May 12 1946

 

“KIWIS AT OSTERLEY

 “Why We Like the Kiwis (The lost game of the 1945-46 Kiwi tour of the United Kingdom)”

The pending donation in 2012, by the family of a member of the 1946 Osterley club side that played the 1945-46 “Kiwis”, of Bob Scott’s “Kiwis” jersey to the Museum of Rugby at Twickenham prompted journalist Huw Richards to enquire about the hitherto unreported match

Bob Scott, then in failing health, could not be approached. But his son Bruce supplied the following article. He believes it came from a softball magazine.


Fred Allen - approached Osterley to set up the match.

Even Winston McCarthy’s full record of the post-war Kiwis’ tour (“Broadcasting with the Kiwis”), does not mention the last, extra, match while the team waited for the ship home.

Between 27 October 1945 and 31 March 1946 the New Zealand Army rugby team (officially the Second NZEF side but popularly known as the Kiwis) completed an often arduous tour covering the British Isles, Ireland, France and Germany. It was a wet winter and some games were played in atrocious conditions.

Lieutenant General Sir Bernard Freyberg had instigated the tour at war’s end and obtained 7000 pounds guarantee for expenses from the New Zealand Government. The clear objectives of the tour were to help revive interest in rugby in the British Isles and to play bright, open football, with the winning of the game not the most important factor. The Kiwis proved hugely popular, both on and off the field. Army, Navy and Air Force charities benefited by almost 40,000 pounds.

In those five months the Kiwis played 33 matches, winning 29, drawing two and losing just two. It was an amazing feat for men just finished with a war and many of them years away from home.

But the one game missing was when they were finally ready to leave and it came through an invitation for Fred Allen and Bert Cooke1, initiated by a contact in New Zealand House, to the Osterley Rugby Club’s annual end of season dinner.

To quote club life member Tennant Eastman in an extract from the club history:

“One of the highlights of the evening was the attendance of Fred Allen and Bert Cooke of the visiting ‘Kiwis”. Fred Allen expressed the wish that they had heard of us earlier because they would have been delighted to come along and coach us, or have used our club for giving games to their player who were recovering from injury. They thoroughly enjoyed their evening and we literally had to carry them to Twickenham the next day for the Middlesex Sevens, which the Kiwis won.2

“You can imagine our surprise when, about ten days later, I received a telephone call from Fred Allen saying that, owing to a dock strike at Tilbury, their sailing for home on the SS Moreton Bay was delayed and could they come down and play us?

What a dilemma. The club house was closed for the summer, the posts stored away and the grass about a foot high. Frantic telephone calls to the Rugby Union to obtain permission to play in the close season resulting in the whole club turning out with mowers, scythes, sickles etc and I recall towing all sorts of mowers around the ground with my new Opel car.”

“The event was described by the following report which appeared in the “Evening News” on Saturday 11th May (April) under the heading “This is why we like the Kiwis”

‘We have another grand example of the sort of thing which has made the Kiwis the most popular of al rugby visitors when tomorrow afternoon a part of them will go down to Osterley to play against the local club. Although they are in the throes of packing up for their return home, yet they are quite willing to repay the hospitality which has been shown them. Two of their member, F Allen and H Cook, were guests at the recent Osterley Dinner. It is through them that the match has been arranged. Normally the season has ended, and in any case the RU frown on Sunday matches, but I understand they have been granted permission for the two teams to meet. So here is a last chance to see in action those players who have entertained so many rugby followers this winter. There is nothing competitive about the match. Osterley look upon it as a high honour and the Kiwis are delighted to have one more opportunity the show their appreciation for the reception they have received over here’.

“As a result of this article some 2000 spectators turned up on the day. There were no grandstands on the Wood Lane ground, just an open field and a small clubhouse. A most enjoyable game was had by one and all. The result was immaterial – the score unknown. At half time some of the Kiwis switched sides and after the game it was most rewarding and appreciated to see Cook, Bob Scott and others still on the field coaching some of the local players.

