Tag Archives: World War One

Cardiff Rugby Football Club: Players Who Died in the First World War

 

A new World Rugby Memorial dedicated to all players who died in the First World War was unveiled in Craonnelle, Aisne, France in September 2017.  The Memorial was created  and donated by the former French rugby international Jean-Pierre Rives, who is now an acclaimed sculptor. In association with this, a Book of Remembrance is being compiled and it will be available on-line shortly. I have been helping the memorial organiser John Dennison with some of the names, including those of men from Cardiff RFC and other clubs from the Cardiff area.

World Rugby Museum

Unfortunately, there are no players’ names recorded on the Cardiff RFC war memorial; and any club records which may have identified them were probably lost in the flooding of the Arms Park in 1960. During the course of my research, I have so far identified twenty-five Cardiff RFC First XV and Reserve XV players, though there must be many others. However, I have submitted details of these men for inclusion in the Book of Remembrance and it will be possible to add further names as they become available.

Two names have been added to this Roll of Honour since it was first posted.

The details of First XV appearances shown here have been taken from D E Davies’ club history.

                                           Cardiff RFC Roll of Honour

Geoffrey Nepean Biggs. (1 game 1906/7).

Also Bath, United Services, Royal Navy and Somerset. Born Cardiff 12 June 1885. Lieutenant Commander HM Submarine E30 Royal Navy. Killed in action 22 November 1916.  Commemorated Portsmouth Naval Memorial.

Alan Thompson Watt Boswell. (Reserves).

Also University College Cardiff. Born Dover 3 May 1890. Played amateur soccer and hockey for Wales. Second Lieutenant 108 Squadron Royal Air Force. Killed in action 2 October 1918. Commemorated Arras Flying Services Memorial, France.

James Arthur Balfour Carson (Jimmy). (27 games 1911/12).

Also Blackheath , London Irish and Ulster.  Born Larne, Ulster 16 October 1891. Captain Royal Army Medical Corps attached Royal Air Force as a dental surgeon. Died 9 August 1918. Buried Cairo War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt. .

Charles Bernard Davies. (9 games 1913/14).

Also Llandovery College, Swansea, Caerphilly and Glamorgan.  Born Cardiff 5 June 1894. Lieutenant 3rd Bn. Royal Dublin Fusiliers. Killed in action 9 June 1916. Buried Queens Cemetery, Bucquoy, France.

John Robert Collard Dunn. (Reserves).

Also Old Monktonians (later renamed Glamorgan Wanderers) and London Welsh. Born 1885. Second Lieutenant 5th Bn. Welsh Regiment. Killed in action 20 August 1915. Commemorated Helles Memorial, Gallipoli.

William Setten Goff (Bill). (34 games 1912/13 – 1913/14).

Also Exeter, Swansea and Devon. Born Exeter 1881. Lieutenant 7th Bn. Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Military Cross. Killed in action 22 April 1918. Buried Bouzincourt Communal Cemetery Extension, France.

George Thomas Harben. (Reserves).

Also Court Road School (Grangetown) and Welsh Schoolboys. Born Grangetown 1895. Private 8th Bn. South Staffordshire Regiment. Killed in action 27 August 1915.  Buried Voormezele Enclosure No. 3 Cemetery, near Ypres, Belgium.

Fred Hine. (44 games 1898/9 – 1902/3).

Also Cardiff Romilly. Born Stratford-on-Avon c1878. Corporal 1st Aircraft Depot Royal Air Force. Died of pneumonia 9 February 1919.  Buried Longuenesse (St. Omer) Souvenir Cemetery, France.

Owen Jenkins. (Reserves).

Also University College Cardiff, Gowerton, Swansea and Abertillery. Born Llangennech 1886. Lance Corporal 15th Company, Machine Gun Corps. Killed in action Somme 5 September 1916. Buried Delville Wood Cemetery, France.

Gwilym Jones. (5 games 1908/9).

Also London Welsh, Neath and Pontypridd. Lieutenant 8th Bn. Lincoln Regiment. Killed in action 10 September 1918. Buried Hermies Hill British Cemetery, France

Nicholas Kehoe (Nick). (Reserves).

Also Pontypridd.  Born New Ross, Wexford. Private 1st Bn. Grenadier Guards. Killed in action 26 October 1914. Buried Harlebeke New British Cemetery, Belgium.

Augustus Lewis (Gus). (32 games 1910/11 – 1913/14).

Also Grangetown. Born Pembrokeshire 1889. Lance Corporal 7th Bn. Royal West Kent Regiment. Died of wounds received on the Somme 22 July 1916. Buried Cathays Cemetery, Cardiff.

