might have expected more, since he played for Cardiff for seven seasons during one of the club’s most successful periods. However, he had the misfortune to be selected for what turned out to be one of Welsh rugby’s most disappointing international performances in the years leading up to the First World War.

In 1905-6, Wales were in the middle of their First Golden Era, a twelve year period of astonishing success, which included six Triple Crowns. In March 1906, they only had to beat Ireland in Belfast to achieve what no other international side had yet managed:  a consecutive Triple Crown. And, having defeated New Zealand the previous December, they would also become the first side to record four wins in a season.

However, it was not to be. The whole team suffered from acute sea sickness during an atrocious crossing of the Irish Sea. They played badly and were well beaten by the Irish by 11 points to 6. There was, of course, great disappointment about the result in Wales and, despite the circumstances, someone had to be blamed. Even though the whole pack had played badly, Dai and his fellow debutant Jack Powell were never picked by Wales again.

Born in 1882 in Grangetown, near Cardiff docks where he worked as a labourer, Dai was very much a local man and was well known to many of the regular supporters at the Arms Park. He was introduced to rugby at the Grange elementary school and developed his game at the grassroots level in the sometimes brutal league and cup competitions organised by the Cardiff and District Rugby Union. By 1902-3, he was beginning to come to prominence while playing for Grange Stars, who that year won the Cardiff and District Union’s senior competition, the Mallett Cup – still competed for today. Then, as now, the final was held at the Arms Park and, following Dai’s impressive performance, he was invited to join the Cardiff club for the 1903-4 season. Tough and renowned for his immense strength (no need for weight training for dockers like Dai), he was also a good handler of the ball and surprisingly fast and elusive for a forward. He quickly established himself as a First XV player and in only his second season with the club, he played in every match.

Before long he was being referred to as a future international. In December 1905, Dai was playing well enough to be included in the Glamorgan pack which outplayed their New Zealand opponents though, a trifle unfortunately, the home side lost 9-0. Dai should have appeared against the All Blacks again, this time for Cardiff, but an unlucky injury forced him to withdraw. The press worried that his absence would prove costly and it may well have done. Cardiff lost narrowly by 10 points to 8. Agonisingly, a missed conversion resulted in the club’s only defeat in 1905-6.

To commemorate an “Invincible Inter-Club Season”, twenty-one of the leading Cardiff players in 1905-6 were presented with inscribed gold pocket watches. In 1972, Dai’s watch was donated to Cardiff RFC by his grandson and can now be seen both at the Cardiff Rugby Museum and online at https://cardiffrugbymuseum.org/articles/dai-westacott%E2%80%99s-gold-watchWestacott Watch 1

After winning his Welsh cap, Dai continued to be a prominent cornerstone in the Cardiff pack throughout most of the next four seasons, though he did have a very brief spell with Penarth RFC. This arose after Dai spent a period in Cardiff Reserves following his being charged with assaulting two policemen who tried to break up a fight with a neighbour. This incident may well have contributed to his being ignored by the Welsh selectors thereafter, despite his playing consistently well at the highest level.

His most memorable performance for Cardiff during this period was in their crushing 24-8 victory over the touring Australians in December 1908. Demonstrating his all-round footballing skills, late in the game, he broke through the Wallabies’ defence, headed for the line but then gave a perfectly timed pass to the wing JL Williams, who sprinted in to score a spectacular fifth try for Cardiff. Johnny Williams was another Welsh international who would tragically lose his life in the war.

