When we were at Twickenham on Tuesday for a stadium tour, I got very excited. Not just at sitting in the royal box or in the England changing room, but in the reminders of those players who gave their lives in the Great War.
This is a painting on display near the royal box, a reproduction by Shane Record of a famous photograph of the England team of April 1914, about to play France. The players with their roses ‘greyed’ rather than red died during the war.
The guy in the natty headgear is Arthur Harrison, VC, who volunteered for hazardous service and died in the Zeebrugge raids. Almost hidden in the back row is Robert Pillman, who was shot during a night raid near Armentieres. A contemporary photo of Pillman shows a remarkable resemblance to the current England captain, Dylan Hartley.
Also in that row is Jimmy Dingle, who died retaking Scimitar Hill near Suvla bay (having already taken it and been ordered to relinquish it.) Right at the end is James Watson who was a doctor (I wonder if he was ever heaved into touch at Old Deer Park). He served as naval surgeon on the Hawke when she was torpedoed and sunk. Down on the front row is Francis Oakeley, a submarine lieutenant on the HMS D2, which disappeared at sea after being rammed by a German patrol boat.
And who’s that in the middle? Has to be the lovely Ronnie Poulton Palmer, who was shot by a sniper near ‘Plugstreet’ Wood. My favourite quote from “The Greater Game” concerns RPP, and his friend, the army chaplain Dick Dugdale who said he loved Ronnie more than anyone else and told his sister, ‘each year passing merely means one year less to wait for Ronald’.