Harold Alfred Llewellyn. (Reserves).

Also Cheltenham College, Clifton and Cardiff Roxburgh. Born 22 May 1891. Lieutenant 8th Bn. South Wales Borderers. Died accidentally 14 June 1916. Buried Sarigol Military Cemetery, Salonika, Greece.

William McIntyre (Bill). (81 games 1897/8 – 1903/4).

Also Mackintosh. Private 2nd Bn. Welsh Regiment. Born Cardiff. Killed in action Somme 18 July 1916. Commemorated Thiepval Memorial, France.

Frederick William Ovenden. (1 game 1901/2).

Also Old Monktonians (later renamed Glamorgan Wanderers). Born Hythe, Kent 28 February 1881. Private 72nd Bn. Canadian Infantry. Killed in action 3 February 1917.  Buried Villers Station Cemetery, France.

William Jenkin Richards. (Reserves).

Also Whitchurch and Old Monktonians (later renamed Glamorgan Wanderers). Born Treherbert 13 December 1883. Captain 16th Bn. Welsh Regiment. Killed in action Third Battle of Ypres 27 August 1917. Commemorated Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium.

George Robson (1 game 1909/10*).

Also Fettes College, Westoe and Durham County. Born c 1882; from South Shields. Lieutenant 4th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders. Killed in action Third Battle of Ypres 20 September 1917. Commemorated Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium.          (Added 11.06.2018)

*Not listed in D E Davies’ club history but press reports confirm he played at least one First XV match v Pontypool 2 October 1909.

Richard Thomas (Dick). (1 game 1904/5).

Also Penygraig, Mountain Ash, Bridgend, Glamorgan Police, Glamorgan and Wales. Born Ferndale 14 October 1880. Company Sergeant Major 16th Bn. Welsh Regiment. Killed in action Mametz Wood 7 July 1916. Commemorated Thiepval Memorial, France.

Alfred Titt. (1 game 1913/14).

Also Cardiff Reserves  cap 1913-14. Born Cardiff. Lance Corporal 16th Bn. Welsh Regiment. Killed in action Mametz Wood 7 July 1916. Commemorated Thiepval Memorial, France.

David Westacott (Dai). (120 games 1903/4 to 1909/10).

Also Grange Stars, Penarth, Glamorgan and Wales. Born Grangetown 10 October 1882. Private 2/6th Bn. Gloucestershire Regiment. Killed in action Third Battle of Ypres 28 August 1917. Commemorated Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium.

George Stanley Williams (Stanley). (10 games 1912/13 – 1913/14).

Also Bridgend.  Born 1890. Lieutenant 14th Bn. Welsh Regiment. Killed in action 20 October 1918. Buried Montay-Neuvilly Road Cemetery, France.

John Lewis Williams (Johnny). (199 games 1903/4 -1910-11).

Also Whitchurch, Newport, London Welsh, Glamorgan, Wales and Great Britain (Anglo-Welsh). Born Whitchurch 3 January 1882. Inductee World Rugby Hall of Fame. Captain 16th Bn. Welsh Regiment. Died at Corbie of wounds received at Mametz Wood 12 July 1916. Buried Corbie Communal Cemetery Extension, France.

Thomas Williams (Tom). (5 games 1895-6).

Also Llwynypia, West Wales (Welsh Trial). Joined the Northern Union and played for Salford, SwintonMid-Rhondda and Lancashire. Born Penrhiwfer, Rhondda c1876. Private Duke of Lancaster’s Own Yeomanry. Died of enteric fever 17 October 1915. Buried Alexandria (Chatby) Military and War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt.     (Added 02.05.2018). 

Walter Kent Williams. (20 games 1881/2 – 1884/5).

Also Cardiff Collegiate Proprietary School and London Welsh.  Born St. David’s, Pembrokeshire 24 October 1863. Engineer-Captain HMS Bulwark Royal Navy. Killed 26 November 1914.  Commemorated Portsmouth Naval Memorial.

Walter Young. (2 games 1906/7).

Sergeant 2nd Bn. Gloucestershire Regiment. Born in Penarth. Killed in action 4 October 1916. Buried Struma Military Cemetery, Salonika, Greece.

 

Gwyn Prescott 11 November 2017

 

 

 

 

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Horace Wyndham Thomas (1890-1916): The Cambridge Choral Scholar who Played for Wales.

