The Story of a 'lost' War Memorial
Richard Cable, historian and former Club player first began the project to trace the members of Rosslyn Park who died in the Great War.
It had always struck him as odd that a venerable club dating back to the 19th Century had a memorial to those lost in the Second World War, but not the First. Nobody was sure why, but the consensus was that it was 'lost' when the club moved in 1956 from its former ground at the Old Deer Park, Richmond to its present home in Roehampton.
In the Club's archives, he discovered a press cutting from a 1918 edition of the Richmond & Twickenham Times. Entitled 'A Magnificent Record' it stated that Park had lost 66 men during the conflict and that a further six were missing. More than 80 had been wounded and four were still prisoners of war. Very few names were mentioned .
It went on to list, very much in the manner of a breathless match report, the various decorations won by Park's serving members, both surviving and killed in action, from the Victoria Cross to Mentions in Despatches.
The article also described Rosslyn Park's war record, unique amongst English clubs. While most teams, including Park, closed down on the outbreak of war in 1914, it was agreed that the public school holiday matches should be revived as a 'morale booster. Hosted by Rosslyn Park in 1916, they survive today as the National Schools Sevens, the world's largest junior rugby tournament.
They were a success and a month later the Services XV was formed. Games continued to be played until the end of the war. Proceeds went to war charities, including the Star & Garter. In the days before PTSD was understood, rugby was an effective therapy: Capt HM Chrystall, a New Zealander, before his return to France in Jan 1918, wrote: " I will very much miss the pleasant Saturday afternoon recreation. The games have got me thoroughly fit in wind and limb after being a physical wreck through shell-shock and given up by the doctors."
700 names later ( in the club's copperplate minutes) work continues, but the Roll of Honour of confirmed names is on this site. Many poignant and heroic stories about these remarkable men, all from one rugby club, have been unearthed. We include some of them here and will add more as we find them.
One find during our research is two Park names, Harrison VC and Dowson MC, on the War Memorial at the Richardson Evans Memorial Playing Fields, Wimbledon. Today this is the venue for the Rosslyn Park National Schools Sevens, the world's largest rugby tournament. Surely Dowson and Harrison will look down with great pleasure on 7,000 junior rugby players competing every March in the game they loved.