Although he was a family man with four children, Dai volunteered in the first months of the war, as did many other Cardiff rugby footballers, at least twenty-five of whom did not return. Dai suffered much hardship during the conflict. By February 1915, he was already in France with the 1st Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment. Serving alongside him was the Gloucester RFC and England forward Harry Berry. They were old adversaries and had played against each other in 1909-10, Dai’s last season with Cardiff. Sadly, Harry was killed at Aubers Ridge shortly afterwards. Dai too became a casualty when he was badly wounded on the Somme in 1916, but he later returned to active service  during the bitter fighting in the Third Battle of  Ypres, this time with the 2/6th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment. On 28th August 1917, his battalion was in the line north-east of Ypres near Wieltje.  It was a relatively quiet day but nobody was completely safe on the Western Front. Artillery was always a great danger and it was a random shell which caught Dai in a support trench. He was killed instantly.

During the Passchendaele Ceremony, which is held in November each year to commemorate the end of Third Ypres, the lives of three of the fallen combatants are remembered.  In the 2015 Ceremony, ninety-eight years after his death, it was the Cardiff docker Dai Westacott, who was honoured as the representative of all of the men of the British Army who died in that dreadful battle.

Dai has also recently been remembered by the Welsh writer David Subacchi. His poem “Dai Westacott”, published on the Amsterdam Quarterly website, can be viewed here: http://www.amsterdamquarterly.org/aq_issues/aq15-war-peace/david-subacchi-dai-westacott/

Private Westacott’s burial place was subsequently lost, so today he is commemorated, not far from where he died, on the Tyne Cot Memorial near Zonnebeke.  His is one of 35,000 names on the memorial, which commemorates those who died in the Ypres Salient after 16th August 1917 and who have no known grave.

 

This is an amended and updated version of an article which originally appeared on 28th August 1917 on the World Rugby Museum: From the Vaults blog on the centenary of David Westacott’s death in the Ypres Salient.

There is a much longer account of his life and rugby career in “Call Them to Remembrance”. 

 

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Bryn Lewis (1891-1917), the Swansea, Cambridge University, Barbarians and Wales Wing who Died near Ypres

Brinley Richard Lewis was a speedy wing three-quarter of great skill who, for a variety of reasons, was never able to demonstrate his talents to the full at international level.  He was highly regarded by English critics, some of whom were bewildered that Wales didn’t make more use of him. “He had splendid hands, true football pace, pluck, neat kicking ability … and he knew the game.  He was the best wing of his day [yet] could boast only a couple of international caps”, wrote one.

Injuries and the coming of war restricted his international appearances and, because he played much of his best rugby for Cambridge University and occasionally London Welsh, many of his outstanding performances took place out of the sight of Welsh selectors.

Born in the Swansea Valley at Pontardawe in 1891, “Bryn” was not unknown, however, in Wales.  Even at fourteen, he was already making headlines.  He “played brilliantly” with the ball in hand when Wales defeated the English Schools at Leicester in 1905.

After captaining Swansea Grammar School, Bryn played for Pontardawe before going up to Trinity Hall Cambridge in 1909.  There he won the first of his three Blues on the wing in December 1909.  Unfortunately, Oxford were much stronger during this period and Bryn was on the losing side on each occasion.  Although in 1910, his inspirational play almost gave Cambridge an unexpected victory.  Just after half time, Bryn scored his second try to put his side into an 18-13 lead.  However, he was then controversially tackled and badly injured while in touch.  He took no further part in the game.  Most observers agreed that the loss of Bryn, who was playing splendidly, was the turning point of the match.  Reduced to fourteen, Cambridge struggled to defend against the Oxford attack and the peerless Ronnie Poulton struck twice, his second try sealing a 23-18 last minute victory.

Even though Oxford comfortably won the 1911 Varsity match by 19 points, Bryn was singled out for praise by the press for his “brilliant form”.  He “alone grasped what was wanted in attack”.  He made some good runs, cross kicked cleverly but “was handicapped by the poor play of his fellow backs”.  In fact, Bryn had been demonstrating his blistering pace for Cambridge all season and he was now seriously being talked about as a future international.  Had he been playing regularly for Swansea, one Welsh journalist believed, he would certainly have been capped earlier; but he was forced to wait until the final international of 1911-12 before being given his chance against Ireland in Belfast.

