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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Clarrie Wallach – From Bondi to the Western Front

Australian lock forward Clarence “Clarrie” Wallach had his promising international rugby career cut short by the First World War. A valiant member of the 19th Australian Infantry Battalion, Wallach would receive a number of commendations for his military service, including the Military Cross. After an offensive in April 1918, Clarrie Wallach would pass away from gunshot wound complications in hospital at Etretat, France.


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Lest We Forget – Reginald Harry Myburgh “Reggie” Hands (England) 20/04/1918


Photo courtesy University College, Oxford

Reginald Harry Myburgh “Reggie” Hands was born in Claremont, near Cape Town, South Africa, one of three sons of Sir Harry Hands KBE and his wife the Lady Aletta Catherine Hands (neé Myburgh) OBE.  Sir Harry was a British colonial politician, serving in the legislative assembly of the Cape Colony from 1912–1913, and in 1916-1918 he served as mayor of Cape Town. Sir Harry originated in Worcestershire, but his wife was South African. Continue reading

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Golden Oldies descend on Christchurch

Often with colourful and tongue-in-cheek names such as the Old Vulgarians, Gouldburn Fermented Reds and Ye Olde Dogs of Wanneroo, it is clear that jesting is an essential element to Golden Oldies Rugby.  There is a long tradition of rugby clubs fielding veteran sides, and the Golden Oldies Rugby Festival brings many of these teams together for one week every two years.


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Flying Below the Radar

In later life Dickie Guest developed a capacity for flying below the radar.  His death in May 2012 attracted only limited notice and has still to be recorded in some quarters.

But that was certainly not the case on either side of World War Two when Guest, born 100 years ago on March 12th 1918, was one of the highest profile players in English rugby.  He was certainly seen that way by the young Mickey Steele-Bodger, who recalled of his first England call-up: “You’d see somebody like Dickie Guest and think ‘I’ve read about him – this is fantastic!’”.

England team v Wales, 1939

England team v Wales, 1939

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The Flying Winger

April 1918…

At the same time as Field Marshall Haig was issuing his ‘backs to the wall’ directive in support of the land campaign a feverish contest for air superiority was taking place in the skies.  Cyril Lowe, who had been shot down in 1917, returned to France as a captain with 24 Squadron in April of 1918.


S.E.5a single-seater

In a line of duty that famously had a life expectancy of just seventeen days, Lowe had little time to adapt to his new role as pilot of the single-seater SE5a.  On the 19th May he was appointed escort for a wing of DH4 bombers plotting a raid over Chaulnes.  Payload was successfully delivered at 8.15am and the twelve aircraft from 24 Squadron turned and headed back to base.  They were soon intercepted by six Fokker tri-planes and seven Fokker bi-planes.  An enormous dogfight ensued.

One of the British pilots wrote the following account of the engagement: Continue reading

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Baa-Baas at Easter

As we approach the Easter weekend it seems apt to take a look at the renowned Barbarians Easter tours.

Barbarian FC Easter Tour 1983

A unique club, with a unique ethos, the Barbarian Football Club was founded in 1890 by Percy “Tottie” Carpmael and became one of the most famous rugby clubs in the world.  The Baa-Baas have no clubhouse, no home ground and membership is by invitation only.

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