March 21 1942

NZ Services lose to Welsh Guards.

For all their passion for rugby, Welsh teams do not often beat New Zealand sides. One that did was the Welsh Guards who in a World War II match at Richmond Athletic Ground beat NZ Services 9 – 6 in 1942.

 New Zealand Services were established in 1941 and played seven matches in the 1941-42 season, winning three. Made up mainly of Air Force and Navy personnel availability of players was always an issue, as the following article demonstrates.


Eric Grant - co founder and captain of NZ Services.

Commenting on the season, Eric Grant says: “Difficulties in the way of obtaining a good evenly-balanced team were many. The plan was to select the best possible side and keep in mind at least another 15 players as reserves to be called on at a moment’s notice, and to tell these reserves to be prepared in case they were wanted. Flying, naturally enough, had to take precedence over Rugby, but owing to the vagaries of the weather it was difficult to forecast what it would be like, and consequently many players would not be released by their units till the morning of the match. If they were stationed in Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Yorkshire, etc., as was often the case, it would be impossible for them to reach London in time for the game. Then. again as practically the whole team in each case was chosen from flying personnel, casualties made great inroads into our available players. Les. Ellis was an early casualty whose loss both as a player and as a chap was keenly felt. It was difficult to build up a team under those conditions, especially as players were so widely dispersed throughout the length and breadth of the United Kingdom, and as the personnel of the team was continually changing. There was no opportunity for practising together, as our team usually foregathered a couple of hours before the game at the New Zealand Forces Club, Charing Cross Road. That was mostly the headquarters in London. Many players after a strenuous six or seven hours train journey on a crowded, bustling train had only time enough to gulp down a hurried cup of tea before departing for Richmond: Athletic Ground, where the majority of our matches were contested.’’

From “Five Seasons of Services Rugby 1941-1946” by A C Swan and A H Carman. Published by Sporting Publications 1946. P.8.

 Nine of the Services team that met the Welsh Guards in 1942 had played first class rugby in New Zealand before the War, though in some cases at “B” or Colts level. Most experienced was Eric Grant (Poverty Bay 1933-34, 1937-38, Auckland 1935-36, North Auckland 1939 and NZ Universities 1936. As well as playing for a number of combined Services teams Grant also played four Services internationals for Scotland against England as a centre threequarter. Of the others, fullback R R Lees had represented Bay of Plenty 1932-40 and Charles Saundercock was the Canterbury halfback in 1938.

World War II being what what it was, sadly seven of the NZ Services XV that played the Welsh Guards did not live to see the end of the war and six, Saundercock and forwards E C Cox, Stuart Wells, George Samson, Jack Tanner and John Gordon were killed in action

March 21 v Welsh Guards.

Lost 6 – 9. M Cato try. N Laurence penalty goal.