It was one of the few times when an English club played an international team with the others being Blackheath and Leicester against the Maoris in 1926 and Leicester v the All Blacks in 1924-25.3

“Both sides moved to the local “Lion and Lamb” to carry on the conviviality. The landlord was one of the players in the match. Very late that night the Kiwis piled into two or three cars and were returned to the Fern Leaf Club in Lowndes Square, off Knightsbridge.

“A couple of days later, just before they eventually sailed, the Osterley club and supporters were all invited to spend an evening at their club”.

It was the start of many years of strong links with New Zealand and visiting Kiwis were always warmly welcomed4. The photograph of the two teams hung in the clubrooms along with Bob Scott’s jersey4 until the club went into recess a few years ago as a result of Southall becoming a totally different ethnic community, mainly South Asians with no interest in rugby. However a large number of former club players still meet up for an annual dinner and get-together.

The teams that day were: Kiwis: HE Cook, RWH Scott, EG Boggs, JB Smith, WA Meates, FR Allen, RL Dobson, I Proctor, GB Nelson, AW Blake, JG Bond, Edwards, Hume, Urlich, Thayen5, Ingpen.

Osterley: J Madath, W Jones, G Williams, E McCormack, B Nash, J Nicholl, TS Davies, KT Eastman, JM Nicoll, R Firman, GL Lewis, J Holland, DC Morris, F Yates, E Cornwall.

There was no rest for the Kiwis when they arrived back home as public demand had them playing six more matches, against provincial sides. These and all the 33 official games in the UK and France were well documented by broadcaster Winston McCarthy, who also became a household name in the next twenty years.

Only the Osterley match was missing6.

Some background information:

This story was provided by Gordon Florence, formerly an Eastern Suburbs soccer player who fell in love with the English style of rugby and post-match conviviality after playing a friendly game for West Herts in 1958. He joined Osterley and played several seasons before returning to New Zealand in 1966 and playing for Eastern Suburbs in Auckland for many years. He still keeps in touch with many of his old Osterley team mates, with many reciprocal visits.

Bob Scott, who had played rugby league for Ponsonby before the war, and Ron Dobson returned to Auckland and became the stars of the fledgling Auckland softball competition. Their photos put the game into the newspapers and they were joined by rugby league international Bob King, as well as outstanding soccer goal scorer Don Brewer in the news. Bob, named one of the official Legends of softball, played for Auckland before and after the war.

Bert Cooke became a rugby league star in the north of England while Johnny Smith, Fred Allen, Bill Meates and Eric Boggs became household names.”

Some points about the above article.

  1. “Bert Cooke” was actually Herb Cook, one of the “Kiwis’” two excellent fullbacks.
  2. Certainly the “Kiwis” played in the 1946 Middlesex Sevens but did not win it, losing to Cardiff in the semi finals. Dai Davies, later a hooker with the 1950 Lions, played for Cardiff with a boot plastered over to protect an injured foot. To the embarrassment of the New Zealanders Davies, plastered boot notwithstanding, ran away from them to score the winning try.
  3. I think this understates the number of clubs who have played international teams. Blackheath, Richmond, Leicester, Cheltenham, Oxford University, Cambridge University, were club sides who played against the 1905/6 All Blacks and there may have been more on other tours.
  4. It was the pending donation, by the family of one of the 1946 Osterley side, of Bob Scott’s “Kiwis” jersey to the Museum of Rugby at Twickenham that prompted Huw Richards’ enquiry.
  5. Hume, Urlich and Thayen are presumed to be ring-ins for the “Kiwis”.
  6. The “Kiwis” did play at least one other match not recorded in McCarthy’s book or in other records. The Rugby Museum in Palmerston North has team lists and a press report of their match against REME (Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineering Corps) at Arborfield on 5 December 1945.”

The above is a really great story and one that adds to the “Kiwis” already wonderful record.