Wales’ rugby players who laid down their lives in WWI
POSITION: Back CAPS: Nine DIED: On January 24, 1915, at Dogger Bank in the North Sea. THE first Welsh international to die in action during the Great War, Taylor was previously the country’s leading pole vaulter.
Born to English parents, Taylor was known for his “Association”-style of play, going in for flying kicks and hardly ever failing to bring them off.
He would later go on to enjoy a distinguished naval career and was engineer-captain of the HMS Tiger upon his death at the age of 51, following the Battle of Dogger Bank.
In 1909, Taylor’s sister Lilian Maud married Llewelyn Kenrick, a Welsh football international who would later go on to help found the Football Association of Wales.
POSITION: Winger CAPS: Three DIED: On July 31, 1915, at Hooge, Flanders, Belgium. A PLAYER known for his pace, Geen was a key part of the Newport side who overcame South Africa in 1912, and made his Wales debut seven weeks later against the same opponents. He was actually once picked by England for a trial match and even scored a try, but he was never picked for a full competitive cap. Geen was commissioned into the 9th Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps and was killed in action at the age of 24, making him the youngest Welsh international to die in World War I. RICHARD GARNONS WILLIAMS POSITION: Forward CAPS: One DIED: On September 28, 1915, at Loos-en-Gohelle, France. AT 59, Williams was the oldest rugby international of any nation to die in the war. His body was never found.
After already seeing military service in Gibraltar and Egypt, Williams made his one and only appearance for Wales against England in 1881.
He served as a lieutenant colonel in the 12th Battalion Fusiliers.
POSITION: Half-back CAPS: Four DIED: On March 14, 1916, at Cambrin, France. AN ARCHITECT from Newport, Phillips was a member of the 1900 Triple Crown-winning side, before his rugby career was brought to an abrupt end following an injury against Scotland in 1901.
He would later go on to be a successful amateur golfer, before serving in the 20th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers as a sergeant. He was killed aged 38.
POSITION: Forward CAPS: Four DIED: On July 7, 1916, at Mametz, Somme, France. A POLICEMAN and amateur boxer, Thomas played for Glamorgan against New Zealand and South Africa in 1905 and 1906 respectively.
After enlisting in the Welsh Regiment in January 1915, he was promoted to Company Sergeant Major and was killed in action with the 16th Battalion aged 35 during the Battle of the Somme. JOHNNY WILLIAMS POSITION: Winger CAPS: 17
DIED ON: On July 12, 1916, at Mametz, Somme, France. THE tricky winger averaged a try a game for Wales and tasted defeat with his country on just two occasions. He also played in three Grand Slamwinning sides and captained his country against France in 1911.
Williams later served as a captain in the 16th Battalion Welsh Regiment before a piece of shrapnel caused catastrophic injuries to his leg during the attack on Mametz Wood. His leg was later amputated and he died five days later aged 34. DAVID WATTS POSITION: Forward CAPS: Four DIED: On July 14, 1916, at Bazentin, France. DAVID “Dai” Watts was a collier and a key member of the Wales side who took on the Barbarians in 1915. He later served as a corporal in the 7th Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, and fell fighting in the Battle of Bazentin at the Somme, aged 30. CHARLIE PRITCHARD POSITION: Forward CAPS: 14 DIED: On August 14, 1916, at Chocques, France. PRITCHARD, who worked as a partner in his father’s wine merchant business, was said to have never committed a foul during his rugby career, despite his reputation for being one of the toughest tacklers in the game. It’s believed his party trick in training was to hold two men above his head before then dropping them on the ground.
As well as his international career, he also captained Newport from 1906-09, before later becoming a captain in 12th Battalion The South Wales Borderers. He died aged 34 leading a nighttime raid near Loos and is buried north-west of Bethune.
POSITION: Outside-half CAPS: Two DIED: On September 3, 1916, at Guillemont, France. A CHORAL scholar at Cambridge University, Thomas played against South Africa and England between 1912-13, before business took him to India between 1913-15, where he served as a private in the Calcutta Port Defence Volunteer Corps. Thomas was killed at the age of 26 during the Battle of the Somme.
POSITION: Winger CAPS: Two DIED: On April 2, 1917, at Ypres, Belgium. A GROCER’S son from Pontardawe, Lewis played for Cambridge University and Glamorgan against South Africa in 1912, before going on to represent Wales twice – both times against Ireland. While in military training, Lewis also played in a Welsh XV against the Barbarians in 1915, before becoming a major in the 122 Bridge of the Royal Field Artillery.
He was killed by a shell two years later. He was 26. DAI WESTACOTT POSITION: Forward CAPS: One DIED: On August 27, 1917, at Zonnebeke, Belgium. A DOCKER with a fierce reputation, Westacott was infamously fined £10 plus costs after being involved in an altercation with two policeman in 1906, an incident that left both officers nursing injuries.
In 1908, he played in the Cardiff XV that beat Australia 24-8 – the Wallabies’ heaviest defeat of that tour.
He later served as a private in the 2/6th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment and was killed at the Third Battle of Ypres. He was 35. PHIL WALLER POSITION: Forward CAPS: Six DIED: On December 14, 1917, at Arras, France. WALLER, who was 28 when he was killed, never appeared in a losing Welsh XV and was a member of the side that won the Triple Crown and Grand Slam in 1909.
He also played 23 times in the British Isles’ 24-match tour of South Africa, and remained in the country to later serve as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 71st (South African) Siege Battery.
POSITION: Forward CAPS: Five DIED: On December 1, 1918, at Boulogne, France. AFTER winning five caps for Wales, Perrett switched codes to join Leeds RLFC in 1913, before later playing for Hull a year later.
Originally from Briton Ferry, he served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 17th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and died aged 27 after suffering a secondary hemorrhage following wounds sustained in the Battle of the Sambre a week before the Armistice.