However, Wales selected a very inexperienced side which played poorly, particularly in the backs, who squandered many scoring opportunities.  Bryn had a disappointing game.  He seemed to be over anxious and he failed to produce anything like his Cambridge form.  The 12-5 defeat was the first time in thirteen years that Wales lost two Championship matches in a season: selectors, press and Welsh public were not too pleased.

Bryn returned to Cambridge for a fourth year, but a late injury cost him a fourth Blue in 1912, when ironically Cambridge won for the first time in seven years.  Previously, Bryn had turned out for Swansea during his vacations, but for the rest of 1912-13, he was now able to play regularly in Wales for the All Whites.  This was a good time to be a member of the Swansea team, which went on to win the Welsh Club Championship that season.  Such was the quality of his performances for the club that the selectors could not continue to overlook him and he was again picked for the final game of the season against Ireland.  This time there was to be a complete turnaround in his fortunes.  Playing with much greater self-assurance, he had a magnificent game.  In a tense match, Wales just managed to hang on to win by 16-13.  Bryn had a big hand in the victory, running with great confidence, defending courageously and contributing two of the three Welsh tries, one from half-way. He was the best three-quarter on the field.

Further honours followed over Easter 1913 when Bryn became the first Swansea player to represent the Barbarians.  However, persistent injuries affected his play for much of the crucial part of 1913-14 and these ruled him out of consideration for further caps that season.  He did eventually recover his old form but events unfolding in Europe would deny Bryn any chance of playing for Wales again.

He enlisted early in the war and, while still in training, he was selected for the Welsh XV which faced the Barbarians at Cardiff in April 1915.  Wales fielded a strong side, but one lacking in match fitness.  The Barbarians, captained by Edgar Mobbs, won comfortably by 26-10, but Bryn was one of the few Welsh players to come out of the game with his reputation intact.  A few weeks later, he was commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery.

He served on the Western Front with the 38th (Welsh) Division throughout 1916 and survived the Battle of Mametz Wood, which took the lives of fellow Welsh internationals Dick Thomas and Johnny Williams.  By August 1916, Bryn had been promoted to major and was commanding a six-gun battery.  In April 1917, the Welsh Division were holding part of the line in the Ypres Salient.  On the morning of the 2thApril, Bryn was taking his breakfast behind the gun lines when he was killed by a high velocity shell.

His brigade commander later wrote: “he was such a splendid fellow … he was beloved by officers and men alike … he had great strength of character and was bound always to do well.”

Brinley Richard Lewis is buried in Ferme-Olivier Cemetery, near Boesinghe, Belgium.

This is an amended version of an article which originally appeared on 2nd April 1917 on the World Rugby Museum: From the Vaults blog on the centenary of Brinley Richard Lewis’s death in the Ypres Salient.

There is a much longer account of his life and rugby career in “Call Them to Remembrance”. 

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Phil Waller: the Welsh Rugby International and the Two Minutes Silence

This article was posted on the World Rugby Museum blog on 14 December 2017 to mark the centenary of Philip Dudley Waller’s death on the Western Front. Shortly afterwards, it was “borrowed” online without acknowledgement. So it is posted again here under my by-line with some minor amendments.

The practice of observing two minutes silence on Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday was initiated following a suggestion made to the King by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick after the tragic death on the Western Front of his son, Major Percy Fitzpatrick and of his friend and former Welsh rugby international, Lieutenant Philip Dudley Waller.  On 14 December 1917, the two officers were travelling by car on the Cambrai to Bapaume road to a nearby railhead, when they were both killed by shellfire.  Indirectly, therefore, this tragic event has had a profound influence upon national acts of remembrance up to the present day.

