The Life and Times of Herbert Fallas

Fallas c

Herbert Fallas was born in Wakefield in November 1861.  James Henry was his elder brother, whom he would later play alongside at Belle Vue.

On the 1881 census, Herbert was described as an accountant clerk and three years later he was referred to as an accountant in newspaper reports.  Mike Rylance, in ‘Trinity: A History of the Wakefield Rugby League Football Club, 1872-2013’, explained, “Herbert Fallas was a new breed of footballer, who was able to take advantage of his fame, placing an advertisement in the local paper to announce that he had started business as an accountant in Barstow Square [in Wakefield city centre]”.

He had joined Wakefield Trinity in the early 1880s and upon his retirement from the club in 1890 he had played over 340 games.  John Lindley, in ‘100 years of rugby, the history of Wakefield Trinity 1873 – 1973’, remarked he “certainly seems to have been one of the mainstays of the team for some years.”

One of his strengths was his kicking.  Rylance quotes a local report, “It is a fact that …Fallas was the finest punter in his day”, crediting Teddy Bartram, the Jonny Wilkinson of his day, as his teacher.  The Reverend Frank Marshall, in his seminal work ‘Rugby Football’, described Fallas as “a dodgy [as in evasive] three-quarter of good kicking powers.” In 1883 he was shown as being 9st 11lbs.

He played in four Yorkshire Cup finals, being on the winning side in 1883 and 1887 and suffering defeat in 1888 and 1890.

Fallas played fourteen times for Yorkshire between 1882 and 1884.  He made his debut against Durham in November 1882 and only missed two of Yorkshire’s games over the next two seasons.

Fallas was the third player from the Wakefield District to Fallas abe capped for England and the second from Wakefield Trinity to win international honours, playing for England in their one goal victory over Ireland in February 1884.  The England side that day also featured Harry Wigglesworth of Thornes F.C. Both players won only one cap.  Marshall, in ‘Rugby Football’ explained, “England played a very weak team and barely escaped defeat.  The forwards played a sound, though not brilliant, game.  Had the Irish backs been scorers instead of defensive players, the Irishmen would probably have won the match.”  The Cork Constitution newspaper explained that the game “proved quite as exciting and was productive of as good play as has been witnessed on former occasions.”  Wigglesworth and Fallas feature prominently in the various newspaper reports; for example, “Fallas having a good run” and “linked up well with his fellow townsman”.  The Leeds Times explained Fallas and Wigglesworth both “did well.”

At the end of the 1889/90 season it was announced that he was retiring in order to concentrate on his role as town clerk for the newly incorporated town of Ossett.  He had been club captain at the time of his retirement and had taken Trinity to the final of the Yorkshire Cup, which they lost to Huddersfield.  His speech after the final was praised and was being remembered a year later, “I am extremely sorry that I am not lucky enough to be captain of the victorious team, but it is the lot of football that one must win and one must lose.  If we cannot be the best team, we must be content with being second best.  I have yet to learn that it is any disgrace to be beaten by a fifteen composed of such men as the Huddersfield team.”  The Huddersfield Daily Chronicle explained, “Generosity like this to a victorious opponent is worthy of remembrance.”

However, this wasn’t the end of Fallas’ playing career.  He later turned out for Ossett and was involved in a controversy after a game against Wakefield Trinity, where Irish forward Stewart Bruce was injured during the game and play was held up for ten minutes whilst three Irish doctors treated him for a compound fracture of the tibia.  They improvised a splint with umbrellas and walking sticks and the door of the turnstiles was torn off its hinges to use as a stretcher.

Fallas b

Ossett objected to the result and Fallas appealed to The Yorkshire RFU committee who suspended him for making a “frivolous flimsy objection”, but later lifted the suspension, accepting that Fallas had launched the objection with the support of the Ossett committee and not off his own back.

Fallas later turned to refereeing – first under rugby union and later under the new Northern union laws.  In the final of the Bradford Charity Cup of 1893, Low Moor St Mark’s left the field before the end of the game “because they were dissatisfied with one of Fallas’ decisions.”  In October 1896, Bradford objected to Fallas, after he disallowed two tries in their match against Huddersfield, an official stating that a Wakefield referee should not have been appointed as there was an ongoing dispute between Wakefield and Bradford over the transfer of a Bradford player.

