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Rugby at War

Carl Mullen signs rugby ball for small boy

Below is information relating to International players who died during the two world wars. The lists are work in progress and represent my current understanding.

World War 1 (1914-18)

World War I ended in 1918 and left 10 million dead in the fields of Western Europe. When one considers the very few players who are honored to play for their country and the numbers of losses shown below, one can only imagine the number of players lost to rugby clubs around the world by the conflict.

Internationals killed in world war I:

Country Internationals
Scotland 30
England 27
France 23
New Zealand 12
Wales 13
Australia 9
Ireland 9
South Africa 4
Germany Unknown

The English Internationals were:

  • Harry Alexander; died on 17 October 1915 Aged 35
  • Henry Berry; died on 9 May 1915, Aged 32.
  • H. Brougham, died ?
  • Arthur James Dingle; died on 22 August 1915, Aged 23
  • George Eric Burroughs Dobbs, died on 17 June 1917, Aged 32.
  • Leonard Haigh, died on 6 August 1916 Aged 29.
  • Reginald Harry Myburgh Hands, ("Reggie Hands") died on 20 April 1918, Aged 29 Hands was a South African who played cricket for South Africa and rugby for England.
  • Arthur Leyland Harrison VC; died on 23 April 1918, Aged 32
  • Harold Augustus Hodges; died on 24 March 1918, Aged 32
  • Rupert Edward Inglis; died on 18 September 1916, Aged 53
  • Percy Dale Kendall; died on 21 January 1915, Aged 34
  • John Abbott King; died on 9 August 1916, Aged 32
  • Ronald Lagden; died on 3 March 1915, Aged 26
  • Douglas Lambert; died on 13 October 1915, Aged 32
  • Alfred Frederick Maynard; died on 13 November 1916, Aged 22
  • Edgar Roberts Mobb, ("Mobbsy") died on 29 July 1917, Aged 37
  • William Moore Bell Nanson; died on 4 June 1915, Aged 34
  • Francis Eckley Oakeley; died on 25 November 1914, Aged 23
  • Robert Lawrence Pillman; died on 9 July 1916, Aged 23 17
  • Ronald William Poulton-Palmer, ("Ronnie Poulton") died on 5 May 1915, Aged 25
  • John Raphael, died on 11 June 1917, Aged 35
  • Reginald Oscar Schwarz MC, ("Reggie Schwarz") died on 18 November 1918, Aged 43
  • Lancelot Andrew Noel Slocock; died on 9 August 1918, Aged 29
  • Francis Nathaniel Tarr; died on 18 July 1915, Aged 27
  • Alexander Todd, died on 21 April 1915, Aged 41
  • James Henry Digby Watson; died on 15 October 1914, Aged 24.
  • Arthur James Wilson, died on 1 July 1917, Aged 29

Also Charles Adamson who was an uncapped utility back for England but won 4 caps for British Lions vs Australia in in the series 3-0-1 win in 1899 (2 Tries, 4 Conversions ). Played for Durham against 1905 All Blacks. He died on 17 September 1918, and is buried in Karasouli Military Cemetery, Greece [Grave No F.1293].

The Irish Internationals were:

  • J.T. Brett
  • R.B. Burgess
  • E.C. Deane
  • W.V. Edwards
  • B. Maclear
  • V. McNamara
  • R.S. Smyth
  • A.L. Stewart
  • A.S. Taylor

The Welsh Internationals were:

  • Charles Taylor, Died 24th January 1915. Born in Ruabon, Wales on 8 May 1863, Taylor joined the Royal Navy on 1 July 1885, when he was rated an acting assistant engineer. Following his initial training he was confirmed in the rank on 1 July 1886 He was promoted to engineer on 1 September 1890 and chief engineer on 30 December 1900 He became an engineer lieutenant on 26 March 1903, and on 30 December 1904 was promoted to engineer commander On 3 February 1911 King George V appointed him a Member of the Fourth Class of the Royal Victorian Order On 7 February 1912 he was promoted to engineer captain

