WWI – featured book The Greater Game

I’ve referred to this book before, talking about my beloved Ronnie Poulton Palmer. It’s full of wonderful stories that vividly depict life at the time – golf clubs giving up alternate holes for vegetable patches, the prices of golf balls rocketing and – oh my days – female greenkeepers being employed. I was very touched by the story of Harry Hangar (that couldn’t be anything but a footballer’s name, could it?) who served all through the war, being killed on March 23rd – my birthday – in 1918.

Today I’m thinking about Edgar Mobbs. I knew his name long before I knew anything about him, the Mobbs memorial game being a huge occasion in the days before rugby union turned professional. He was a big, hefty winger, a bit like George North, and inspired hundreds of men to sign up. “Mobbs own” wasn’t big enough to be a battalion but the nickname stuck. Mobbs himself was injured a number of times, and sensed that he would not survive the war.

His death at Passchendale is vividly recalled in a rugby analogy by a fellow officer, Second Lieutenant Spencer: “in the tornado of shelling he got ahead and seeing a number of his men cut down charged to bomb {the machine gun nest}…I saw the old three-quarter in his own 25 yards get the ball from a crumpled scrum and get clean through…”

While we shouldn’t glory in war and death, one can’t help admire the men who gave their tomorrows for our todays.

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