Grand Slam Heroes

The 2018 Six Nations Championship gets under way this weekend, and as England's victorious team of the past two seasons gears up for an attempt at a record third straight Gland Slam, it's more than a little poignant to look back to the year they first secured that coveted title.

What was then the Five (rather than Six) Nations began for England in 1913 with a win (their first) at Cardiff Arms Park and was sealed, four matches later, by the defeat of Scotland at Twickenham. That great pre-war team contained some of the legends of the game at the time, men like the captain, Norman Atherton Wodehouse, Cyril ('Kid') Lowe and W.J.A. ('Dave') Davies.

The side also contained five men who the following year (and after the team's second Grand Slam) would answer a very different call - to war - and would not return.

One such was Ronald Poulton, who captained the side in 1914. He was already a commissioned territorial officer in the Royal Berkshire Regiment. As soon as war was declared in August 1914 Poulton volunteered for overseas service. His war was brief.

Poulton was killed by an enemy sniper on 5th May 1915 in the area around Ploegsteert Wood in Belgium. He had been in Flanders for just two months. He is buried at Hyde Park Corner Cemetery in Belgium.

Norman Atherton Wodehouse, the 1913 captain, served with distinction as a Naval gunnery officer at the Battle of Jutland. He survived the First World War and was recalled to the service in 1939, on the eve of another world conflict.

His luck ran out while he was commanding a Merchant Navy convoy which was attacked by a German submarine. Woodhouse gave the order to scatter. But his own ship, the Robert L. Holt, was sunk. Woodhouse is commemorated on the Liverpool Naval Memorial.


Popular Posts