    Much of Taylor's career was spent at training or other shore establishments. However, shortly after the outbreak of World War I he was posted to the battlecruiser HMS Queen Mary, on 16 September 1914. On 20 November he was transferred to HMS Tiger On 24 January 1915, Tiger was one of the vessels engaged in the Battle of Dogger Bank. HMS Tiger was struck by fire from the German cruiser SMS Blücher, and Taylor died during the engagement. Taylor was not buried at sea, and his body was returned to Britain to be buried at Tavistock New Cemetery in Devon

    Taylor made his debut for Wales against England in 1884 under the captaincy of Charlie Newman in the Home Nations Championship. Wales lost the game but Taylor would play in the remaining two games of the campiagn against Scotland and Ireland. In 1884 Taylor was reselected for Wales, in a team that would host several past and future captains, including Arthur Gould, Tom Clapp, Frank Hancock and Newman. In the 1885 Championship Taylor made his first international score when he converted William Stadden's try, though as no points were given to conversions at the time he is recorded with no career score.

    In 1885, Taylor was spending much of his time in London, and when a group of Welshmen came together to form a club for London 'exiles', Taylor was among them. The club formed in June 1885, and Taylor became an committee member at the first meeting and then on the 21 October became a member of the very first London Welsh team London Welsh would become a prominent club providing many Welsh internationals, the very first team containin six internationals; Taylor, Arthur Gould, Martyn Jordan, Thomas Judson, T. Williams and Rowley Thomas.

    In 1886, Taylor was part of Frank Hancock's team that experimented with the four threequarter system for the first time in an international match. It was an unsuccessful experiment and was abandoned during the match. Taylor's final game for Wales was in 1887 against Ireland in a win at Birkenhead.

  • Billy Geen, Died 31st July 1915, Age 24.

  • Richard Davies Garnons Williams, Died 25th September 1915, Age 59.

    Was a Welsh international rugby union and forward who played club rugby for Brecon and Newport. Williams is notable for playing in the very first Wales international rugby union match in 1881.

    He became an officer in the British Army in 1876, and retired from regular service in 1892, though he continued to serve in a voluntary capacity until 1906. Despite the fact he was 58 at the outbreak of World War I he rejoined the army and was killed in action in 1915.

    Williams first major rugby club is recorded as being Oxford University who he played for while studying at Magdalen College. After playing for Oxford he then represented their great rivals Cambridge after becoming a student at Trinity College, Cambridge. Although representing both university teams he did not win a Sporting Blue with either team. Deciding to follow a military career Williams was accepted into the Royal Military College Sandhurst, and is also recorded as representing the Sandhurst rugby team. He completed his officer training in 1876, and was commissioned as a sub-lieutenant on 26 February - he was posted to the 38th Regiment of Foot, and transferred to the 7th Regiment of Foot on 17 February 1877 He was promoted lieutenant on 17 January 1877, and unusually had his army rank (but not regimental seniority) backdated to his original commission as a sub lieutenant

    In 1881 Williams was selected by Richard Mullock to represent the first Wales team in their inaugural match. The team itself was made up from players based more on their geographic spread of clubs they represented, and university pedigree than rugby ability Despite the poor selection process, few were expecting such a disparity in the scoreline, as England humiliated Wales in a one sided game with England running in 13 tries. This game was Williams' only appearance for Wales, with the selectors bringing in eleven new caps for the second game.

    By February 1885 he had been promoted to captain, and his unit had been renamed the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment). On 10 January 1887 he was appointed as adjutant of the 4th Battalion of the regiment, the Militia unit associated with the regiment. A regular officer was normally given this post in Militia units to organise training and generally maintain standards. His posting lasted the usual 5 years. He then retired from the regular army on 4 May 1892. On 8 August 1894 he was commissioned as a major in the 1st (Brecknockshire) Volunteer Battalion, South Wales Borderers, a Volunteer Force unit of the South Wales Borderers regiment, and on 1 November 1895 was appointed Brigade Major for the South Wales Brigade of the Volunteer Force. On 12 July 1899 he was granted honorary rank as lieutenant colonel. He resigned his Volunteer commission on 26 May 1906, retaining his rank and with permission to continue wearing his uniform.