In 1896 he played twice for an ‘Old Fossils’ team, comprising retired rugby players, against a Huddersfield Police team to raise funds for an ambulance for the Huddersfield district.

During the summer of 1894, Fallas was made bankrupt.  He had left his post as town clerk to become an auctioneer and valuer in Hull.  It was noted that he had been paid a salary of £150 per year as town clerk.  His liabilities were £207 9s and his assets £11 2s 10d and he attributed his insolvency to “heavy expenses through sickness, to insufficiency of salary considering the position he had to maintain and bad trade.”  [The 1891 census show the family employed a domestic servant.]

In 1894, Fallas was the subject of a story, when it was alleged that he visited Cheltenham to ‘kidnap’ [poach] a player for Wakefield Trinity.  It was vehemently denied that Fallas was in the area.  The Western Mail described it as a “cock and bull” story and hoax.  His brother James “expressed his surprise on the report being shown to him and he said he could offer no explanation of the story, other than his brother having a double.  He believed his brother was attending a county committee meeting when it was alleged he was present in the West of England, adding, “At any rate, no one had any authority from the club to act in the way alleged.”  The Sheffield Daily Telegraph explained: “those who are aware of the relations subsisting between Mr Herbert Fallas and the committee of the Trinity club would never suspect for one moment that if it were he who was at Cheltenham at the time alleged, he was acting on behalf of the Trinity club.  He severed his connection with the club some years ago and has not even attended matches for a considerable time.”

It is therefore a mystery who Fallas was representing when, in December 1894, he attended a meeting of the RFU in London. “a sparring match with well-padded gloves” as described by the former RFU President William Cail.  The Yorkshire Evening Post was more descriptive, “Up to a certain point, there was an absence of reality about the proceedings.  The parties in the ring simply gave a dull exhibition of harmless fencing, and it appeared as if the much talked of conflict would end in a fizzle.  Yet beneath the assumed smoothness of the exterior of the meeting, it was evident that there lay a quantity of highly inflammable material, only wanting the slightest spark to produce instant combustion.”

That spark was professionalism.  The paper continued, “Mr Herbert Fallas, the old Wakefield international three-quarter back, made the happiest hit of the evening by stating that Messrs Maud and Carpmael (of Barbarians fame) had been preaching from the text, “We thank thee, O Lord, that we are not as other men” and the general laughter and cheering that greeted the sally showed that it reflected the opinion which the large majority of those present entertained of the Maudo-Carpmaelian righteousness.  Mr Fallas followed it up with another palpable home thrust, in the remark that, despite the spotless purity of Southern clubs, they always required a guarantee when they paid visits to the North, at which a voice chimed in – ‘And they won’t play if they don’t get it.’

As a practical contribution to the professional controversy, Mr Fallas made reference to the different social conditions of North and South football men, and raised the payment for broken time proposals, a line of argument which appeared to be studiously avoided by the other delegates throughout the evening.”

After the schism of 1895, Fallas gave an interview to the Bradford Observer, explaining, “Why, one club in Yorkshire alone has paid more for champagne dinners and shilling cigars for southern gentlemen having their holiday in the North in the shape of tours than would trebly pay all that is asked for in broken time”.  Similarly, he argued that in ‘recent times’ the backbone of Yorkshire rugby had been the working class players and not the “collar and cuff “ brigade…whereas, in the Southern teams, the men, as a rule, have been born with silver spoons in their mouths and do not understand the meaning of broken time.”

There is still some mystery as to when and where Fallas died.  On the 1901 census, his wife Alice is shown as widowed and living in Lancashire with their children Clifford Herbert, Kathleen and Cecil.  Therefore his death occurred sometime between 1897 (allowing for the birth of Cecil) and March 1901 (the date of the census).  By 1911, his son Clifford Herbert was living with his uncle James Henry, who was a newsagent and Tobacconist on Northgate in Wakefield, and his cousin Vernon.

About the Author: Richard Lowther is an amateur rugby historian and collector.  He writes a monthly newsletter ‘Burglar Bill’ about the defunct Wakefield RFC of which he was a member.  Copies can be obtained free by emailing  He is a member of the Rugby Memorabilia Society and webmaster of and two Facebook groups, Rugby Memorabilia pre-1950 and Baines Rugby Card Collectors.