Although Phil Waller played rugby for Wales, he was English by birth, having been born in Bath in 1889.  However, his family moved to Llanelli when he was young and so it was at Llanelli Intermediate School that he first came to prominence at rugby.  He did not play for the town club though, because at seventeen he moved to Newport to take up an engineering apprenticeship at the docks.  There, he joined Newport’s Third XV as a forward in 1906-7, but the precocious youngster made his First XV debut before the end of that season.  He was still only eighteen.  For the next three years, he remained a regular member of the Newport pack.  Though not a particularly strong scrummager, he made up for this with his fine line-out work and his mobility and all-round play in the loose.  He was described by one contemporary as “a very dashing forward … with a great capacity for covering work”.

With his reputation at Newport growing, in November 1908, he was selected for Somerset against the touring Australians.  Though defeated 8-0, the county put up a good fight.  Their forwards were prominent in the loose and Phil was amongst the best of them.  The referee, Tom Schofield, was a WRU official and so was well placed to recommend that Phil should be included in the Wales team to meet the Australians at Cardiff two weeks later.  It was a decision Schofield didn’t regret.

Despite being only nineteen, Phil was one of the successes of the match, a tight battle which Wales won by 9 points to 6.  While the home pack struggled in the scrums, they had a clear advantage in open play.  Phil was a “glutton for work” according to one reporter, and the Australian manager singled him out for special praise.

Not surprisingly, he kept his place for the rest of the season, and a very successful season it was for Wales.  An 8-0 victory over England at Cardiff was followed by a much harder match at Edinburgh, which Wales won 5-3. France were beaten 47-5, still Wales’ greatest margin of victory in the fixture.  Then, in defeating Ireland 18-5 at Swansea, Wales became the first country to win a successive Triple Crown/Grand Slam.  Although throughout the championship the Welsh forwards did not dominate in the set scrummage, they more than compensated for this with their vigorous loose play in which Phil was conspicuous.   In the Triple Crown decider against Ireland, his contribution in two of Wales’ three tries proved crucial to the victory.

He was retained for the opening game of 1910-11, when Wales thrashed France 49-14 at Swansea.  However, even though Phil had now played six times for Wales and had never been on the losing side, this turned out to be his last Welsh cap, as he was replaced by the Cardiff docker, Joe Pugsley, who was a stronger scrummager.

This wasn’t the end of Phil’s international career, though. In the summer of 1910, he was one of a record seven Newport players who were selected for the “Lions” tour to South Africa.  Over half the team were uncapped, so the party was not a particularly strong one, especially behind the scrum.  It was a bruising tour and several men had to be drafted in to replace the injured.  However, Phil seems to have revelled in the conditions and he completed the tour with a quite exceptional record.  Demonstrating his fitness, endurance and resilience, he played in all but one of the twenty-four fixtures, including the three Test matches.  In the first, Britain were just edged out 14-10 but the tourists levelled the series by winning the second by 8 points to 3, a victory in which Phil was prominent.  Unfortunately, in the deciding Test, Britain were reduced to fourteen men after ten minutes, when the Newport fullback Stanley Williams was carried off injured.  The Springboks went on to win 21-5.

Giving up any possibility of further Welsh caps, Phil decided to stay on in South Africa after the tour, after being offered an engineering job in Johannesburg.  So for the next three seasons he played for the local Wanderers club.  This came to an end, however, with the coming of war.

Phil enlisted as a gunner in the 71st (South African) Siege Battery which was raised in Transvaal.  He saw action on the Somme in 1916 and in the major battles of the following year.  In May 1917, he was commissioned in the field and was later promoted to lieutenant but he did not survive very long after this.  He is often wrongly said to have died at Arras, but a little over a week after taking part in the Battle of Cambrai, Lieutenant Waller was going home on leave. He and Major Fitzpatrick had only just left their battery at Beaumetz-lès-Cambrai when the shell struck.

80 PDW

When I visited the area a couple of years ago, I found that the two men, who had died so tragically, had been buried alongside each other in the intimate and beautiful Red Cross Corner Cemetery at Beugny. near Bapaume.

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