    He rejoined the British Army shortly after the outbreak of World War I, and was posted to his original regiment, joining the 12th (Service) Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers as a major on 26 September 1914. He was promoted temporary lieutenant colonel on 3 October 1914, and transferred back to the South Wales Borderers to command the Brecknockshire Battalion. He seems to have soon been posted back to 12th Royal Fusiliers, and was killed on 25 September 1915 while leading his battalion at the Battle of Loos. He is commemorated on the Loos Memorial to the Missing. 

    At 59 years of age, he was the eldest of the 13 Wales international players to be killed during the war.

  • Lou Phillips, Died 14th March 1916, Age 38.

  • Dick Thomas, Died 7th July 1916, Age 32.

  • Jonnie Williams, Died 12th July 1916, Age 34.

  • Charlie Pritchard, Died Age 33. PRITCHARD, CHARLES MEYRICK (1882-1916), Wales and Newport Rugby forward. b. Newport 30 Sept. 1882, son of John Pritchard, one of the founders of the Newport Rugby Club. He was educated at Long Ashton school and Newport intermediate school.

    He played his first game for Newport at the age of 19 in front of 12000 spectators and held his place in that team for ten seasons and captained his side for three years.

    He was just under 6 feet tall and weighed about 13 stone 10 pounds. A powerful runner, with an excellent swerve. . He played for Newport (3-6) v the 1905 All Blacks, and was rated as the best Welsh forward in the International v New Zealand, fellow International George Travers said, “He sent ‘em down like ninepins”.

    He played for Newport (0-8) v the Springboks in 1906. Although selected to play v Scotland in 1910, he withdrew to allow clubmate E Jenkins to play.  Between 1905 and 1910 he played for Wales in fourteen international matches including part of the famous Welsh side that beat the All Blacks in 1905 . He continued to play for Newport until the end of the season 1910-11.

    He went to France with the South Wales Borderers (3rd Gwents) (Bantams) during the 1914-18 war, and attained the rank of captain. Within two months of arriving on the Western Front, he was mortally wounded in a prisoner-taking raid on enemy trenches. “Have they got the Hun?” he asked as they bore him to a treatment post. “Yes,” someone told him. “Then I have done my bit,” were his last words, according to the report in the Illustrated London News. He died of wounds the next day, on 14 August 1916, at No 1 Casualty Clearing Station, Chocques, and is buried in Chocques Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France [Grave I. F. 17.].

  • Horace Thomas, Died 3rd September 1916, Age 26.

    Son of the Rev. Morgan Thomas and Mary Priscilla Thomas, of Bettws Rectory, Bridgend, Glam. Educated at King's College Cambridge (B.A.), 2nd Class History Tripos. Rugby Blue and Welsh Rugby International; Cambridge Cricket Crusader and Member of the Cambridge University Dramatic Society.

    He also won two caps for Wales at outside half playing for both Blackheath and Barbarians. Horace Thomas made his Wales debut in the 3-0 defeat by the Springboks in Cardiff in 1912.

    Engaged in the Mercantile Service, Calcutta, for 3 years, which he voluntarily gave up to join the Forces in 1916. He served in the Calcutta Harbour Defence Force while working in India prior to World War I and was a Temporary 2nd Lieutenant with the 11th Battalion, Rifle Brigade on the Somme when he was killed in action on 3 September, 1916, aged 26.

  • Brin Lewis, Died 2nd April1917, Age 26.

  • Dai Westacott, Died 28th August 1917, Age 35.

  • Phil Waller, Died 14th December 1917, Age 28.

  • Fred Perrett, Died 1st December 1918, Age 27.

    Perrett originally played rugby for his local club Briton Ferry before eventually playing for Neath. While a member of Neath he earned his first Welsh cap against the touring South Africa team. Wales ran the South Africans close, but lost to a single penalty kick.