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Remembering the first British and Irish Lions Tour

In 1888 a British touring team was sent to the antipodean colonies to play rugby; an event that subsequently became a key moment in rugby history, setting a precedent for years to come and beginning one of the great traditions of the sport.

Dubbed the Anglo-Australian tour, the tour is now accepted as the first in the line of British and Irish Lions tours that have gone on to supply so many of rugby’s most enduring memories.

The World Rugby Museum is home to a number of items from this tour, including the jersey worn by A.P. ‘Alf’ Penketh. Of the 54 matches contested against New Zealand and Australia on this tour, Penketh would would play 19 and would even score a try against Canterbury on the 9th May 1888. Born in 1865, Alf Penketh was a native of the Isle of Man.  A seasoned forward, he played for and captained the Douglas Rugby Club before being called upon to represent the British Isles team.  Penketh’s story is unique as he is the sole Manxman to to play rugby for the British and Irish Lions to this day.

Tours 1888 Jersey+Medal+Cap

Alf Penketh’s jersey, along with the 1888 Anglo-Australian tour cap and medal.

But just how did this 6 foot tall lad from the Isle of Man end up on board the SS Kaikoura from Gravesend to New Zealand in the spring of 1888?

On the 9th of November 1887, a gentleman named Arthur Shrewsbury sent a message from Sydney, Australia, to England that simply read, ‘affix’. The recipient was his business partner, Alfred Shaw, who had now been given the green light to start recruiting men for an international rugby tour to Australia and New Zealand. A talented batsman, Shrewsbury was visiting and partly financing a cricketing tour to Australia at the time.  After four such tours he was rumoured to have been struggling financially, and looked to rugby football to bring his bank account back from the brink.

This was not an official rugby venture – the RFU Committee unanimously opposed the tour; however, they did not seek to actively oppose prospective players from joining it.  The Committee made a point of reminding players of the rules against professionalism, and indeed followed through with punishing players for accepting payment or gifts whilst on tour, as Halifax forward Jack Clowes soon found out.  On the eve of departure, Clowes would be disqualified from playing by the RFU for admitting to receiving £15 for tour kit.  Whilst continuing on the tour, Clowes refused to play a single game so as to avoid tarnishing the reputation of his team-mates.

The 1888 Football Annual described the 22 man squad (21 when Clowes is taken off playing duties, then down to 20 when captain Bob Seddon drowned whilst sculling half way through the tour) as ‘a fairly good lot…though by no means representative of English football’.  Assembled by agent Henry Turner, many of the players were not seasoned internationals, with only 3 out of the 22 being regular internationals.  They were, however, representative of British Isles rugby with players from all four home nations. The team included four Scots, one Welshman, an Irishman, and not to forget Penketh, representing the Isle of Man.  These men were considered rugby ‘missionaries’ of sorts, spreading their passion for the game through the southern hemisphere.

1888 Lions

The British team that toured Australia and New Zealand in 1888.

Thirty-five games of rugby were played between April-October 1888 and, in a move that would unthinkable today, the team were also asked to play several Australian rules football matches. As this was a privately funded tour with no patronage from the RFU, the British team were able to play 19 games of the local code in all, even winning 5 of the matches. The tourists would have been the first to admit that they did not take to the southern sport well, but these games were less about the sport and more about assisting with the cash flow for the promoters. This was especially necessary during periods of the tour in southern areas of Australia where rugby wasn’t well-known or followed.

The British Isles team played 54 matches between the two codes over 23 weeks.  Whilst the Australians had the upper hand at their local version of football, only two rugby games were lost and six drawn out of the 35 rugby union games played.  19 of these rugby games were played against side from New Zealand and 16 against sides from Australia.

The success of this first international tour started a tradition that continues to this day. The British and Irish Lions have embarked on 32 international tours to the Southern Hemisphere and 2017 sees the Lions take the journey south again, travelling this time solely to New Zealand for 10 games in June and July.

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Rugby’s Greatest Upsets Part 5 – Rugby World Cup, 2015

English merchants and soldiers had brought rugby to Japan even before it had arrived in New Zealand.  Yokohama Football Club, founded in 1866, is the oldest known rugby club in Asia.  But it wasn’t until 1899 when Ginosuke Tanaka returned from Cambridge University that the game began to take root with Japanese people, primarily at Keio University in Tokyo.


