Daisy, Daisy, give me some arsenic do…

1906 saw the first South African rugby tour to the United Kingdom.  The team played in their now iconic green and gold kit adorned with a springbok, but for smarter occasions they were kitted out with green blazers edged in yellow.  We are lucky enough to have one such blazer in the museum collection which can be seen on display in our World Tours Gallery.  If you do come and visit us however, don’t be fooled by the blazer’s civilised appearance, this particular garment has links to much more grisly past.

Blazer awarded to Sydney Clarence (Slapie) De Melker, 1906

Blazer awarded to Sydney Clarence (Slapie) De Melker, 1906

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Who was the first substitute referee?

The first substitute referee on a grim day for Irish rugby…but who was the referee?

In almost 3,200 tests played between the ten major countries and the British and Irish Lions since 1871, only 15 tests have required a change of referee during the match.  The first four internationals were played with 2 umpires, but from February 1875 when AG Guillemard, the former English international, was appointed as the sole referee of the match between England and Ireland at Kennington Oval, a single referee has been in charge of each match.

Over 250 international matches had been played over 40 years before Ireland took the field to play the all-conquering Springboks at Lansdowne Road, Dublin on November 30th 1912.  The match is remembered almost entirely for the humiliating 38-0 defeat that the Irish team suffered at the hands of a rampant South African side.  This was the second international victory of the Springboks on the way to a Grand Slam over all five European countries during which they scored 98 points including 24 tries and conceded only 8 points and 2 tries.

Ireland v South Africa, 1912

Ireland v South Africa, 1912

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‘If the greatest writer of the written word would’ve written that story no-one would have believed it’

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45 years ago, Gareth Edwards scored “that try” playing for the Barbarians against New Zealand.  The date was 27th January 1973 and it was the final match of New Zealand’s 1972/73 tour to the British Isles.

Cardiff Arms Park was host to the first defeat of New Zealand by the Barbarians, 23-11, in front of a 50,000 strong crowd.  Unsurprising perhaps, as this particular Barbarians side was predominantly made up of former British Lions.
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First Reserve – AH Walker


The museum has recently received as a donation two scrapbooks and a Lancashire jersey that belonged to Manchester forward AH Walker.

After learning the game at Kingswood School, Walker progressed to Manchester University, with whom he toured France and Germany and won the Christie Shield and Inter-University Championship in 1925. Continue reading

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The Western Samoa disaster tour of 1992

The title of the 1992 Middlesex Sevens Final programme on page 19 read in bold: WESTERN SAMOAN APPEAL.

“Few people in the British Isles are aware of the disaster that has befallen Western Samoa.

On 7th December 1991 the islands were hit by ‘cyclone Val’ with gusts up to 260k.m. per hour for four days.  This caused the most devastating natural disaster to strike Western Samoa in over 100 years.

What was the net effect?

  • More than 90% of building damaged or destroyed
  • Electricity and water supplies cut-off
  • 90% of vegetation flattened
  • Roads washed out
  • Food crops totally destroyed
  • 50% loss of livestock
  • 1.2 million dollars of damage to fishing boats & equipment
  • Total cost of damage – $600 million

All this hitting the Islands with a GNP of only £60 million per annum!”

What was this information doing in a rugby programme for the Middlesex Sevens Finals at Twickenham?

The Western Samoan team collect the trophy after winning the Middlesex Sevens

1992: The Western Samoan team collect the trophy after winning the Middlesex Sevens at Twickenham in London. Mandatory Credit: Mike Hewitt/Allsport

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Royal Air Force exhibition opens at the World Rugby Museum

Since the formation of the Royal Air Force 100 years ago, close to 200 RAF service men and women have represented their countries on the rugby pitch.  The RAF’s contribution to rugby is now being celebrated in a special exhibition at the World Rugby Museum.

1929 RAF rugby team

1929 Royal Air Force rugby team at Twickenham Stadium

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Naval Special Ops – Arthur Harrison and the Zeebrugge Raid

Arthur Harrison

April 1918…

The plan was as audacious as it was hopeful.  Under the cover of smoke the HMS Vindictive and two former River Mersey ferries would approach the mole with a large company of marines.  Once contact with the mole was established, the marines would quickly disembark; storm and secure the enemy gun emplacements.  Whilst this was taking place submarines, packed with explosives, would detonate alongside the viaduct, destroying it and preventing enemy reinforcements from coming to the guns’ assistance.

Yet all of this was mere distraction.  The real objective of the operation would take place in the harbour, where three obsolete Allied cruisers were to be scuttled in the mouth of the Bruges Canal, thus blocking it and preventing access to the seas for the German U-boats that had been waging unrestricted warfare on British and international shipping. Continue reading

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