    Perrett was reselected for Wales in the 1914 Five Nations Championship, one of only two Welsh players to appear in all four matches of the campaign; the other being Neath team mate Glyn Stephens. The two complemented each other well, especially during line outs. The Welsh team lost the first game against England, but won the final three games to finish second. Perrett may have been selected for further Wales matches, but turned professional at the end of the 1913/14 season, joining rugby league team Leeds R.L.F.C.

    Perrett's league career was cut short by the outbreak of World War I. He joined the Welsh Guards and served in France from 19 February 1916. He was subsequently commissioned as a second lieutenant, and transferred to the 17th Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers with seniority from 27 June 1917. He was seriously injured and died of his wounds in a casualty clearing station a month after the Armistice. He is buried at Terlincthun British Cemetery at Wimille in France. Perrett is often left out of lists of the Welsh international war dead due to his supposed defection to the professional game.

  • David Watts, Died 14 July 1916, Age 30.

    David was born in the town on March 14, 1886 and became a collier – but excelled at rugby. Watts was a member of the Maesteg side that won the Glamorgan Challenge Cup in 1912. Two years later he graduated into the Welsh pack and came under the watchful eye of Wales’ extraordinary pack leader, the Rev Alban Davies.

    Davies moulded the forwards into such a forceful unit that they became known as the Terrible Eight. Watts’s international debut came on January 17, 1914. He was one of five new caps for Wales’ third match at Twickenham, but Wales returned empty-handed after a 10-9 defeat. The Welsh recovered to beat Scotland 24-9 in Cardiff before routing France 31-0. Wales’ final international of that season was against Ireland in Belfast, which was renowned for the battle between the two packs. Watts was at the heart of everything Wales did as the men in red won 11-3.

    There was one more international game for David Watts. The match against the Barbarians on April 17, 1915 was a game with a motive. It was organised to boost recruitment for the Welsh Guards early in World War I. The match served its purpose as 177 men enlisted and a collection of £200 was raised for local military charities.

    Despite working in a reserved occupation, Watts chose to enlist. He became a corporal in the 7th Battalion of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry and fought in France. He was killed in action fighting in the Ancre Valley during the Battle of the Somme aged just 30.

    David Watts has no known grave. Yet his name can be found on the Triepval Memorial, the Memorial Stone honouring Welsh rugby’s international dead at the Millennium Stadium, and at the Maesteg club he represented with pride.
do your duty poster

"This is not the time to play games" (Lord Roberts).

Rugby union footballers are doing their duty. Over 90% have enlisted.

"Every player who represented England in Rugby international matches last year has joined the colours." - extract from The Times, November 30

British athletes! Will you follow this glorious example?

Publicity Department, Central London Recruiting Depot, [1915].
Printed by Johnson, Riddle & Co., Ltd., London, S.E.

Extracts from Daily Telegraph Article : Talking Rugby: Timely tribute paid to rugby's fallen heroes By Brendan Gallagher (additional text subsequently added):

Australia: Blair Swannell. Twice a British Lions tourist (1899 & 1904) and capped in all four Tests in 1904, this rugged Northampton forward emigrated to Australia immediately after that tour and was capped by his new country within 12 months on a tour to New Zealand in 1905. He died leading a ferocious charge by Australian forces at Gallipoli in August 1915, he was shot whilst kneeling showing others how to aim better. He was awarded the military cross. It has been estimated that 5,000 Australian rugby players ultimately went on active war service between 1914 and 1918. This figure represents about 98 per cent of the playing numbers in the game, outside of the schools, in 1914. Many of these players never returned to Australia.

Scotland: Dr David Bedell-Sivright. Enjoyed the reputation of being the roughest, toughest forward of his day and the arch exponent of the skill of dribbling. Played for Scotland 22 times during 1900 to 1908. Led the 1904 Lions, worked in Australia for a year as a stock rearer before returning to Edinburgh to complete his medical studies. Contracted Septicemia and Like Swannell, died at Gallipoli, he was buried at sea.

South Africa: Jan (Jackie) Willen Hunter Morkel. One of the famous rugby-playing family from Somerset West in Cape Town - 21 brothers and assorted cousins were playing first-class rugby in South Africa before World War One, including eight who were or subsequently became Springboks. Sir Abe Bailey had undertaken to sponsor a family tour of Britain in 1914 when war broke out. Died of dysentery fighting for the Mounted commandos in German East Africa.