“A Football Match at Yokohama, Japan”

Japanese rugby then evolved in isolation until a fast, technically accurate game frightened the life out of the baby All Blacks in 1968.  For a while Japanese rugby became a thing of curious wonder in the west and a touring side did manage to defeat a strong Scotland side in 1989.

Then, perhaps chastened by the powerful scrummaging they encountered overseas, Japan partially abandoned its roots and sought, unsuccessfully, to emulate the more established rugby playing nations.

That all changed in 2012 when Australian Eddie Jones became coach and instructed the Brave Blossoms to return to the type of rugby with which they were most comfortable.  A win against a depleted Welsh side was secured in 2013 but few took Jones seriously when he stated his intention to qualify for the quarter-finals at the outset of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

In seven previous appearances at World Cup finals Japan had won once in twenty-four attempts.  This time they were drawn in a group with South Africa, Scotland, Samoa and USA and their campaign would begin against two time World Champions the Springboks.

South Africa v Japan - Group B: Rugby World Cup 2015

South Africa v Japan, 19/09/2015, Brighton. Photo Credit: Getty

Featuring World Cup winners such as Shalk Burger, Victor Matfield and Bryan Habana the ‘Boks were expected to mount a credible challenge for honours coming into the tournament.  Although they had never faced Japan before pundits agreed that the contest should be little more than a routine victory for South Africa.

With thirty minutes played Japan had already caused an upset and despite conceding the first try, led 10-7.  Without panic the Springboks upped their game and scored three additional tries but every time they established a lead the Cherry Blossoms reeled them back in.

With ten minutes to go the scores were tied at 29-29.  Again South Africa came forward and a penalty gave them a 32-29 lead.  But with minutes left if was Japan who looked the fresher.  Precise tackling, quickly recycling the ball and accurate passing had the ‘Boks on the rack.  In the final minute in a sign of great confidence Japan passed up the chance to kick a penalty for a draw.  Moments later they had crossed the South African try-line to win.

Wins against Samoa and the USA followed and although the Brave Blossoms ultimately fell short of Jones’ ambition a marker was set down.  England 2015 had its first, but not its last, iconic moment.

South Africa v Japan - Group B: Rugby World Cup 2015

Photo Credit: Getty

Read Rugby’s Greatest Upsets Part 1 , Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4

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‘The Captain Who Never Came Back’ -Bob Seddon

Name: Robert Lionel Seddonbob-seddon

Birthplace: Salford

Position: Forward
Total Caps: 3

Calcutta Cups: 1 retained

Triple Crowns: 0

Outright Championship Victories: 0
Grand Slams: n/a
World Cups: n/a

Bob Seddon was the only player to have been described as being ‘good at every point of the game’ in Lillywhite’s 1886 Football Annual.  Elsewhere the versatile broad shouldered forward was described as ‘one of the best forwards in the north’ and a ‘typical Lancashire Lad’.

Seddon lost both his parents at an early age and had grown up an operative in the manufacturing districts of Manchester.  Off the field, as well as on it, he was respected as a sportsman and a gentleman.

He had earned 3 England caps in 1887, retaining the Calcutta Cup in the process, and it seems likely that he would have gone on to win more due to his hard-working, determined but fair approach on the field.

In 1888, he was elected by his team-mates to be the first ever captain of a side that would go on to become the British and Irish Lions.  He scored three tries on the tour but was tragically killed in a sculling incident on the Hunter River in New South Wales.

one-of-us-coverAbout the Author: This article is an extract from the book One of Us: England’s Greatest Rugby Players, available here.  Phil McGowan has been a member of the World Rugby Museum team since 2007.

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Rugby Memorabilia – Not just for rugby enthusiasts…

As a collector of rugby memorabilia I am always keen to show off my collection.  I write a monthly newsletter, ‘Burglar Bill’, to share my Wakefield related memorabilia with a like minded audience and I run two Facebook groups which share my interests of pre 1950 rugby memorabilia and Baines cards with a wider audience.

However, both these approaches lack the personal touch and I always look for a chance to share in person – with my family, friends and work colleagues being in the firing line.  They are now used to me talking about and sharing my latest finds.  Although none of them will claim to be rugby enthusiasts I believe each can find something of interest in viewing rugby memorabilia.

