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© Simon Inglis / Played in Britain
This war memorial at the Richmond Athletic Ground in west London (as featured in Played in London) is thought to be most extensive of any located at British sports ground. Between them, the two rugby clubs which share the ground – Richmond and London Scottish – lost a total of 162 members in WW1, followed by a further 98 in 1939-45.
Reflecting the social backgrounds of amateur rugby players in the 20th century, most were apparently junior officers, who on the Western Front in WW1 had an average life expectancy of six weeks. Fifty nine of the men listed for 1914-18 – the equivalent of almost four rugby XVs – were members of Richmond FC and are remembered by Paul Grindrod here. Ironically, Richmond"s colours of red, yellow and black are said to have been adopted in 1867 after one of the players saw Belgian soldiers on parade in London.
A further 103 names from 1914-18 played for London Scottish FC, whose members gathered for a moving service at the clubhouse on Remembrance Sunday.
In total, 20 of the 32 Scottish Rugby internationals who were killed in WW1 played for London Scottish. Such was rugby"s contribution to the war effort, contrasted with the initially reluctant approach of professional football in 1914-15, that after 1918 a 'rush to rugby' saw numerous public schools, Harrow included, dropping soccer in favour of what was now seen as the more patriotic oval ball game.
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