France: Marcel Burgun. An extrovert fly-half who played against England in 1914, during the last international before hostilities began. Joined the French Air Corps to avenge his brother's death on the western front and was shot down and killed in 1916.

list of fallen heros
RFU Commemorative Plaque - Twickenham England

Other examples of fallen rugby players:

JHD 'Bungy' Watson, England three-quarter capped 3 times in 1914 , drowned in action when HMS Hawke was torpedoed by a German submarine (15/10/1914).

Ronald Poulton Palmer, three-quarter capped 17 times. On his last appearance in 1914 he ran in four tries from centre - a record at that time. Soon afterwards he was across the channel to join the war where he died a year later on 5th May 1915, killed by a sniper bullet in a trench in Ploeg Steert Wood, Belgium. He was just 25.

Dave Gallaher, Ramelton, Ireland born captain and wing forward (the'rover') of the formidable 1905 All Blacks, killed in action in France (4/10/1917). Regiment: Auckland Regiment, N.Z.E.F. Unit Text: 2nd Bn. Rank: Serjeant.  Service No: 32513. Date of Death: 04/10/1917  Age: 41, Cemetery: Nine Elms British Cemetery Grave/Memorial Reference: III. D. 8.

Emigrated to New Zealand on the SS Lady Jocelyn in 1881 with his family at the age of 5 to Katikati, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand, and went on to Captain the first “All Blacks” team to tour Europe in 1905. Gallaher, held in high esteem as one of the first men to popularise the sport of rugby that the country would go on to dominate. He served in the Boer War.  Dave Gallaher died with the New Zealand forces during World War 1, at Passchendale in Belgium. He is buried eight miles from The Island of Ireland Peace Park in Messines, Belgium, which was established by Paddy Harte. His name is now synonymous with rugby matches between New Zealand and France, which contest the Dave Gallaher Trophy. Two of David Gallaher's Katikati born brothers died on Flanders fields - Henry Fletcher Gallaher b. 1 Jan 1881,  killed in action 24 April 1918 and Douglas Wallace Gallaher born 7 August 1883 wounded in action  at Gallipoli Pennisula 4 May 1915 and killed in action Laventie, France  3 June 1916. Was Company Sergeant Major, 11th Bn. 3rd Inf. Brigade, AIF Another brother - the twin of Henry - Charles Canning Gallaher came back from Gallipoli with a bullet (shot in back) lodged near his spine and died in 1950. They enlisted in Western Australia. David was one of 14.

After the war Olympiad VII was awarded to Belgium. It was a tribute to their heroic resistance and suffering under four years of occupation after the German invasion.

A total of 29 countries, one more than participated in the war, sent a record 2,607 athletes to Antwerp in 1920. Germany, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria were excluded from the Games. In 1921 a tablet in memory of the many fallen rugby players lost during the first world war unveiled by H.M. the King, 12th February.

The act of remembrance can take many forms and there is no finer than the Mobbs memorial match held at Northampton each year. Every year since 1921 the Barbarians have played an East Midlands XV at Franklin gardens, the home of the Northampton Saints. The game is held to remember Edgar Mobbs a former Northampton and England player.

Edgar Mobbs, DSO, English three quarter, refused a commission at start of the war and then raised his own company of 250 sportsmen for the Northamptonshire regiment, rising to command his battalion with rank of Lt. Col. fell in action at Zillebeke (29/7/1917).

Edgar first played for Northampton in 1905 and retired there in 1913 after playing 234 games, scoring 179 tries (545 points).

  • He twice scored 6 tries in a match.
  • He also won 7 caps for England during that period.
  • The last game against France he was made captain, the first Northampton player to be England captain.

He was considered too old to be an officer at 32 so he formed his own battalion called "The sportsman's battalion". He was said to kick a rugby ball ahead when the men had to cover ground quickly whilst in attack. He was killed attacking a machine gun post in 1917.

World War 2 (1939-45)

Internationals killed in action in WW2

Country Internationals
Germany 16
Scotland 15
England 14
Wales 11
Australia 10
Ireland 8
France 8
Wales 3
New Zealand 2
South Africa 0


New Zealand: Donald Cobden. A dashing wing, Cobden represented New Zealand after just seven first-class games. Played for 25 minutes in his solitary Test, against the Springboks in 1937, before being forced off through injury. He joined the RAF as a fighter pilot for 76 squadron and was shot down on Aug 11, 1940, during the Battle of Britain. His body was washed up at Ostend and buried by the Germans in a communal war grave.

England: Vice Admiral Norman Atherton Wodehouse. In 1913 England achieved a grand slam under the captaincy or Norman Wodehouse. Norman won 14 caps for England between 1910 and 1913 and was captain 6 times. Norman served in WWI on board the battleship HMS at the battle of Jutland and survived the war until some of his team mates. In 1941 he was commanding a convoy to South Africa when they were attacked by German U-boats, he ordered the convoy to scatter and his ship was never seen again.

list of fallen heros WW2
RFU Commemorative Plaque - Twickenham England

The 14 English International players killed in the Second World War were:

  • B.H. Black (10+5)
  • L.A. Booth (7)
  • P. Cooke (2)
  • V.G. Davies (2)
  • H.D. Freakes (3)
  • R.A. Gerrard (14)
  • W. G. E. Luddington (13)
  • R.M. Marshall (5)
  • A. Obolensky (4)
  • E.I. Parsons (1)
  • H. Rew (10+4)
  • C.C. Tanner (5)
  • D.E. Teden (3)
  • N.A. Wodehouse (14)

(#) denotes number of caps.

The 8 Irish Internationals killed in the Second World War were:

  • Commander Charles Francis George Thomas Hallaran, died 21st March 1941. He played 15 times for Ireland between 1921-26.

    He was born on 10th June 1897 in Ceylon , the son of Colonel William Hallaran and Mrs. Hallaran and educated at Eastman’s College, RNC Dartmouth, US Portsmouth . He played rugby for the Royal Navy, the Barbarians and Surrey .

    On the night of 21st March 1941 a motor-boat came alongside Cdr. Hallaran's ship to take off the pilot. A swell made this boat roll and pitch heavily, and a stoker was thrown overboard between it and the ship's side. He was seen to be in difficulties, and was in danger of being crushed as the swell kept heaving the boat against the ship. Cdr. Hallaran climbed into the boat, jumped into the sea, and swam round to help him. He got the stoker back to the boat, but as he did so was thrown against it. His skull was fractured and he was drowned before he could be got back on board. He was awarded the Albert Medal posthumously.

    His father, who served in the RMC in India also played rugby for Ireland against Wales in 1884 but he played under the name R.O.N. Hall so that his father, who was a clergyman would not know. His father died in World War 1.

  • Major Edward William Francis De Vere Hunt. Died 1941. He played five times for Ireland between 1930 and 1933. He scored a try in the 1932 match against Scotland and in his last match in 1933 against England. On the 25th December 1938 he was posted to the Hong Kong & Singapore Royal Artillery, with whom he served as a Major. He was killed at Wong Nei Chang Gap on 20th December 1941 during the Japanese attack on the island.

  • Lieutenant Colonel John Joseph Clune died 1942. He played six times for Ireland between 1912 and 1914. He died on 12th September 1943 aged 53 in the Mediterranean . He is commemorated at Brookwood Memorial.

  • Lieutenant Colonel John Berchmans Minch (capped 5 times in 1913/4) died 1942. He played five times for Ireland between 1912 and 1914.

  • Group Captain Reginald Vere Massey Odbert died 1943. He played once for Ireland in 1928 against France in Belfast. He died on 18th July 1943 in Scunthorpe and is buried at Newark-upon-Trent Cemetery , Nottinghamshire.

