Last year a very kind member of the public shared with us a poem by the late Ivor Brown. The poem was simply entitled ‘Obo’ and paid tribute to the sacrifice of the Russian-born English wing Prince Alexander Obolensky. Obo, as he was nicknamed, scored two tries on his international debut, helping England to their first win over New Zealand in 1936. Shortly thereafter the young prince answered the call of his adopted country and enlisted with the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. He was killed in 1940 during a training exercise at Martlesham Heath, Suffolk.
His death prompted Brown to pen the following poem in his honour:
‘The falcon of Death had struck him from the air,
The fleetest, lovliest runner with the ball,
No earthly tackle smothered him, for there
Death he’d outrace, who had outraced them all.
Flash of light from above the Oxford blue,
The Poulton touch, the same brief end in War;
Both, when the struggle would let no man through,
Dazed all defence and flickered past to score.
His play, his work, his death were on the wing,
To the green English field, from Russia come,
Now England’s cap with deer’s-foot grace he’ll bring
To that last field of bright Elysium’
Ivor Brown was born in Malaya in 1891 . In his long career he was a writer with the Saturday Review and the Manchester Guardian and Observer newspapers. He also edited the Observer between 1942 and 1948. He was a life-long Shakespeare enthusiast and passed away in 1974.
Watch this video clip to see Prince Alexander Obolensky’s two tries against New Zealand and find out more about his remarkable life: