Remembering them with rugby matches

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Nearly 100 years ago, England took on Scotland at the County Ground in Northampton in the midst of what would turn out to be the Great War.

The international fixture was arranged to help Olney resident, and England international, Edgar Mobbs recruit for for his own battalion.

Among others, 16 Olney Rugby Club players were killed during World War 1 as part of the Sportsman’s Battalion, led by Mobbs.

Having initially been refused a commissionon the grounds of his age - 32 - Mobbs set about recruiting for his own battalion, which formed a significant part of the 7th Battalion of Northamptonshire Regiment.

Previously wounded three times, Mobbs died while charging a German machine gun nest during the Battle of Passchendale in 1917.

To commemorate the centenary and honour the 16 Olney players who were killed in the Great War, Olney RFC is hosting a special event and two memorial rugby matches, with Edgar Mobbs’ family in attendance, on Saturday January 24 next year, where current players from the East Midlands region will line up against The 1st Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment and Olney Ladies will face the Army Womens XV.

The event will include a display of rugby memorabilia and wartime photos of Olney sportspeople, and is supported by the Cowper and Newton Museum, the Royal British Legion, and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Chairman of Olney Rugby Club, Jarlath McElroy, said: “Edgar Mobbs was both a sporting and war hero and we are proud to be hosting these matches with the support of his family and the Army.

“A century on from that famous game, we are set for an enthralling encounter.

“The day will be a fitting tribute to an exceptional man, a special piece of history, and to the many sportsmen from Olney and across the region who lost their lives in World War One.”

Edgar Mobbs’ great-nephew, also named Edgar Mobbs, said: “Edgar was brought up in Olney and played sport in the town for many years.

“He was a great leader both on the rugby pitch and on the battle field.

“The MP Ryland Adkins said at the time ‘Northamptonshire in time of peace produced no finer sportsman and in time of war no finer soldier’.

“This centenary commemoration at Olney RFC brings together sportsmen and women from across the East Midlands region, with the British Army - just as Edgar’s famous game did, 100 years ago.”