  • Captain Robert Alexander killed 1943. Played for Ireland 11 times. Played for the Barbarians 1935/6. Outstanding member of Ireland's pack who toured with the 1938 Lions in South Africa. An Ireland cricketer to boot, his last game for Ireland was in 1942 when he captained Ireland in a friendly against the British Army, it was to be his last game. Alexander was killed during the Allied landings on Sicily serving for the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, he had risen to the rank of captain.

  • Wing Commander Patrick Bernard Coote, died 13th April 1941.

    In January 1928 he made his first appearance for the RAF Rugby Team against Cambridge University (he also played against the Royal Navy and the Civil Service that season). He also represented RAF Cadet School , Cranwell against Uppingham School in October.  He again represented the RAF at rugby in 1931 playing against the Royal Navy (playing along side Douglas Barder), United Banks and the Army (playing along side F.S. Hodder of RAF Henlow and London Irish).

    In October 1931 he played Rugby for London v South Africa at Twickenham. London lost 30-3.  In January 1932 he took part in the Ireland trail match playing for the Blues.

    In 1932 he again represented the RAF at rugby playing against Coventry , Pontypool and the Army, and in 1933 against Cambridge University , Northampton , Royal Navy, and the Army. In 1933 he played for East Midlands against Warwickshire and Leicestershire in the County Championship .

    On 1st April 1933 he won his only international cap for Ireland v Scotland (Ireland lost 8-6). Between1931-33 he played 27 times for Leicester . He is the second Leicester player to be capped by Ireland.

    In December 1933 whilst playing for Leicester away to Swansea in a tackle he suffered a serious neck injury and concussion, he was hospitalised for a few months at RAF hospital Uxbridge. He never played rugby again.

    On 19th April 1941 he went as an observer to assess the progress of the German advance in a group of 6 Blenheims. As they approached Lake Prespa on the border of modern day Macedonia , Albaniaand Greece some 40 miles short of the target area. They were spotted by three Messerschmitt Bf108e’s of 6/JG27 based at Gazala in Libya . The Blenheims didn’t have a fighter escort, in the space of 4 minutes all 6 Blenheims were shot dow. The plane he was travelling in (L4819) crashed near the village of Trigonon . There were only 2 survivors from all 6 crews. Coote's aircraft was the first of 29 kills of the Luftwaffe ace Unteroffizier, (later Lieutenant) Fritz Gromotka. His pilot, Richard Herbert, did manage to bail out but the aircraft was too low and he died. The two survivors, Godfrey and James, made contact and buried those of their dead comrades that they could find before making their way by foot, mule and Greek lorry to Larissa, 150 miles distant.

    He was buried at the Phalron War Cemetery in Greece along with the rest of the crew.

There is also an eighth Irish international who is listed as a Canadian war dead:

  • Major Herbert James Michael Sayers (In the 1939 side), died 1943. He played ten times for Ireland between 1935 and 1939. He was killed in an air crash on 6th December 1943. He is buried at Aylesbury Cemetery, Buckinghamshire.

The 3 Welsh Internationals killed in the Second World War were:

  • Cecil Davies
  • John evans - A former Newport captain and lock who won his only cap playing at hooker against England in 1934, when he also captained the side. Was killed in action in North Africa on March 8, 1943, when serving with the Parachute Regiment's third battalion.
  • Maurice Turnball


1. Talking Rugby: Timely tribute paid to rugby's fallen heroes, By Brendan Gallagher
Published: 12:00AM GMT 05 Nov 2002

2. Commonwealth War Graves Commission - Rugby's war dead (booklet)

3. Commonwealth War Graves Commission - GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN, The Commemoration of Rugby Players Who Died in the Two World Wars (booklet)

4. 'Play up! Play up! And Win the War!' Football, the Nation and the First World
War 1914-15, Colin Veitch, Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 20, No. 3. (Jul., 1985), pp. 363-378.

5. One hundred years of Irish Rugby, Edmund Van Esbeck, Gill and Mcmillan 1974, 717107159

6. Article by Patrick Casey. Retrieved May 31st, 2011.

7. World War 1 Talk Forum, extracted March 13th, 2012.

8. Various contributors to the rugby history society, extracted MArch 14th, 2012.






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