Take for example a local rugby programme.  The rugby side will hold no interest but the adverts for long gone shops and products always spark a conversation.  Social historians can use programmes to see how shopping patterns have changed over the years or how businesses have adapted to a changing world.  For example, one business that used to advertise in Wakefield RFC’s programme changed from being a coal merchant into an undertaker!

Player interviews in programmes can reveal a rapid changing taste in entertainment, fashion and cars – how we now laugh at the selection of a Ford Granada as a players dream car!

Changes in technology are demonstrated in programmes.  Thorn-EMI sponsored the County Championship in the early 1980s and the match programmes are full of, what we now view as, bulky home videos and tapes or other pre digital obsolete products.

Graphic designers will be amused by some of the basic artwork which accompanied the adverts – forerunners of the clipart that proliferated in the early days of desktop publishing, but on the other hand, some of the hand drawn art which is usually found on Victorian and Edwardian era dinner menus are worthy of exhibition in a gallery.

Dinner menus of this era provide an opportunity to see what rugby players would have eaten and drunk at social affairs.  Banquets fit for a King – and sometimes the Royals were in attendance – allowed the middle and upper classes to eat in the style they may have been accustomed to, but also provided a rare opportunity for the working class player to indulge and escape, well at least for one day, from a ‘bread and dripping’ diet.

Tour itineraries contain glorious detail about times, meals, train changes and social breaks, all in a document usually small enough to fit into a blazer pocket.

Talking of blazers, photographs allow an insight into the fashions of the day – not just amongst the players but also crowds and the almost compulsory wearing of flat caps pre-World War 2.


So when you offer to share your collection with a non-rugby enthusiast in the future, don’t be surprised if they do find something which interests them in some non-sporting way.

About the Author: Richard Lowther is an amateur rugby historian and collector.  He writes a monthly newsletter ‘Burglar Bill’ about the defunct Wakefield RFC of which he was a member.  Copies can be obtained free by emailing  He is a member of the Rugby Memorabilia Society and webmaster of and two Facebook groups, Rugby Memorabilia pre-1950 and Baines Rugby Card Collectors.

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Want to be part of Twickenham history?

The World Rugby Museum and Twickenham Stadium Tours have been operating since 1996 and we are looking for more volunteers to join our elite team of Tour Guides.

Our Tour Guides come from all walks of life and bring a wealth of knowledge and experience along with them.

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Here’s what some of them have to say…

Phil describes guiding as “a great opportunity to share the wonderful culture of rugby…and the moving history of the stadium and the game”. He enjoys meeting visitors from around the world and being part of a team of rugby enthusiasts.

Victoria loves working at the stadium because “you never know who is going to turn up on your tours.” Whilst taking a group of young players from New Zealand on a stadium tour recently she met a lad whose parents had included ‘Leicester’, ‘Wales’ and ‘Twickenham’ in his full name. ”It’s fair to say his father was a proper rugby fan. And to think that this boy could play for the All Blacks one day.”

Chris’s favourite tour guiding memory is of taking a French school around the stadium. “A young boy was carrying a small leather case with him and kept telling me it was a surprise. At pitchside at the end of the tour, he took a bugle out of the case and played the Marseillaise, the school joining in with the words. A very special moment! Even though I have given hundreds of tours, I still get a special buzz taking people around this wonderful stadium and seeing the pleasure they experience”.

For more information on becoming a volunteer Twickenham Stadium Tour Guide, please visit our website.

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Lest We Forget – Bryn Lewis (Wales) 2 April 1917

Bryn Lewis 001 (4)

Brinley Richard Lewis was a speedy wing three-quarter of great skill who, for a variety of reasons, was never able to demonstrate his talents to the full at international level.  He was highly regarded by English critics, some of whom were bewildered that Wales didn’t make more use of him.

“He had splendid hands, true football pace, pluck, neat kicking ability … and he knew the game.  He was the best wing of his day [yet] could boast only a couple of international caps”, wrote one.

Injuries and the coming of war restricted his international appearances and, because he played much of his best rugby for Cambridge University and occasionally London Welsh, many of his outstanding performances took place out of the sight of Welsh selectors.

