Today (May 8, 2020) marks the 75th anniversary of VE Day and the end of fighting in Europe in the Second World War.
Leicester Tigers have had strong links with the military right from the club’s early days at the end of the 19th Century – including sharing a nickname with the Leicestershire Regiment – and also with the community with many players, officials and supporters and their families serving in the Forces.
Today’s anniversary allows us to both remember them and to celebrate peace.
Tom Berry won his three England caps in 1939 and captained Tigers throughout the 1938/39 season, but only one fixture was possible at the start of the following campaign before sport was suspended.
Bobby Barr, Berry’s predecessor as captain, had made 241 appearances by the end of the 1938/39 season but then spent five years as a prisoner of war after being captured in a rearguard action in Boulogne. He was part of an escape party captured just four kilometres from the Swiss border, but later received the Military Cross and he returned home to serve Tigers as Team Secretary and President.
Tigers did not resume playing until September 1945, though Hon Sec Eric Thorneloe did form a Leicestershire Harlequins team to provide an opportunity during the War years to servicemen based in the area, players home on leave or any others searching for a game.
Scores of Tigers players served in the Forces during the conflict and, sadly, club historian Stuart Farmer has traced 27 who paid the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives.
These included the Russian-born Prince Alexander Obolensky, famous for two tries for England against New Zealand in 1936; Victor Beamish, one of the four famous Irish brothers to play for the Tigers; and Alan Hughes who made 113 first-team appearances for the club and lost his life as a Major in the Royal Tank Regiment at El Alamein.
The Leicester Tigers Foundation is raising funds to erect a monument at the stadium to recognise members of the Leicestershire Regiment who have played for the club and also act as a memorial to the fallen in conflict. It will also recognise those whose lives have been affected by injury in both rugby and conflict, and how Tigers are working with disability sport to offer inspiration and support to inspire future generations and different cultures. To find out more, including how you can help the project, click here.
Tigers players killed during the Second World War
Name (Age) Regiment
Plt.Off. JD Anderson (31) RAF Volunteer
Cpl. EE Bates (31) Leicestershire Regt
Fg.Off. FV Beamish (38) RAF
Wg Cdr. PB Coote (31) RAF
Cpt. PC Crick (32) Royal Horse Artillery
Fg.Off. TI Davies (23) RAF
Cpt. FC Drummond (32) Kings African Rifles
Maj. RA Gerrard (30) Royal Engineers
Sgt. NFF Giddings (26) RAF
L/Cpl. AH Greenwood (36) RASC
AB.Sea. GA Harris (25) Royal Navy
Gp Cpt. FS Hodder (37) RAF
Maj. AP Hughes (30) Royal Tank Regt
LAC. H Lees (30) RAF Volunteer
Wg/Cdr. JG Llewelyn (31) RAF
Flt.Lt. RM Noblston (32) RAF
Plt Off. A Obolensky (24) RAF
Gp Cpt. RVM Odbert (39) RAF
Gp.Cpt. BV Robinson (31) RAF
Cpt. I Shaw (-) Royal Artillery
Sqn Ldr. RA Squibbs (35) RAF Volunteer
Sgt. KA Wait (27) RAF Volunteer
Flt Lt. DF Walker (28) RAF Volunteer
Lt-Col. GM Wilkins (43) North Staffs Regt
Driver A Williams (28) Royal Corps of Signals
Sgt. G Wooller (23) RAF Volunteer
2nd Lt. WG Young (23) Leicestershire Regt