Every day young men and women are inspired by the performances of rugby players around the world. The dedication of players to help their nations succeed in major championships is something admired by many. However, we often forget the players that helped their nation succeed not only on the rugby pitch, but also on the battlefield. The players of the past are equally as important as the players of today. Many of England’s Rugby Union side gave their lives in the First World War for their country and they are our unsung heroes.
The captain of the English Rugby Team in 1914 was Arthur Dingle, affectionately known as ‘mud’ by his teammates. Dingle played rugby at Durham School and later at Keble College, Oxford where he read Theology. He played for Durham County as well as settling on Hartlepool Rovers as his home club, playing for them during their 1911-12 season as centre and wing. The following season Dingle was made captain, scoring 55 tries in one season, leading him to be chosen to play in the match of England against Scotland and later France in the last international matches before the outbreak of the First World War.
In September 1914 he began serving with the 6th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment. Dingle was sent to Gallipoli and took part in the Suvla Bay landings in 1915, before losing his life in the Battle of Scimitar Hill, a major assault which ended in disaster.
One of his teammates, Arthur Harrison, also fought in World War One with the Navy, later receiving the posthumous Victoria Cross for his bravery. He was a resolute forward and played for the Hampshire County side. Harrison was a Lieutenant-Commander in the Royal Navy and, during the the war, he participated in many the important naval battles of the conflict. This included action at Dogger Bank in 1915 and Jutland in 1916. However, an attack on the Port of Zeebrugge left him severely wounded by a fragment of shrapnel which broke his jaw and knocked him unconscious. Nevertheless, when he regained consciousness, he led his troops in an attack to try and stop the German guns. Harrison, along with many of his men, was killed. What made him so remarkable was that he lead this raid with severe injuries and tried until the last moment to succeed. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions at the Zeebrugge Raid in 1918.
Dingle and Harrison were just two of the men who gave their lives and along with many others. They should be remembered for their bravery and commitment to their country. Rugby is a key sport at Berkhamsted and, during World War One, Berkhamsted boys also gave their lives for our freedom, a sacrifice that we all must remember.
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