Born in the Swansea Valley at Pontardawe in 1891, “Bryn” was not unknown, however, in Wales.  Even at fourteen, he was already making headlines.  He “played brilliantly” with the ball in hand when Wales defeated the English Schools at Leicester in 1905.

After captaining Swansea Grammar School, Bryn played for Pontardawe before going up to Trinity Hall Cambridge in 1909.  There he won the first of his three Blues on the wing in December 1909.  Unfortunately, Oxford were much stronger during this period and Bryn was on the losing side on each occasion.  Although in 1910, his inspirational play almost gave Cambridge an unexpected victory.  Just after half time, Bryn scored his second try to put his side into an 18-13 lead.  However, he was then controversially tackled and badly injured while in touch.  He took no further part in the game.  Most observers agreed that the loss of Bryn, who was playing splendidly, was the turning point of the match.  Reduced to fourteen, Cambridge struggled to defend against the Oxford attack and the peerless Ronnie Poulton struck twice, his second try sealing a 23-18 last minute victory.

Even though Oxford comfortably won the 1911 Varsity match by 19 points, Bryn was singled out for praise by the press for his “brilliant form”.  He “alone grasped what was wanted in attack”.  He made some good runs, cross kicked cleverly but “was handicapped by the poor play of his fellow backs”.  In fact, Bryn had been demonstrating his blistering pace for Cambridge all season and he was now seriously being talked about as a future international.  Had he been playing regularly for Swansea, one Welsh journalist believed, he would certainly have been capped earlier; but he was forced to wait until the final international of 1911-12 before being given his chance against Ireland in Belfast.

However, Wales selected a very inexperienced side which played poorly, particularly in the backs, who squandered many scoring opportunities.  Bryn had a disappointing game.  He seemed to be over anxious and he failed to produce anything like his Cambridge form.  The 12-5 defeat was the first time in thirteen years that Wales lost two Championship matches in a season: selectors, press and Welsh public were not too pleased.

Bryn returned to Cambridge for a fourth year, but a late injury cost him a fourth Blue in 1912, when ironically Cambridge won for the first time in seven years.  Previously, Bryn had turned out for Swansea during his vacations, but for the rest of 1912-13, he was now able to play regularly in Wales for the All Whites.  This was a good time to be a member of the Swansea team, which went on to win the Welsh Club Championship that season.  Such was the quality of his performances for the club that the selectors could not continue to overlook him and he was again picked for the final game of the season against Ireland.  This time there was to be a complete turnaround in his fortunes.  Playing with much greater self-assurance, he had a magnificent game.  In a tense match, Wales just managed to hang on to win by 16-13.  Bryn had a big hand in the victory, running with great confidence, defending courageously and contributing two of the three Welsh tries, one from half-way. He was the best three-quarter on the field.

Further honours followed over Easter 1913 when Bryn became the first Swansea player to represent the Barbarians.  However, persistent injuries affected his play for much of the crucial part of 1913-14 and these ruled him out of consideration for further caps that season.  He did eventually recover his old form but events unfolding in Europe would deny Bryn any chance of playing for Wales again.

He enlisted early in the war and, while still in training, he was selected for the Welsh XV which faced the Barbarians at Cardiff in April 1915.  Wales fielded a strong side, but one lacking in match fitness.  The Barbarians, captained by Edgar Mobbs, won comfortably by 26-10, but Bryn was one of the few Welsh players to come out of the game with his reputation intact.  A few weeks later, he was commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery.

He served on the Western Front with the 38th (Welsh) Division throughout 1916 and survived the Battle of Mametz Wood, which took the lives of fellow Welsh internationals Johnny Williams and Dick Thomas.  By August 1916, Bryn had been promoted to major and was commanding a six-gun battery.  In April 1917, the Welsh Division were holding part of the line in the Ypres Salient.  On the morning of the 2thApril, Bryn was taking his breakfast behind the gun lines when he was killed by a high velocity shell.

His brigade commander later wrote: “he was such a splendid fellow … he was beloved by officers and men alike … he had great strength of character and was bound always to do well.”

Brinley Richard Lewis is buried in Ferme-Olivier Cemetery, near Boesinghe,

About the Author: Gwyn Prescott is a Cardiff based rugby historian and writer. His latest book ‘Call Them to Remembrance’: The Welsh Rugby Internationals who Died in the Great War is available through publishers St. David’s Press and from Amazon.

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