Horace Wyndham Thomas was that very rare combination: not only a gifted Cambridge choral scholar, but also a brilliant Welsh international rugby player. Press reports of his games for Blackheath or Cambridge University – he played almost all his senior rugby in England – demonstrated that Wyndham was one of the most exciting and intuitive attacking outside-halves of his time. Sadly, however, because of work commitments and then the outbreak of war, he was unable to fulfil his outstanding potential.

Wyndham was born in 1890 in Pentyrch near Cardiff. He began playing rugby at Bridgend County School, where he was described by the headmaster as “the best character we ever had here”. In 1906, he won a scholarship to Monmouth School, where he represented the school not just at rugby but also at cricket, hockey, gymnastics and athletics.

Possessed with an exceptionally fine singing voice, he won a prestigious choral scholarship to King’s College Cambridge in 1909. It is unlikely that any Cambridge undergraduate enjoyed a fuller life, for this included services in King’s Chapel with the college choir; performances with university music and drama societies; cricket for King’s and the university second XI; and of course, rugby for King’s and for the Light Blues. College reports confirm that he was very popular with his tutors and fellow students, and universally admired for his modesty.

During his three years at Cambridge, Wyndham’s main rugby club outside the university was Blackheath, although he also played a couple of times for London Welsh. Selected to play for Cambridge against Oxford in December 1911, he was forced to drop out at the last minute due to injury. However, despite this disappointing setback, further honours came in the Christmas vacation when he took part in the Barbarians tour matches at Newport and Leicester. Over the holiday, he also played twice for Swansea, partnering Dicky Owen, one of the greatest scrum-halves ever to represent Wales, although the experiment was not repeated.

It is clear from the press reports for the following season that Wyndham was now playing with great assurance and “constantly bewildering” brilliance. He finally won his Blue in December 1912, when he helped Cambridge defeat Oxford for the first time in seven years. The Welsh selectors were so impressed with Wyndham’s performance that he was picked to play for Wales against South Africa only four days later. It is a common perception that, in doing so, the WRU contravened their own regulation that players who opted for clubs like Blackheath rather than London Welsh would not be selected. However, all that the WRU had decided some years earlier was that they would give preference to London Welsh players, a rather different matter.

Wyndham’s international rugby career was short but dramatic. Five minutes before the end of his debut match against South Africa, with the Springboks leading by one penalty to nil, Wyndham attempted a difficult drop goal, then worth four points. A great cheer went up, but the referee judged, controversially, that Wyndham had missed the upright by six inches. The Western Mail commented that “those inches were sufficient to deprive Wales of victory and of making the brilliant Cantab one of the immortals of Welsh rugby”. Had the kick been successful, H. Wyndham Thomas would indeed still be a household name in Wales. Sport can be a cruel business.

The Western Mail also commented that Wyndham was “just the type of player Wales cannot afford to lose”. In fact, Wyndham had recently accepted an appointment with a firm of shipping agents in Calcutta, and was planning to sail from Gravesend on the very day of the next international match, when Wales were due to meet England. The WRU, however, persuaded him to revise his travel arrangements so that he could play. This meant that not long after the match – in which England recorded their first ever victory at the Arms Park – Wyndham had to take a long train journey through France, to meet his boat when she docked at Marseilles. It is doubtful whether anyone had a more unusual departure from the international game.

Wyndham continued to play rugby and cricket in India, but returned home in 1915 to take up a commission, eventually joining the 16th Battalion Rifle Brigade in France in March 1916. Most modern accounts incorrectly claim that he was killed in the Battle of Guillemont on 3rd September 1916. However, he actually lost his life elsewhere that day, several miles to the north-west, in an attempt to secure the high ground on the left bank of the river Ancre, north of Hamel. With over 400 casualties, the 16th Rifle Brigade suffered terribly in this assault. Wyndham was one of only a handful from his battalion who managed to reach the German line. He had just encouraged his men to follow him into the trench with the cry – all too familiar on the rugby field – “Come on boys, we’ve got them beat”, when he was tragically caught by shellfire and killed instantly.

Who knows what this exceptionally gifted young man might have achieved if he had survived the war. Writing to Wyndham’s family after his death, the Provost of King’s College, M.R. James, said “There never was surely a brighter spirit than his”, and that he would be greatly missed.

Second Lieutenant Horace Wyndham Thomas, the multi-talented King’s College choral scholar and Welsh rugby international, is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.

 

This is an amended version of an article which originally appeared on 3rd September 2016 on the World Rugby Museum: From the Vaults blog on the centenary of Horace Wyndham Thomas’s death north of Hamel on the Somme.

 

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

 

 

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