They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
Regular readers will recall at this time of year as we approach the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month and engage with the annual Poppy Appeal this writer feels that we should pause to remember,some pause for personal reasons some for family reasons whilst others for broader reasons.
When we enter the grand old building that is the pavilion at Old Anniesland it stands as a memorial to a generation of young players who made the ultimate sacrifice.
From the the upstairs hall you can survey playing fields as far as the eye can see fields that Abraham Lincoln could have described thus ” we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground” as to a large extent it is in memory of the young men who played there that “have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract”.
The aftermath of the First World War set in train events and established Trusts and related bodies that still exist today whose purpose is to allow others to enjoy sport in memory of those who left our playing fields in 1914 not to return and several of these organsations are now represented on the Hawks Sports Trust whose aim it is to continue this endeavour.
When the 1913-14 season drew to a close few could have imagined that it would be five years before rugby resumed and what was about to befall a generation of young players who volunteered in such large numbers.
Our founder clubs members were represented in all branches of the armed forces but by the nature of recruitment at the time a large number found themselves in the “Pals Battalions”of the 52nd Lowland Division who saw action in June 1915 at Gallipoli alongside the ANZACS where the losses sustained were enormous.
On 5 April 1915 the Division was warned that it would go on overseas service; on 7 May this was confirmed, with the destination being Gallipoli. The units embarkaded at Liverpool and Devonport between 18 May and 8 June. Disaster struck on 22 May when a train carrying the battalion HQ and two Companies of the 1/7th Royal Scots crashed in an accident at Quntinshill near Gretna. 3 officers and 207 men died, 5 officers and 219 were injured. Fewer than 70 men survived this crash unscathed.
The first units landed on Gallipoli (Cape Helles) on 6 June 1915.
On one day the 28th June twenty seven of these young men who had played at the Annieslands and Balgray almost enough for two rugby teams were killed.
From this distance one can only wonder what the atmosphere would have been like in the terraces and tenements of Glasgow’s west end in the weeks that followed.
“When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today”
After the War and in recognition of the comradeship between the Scots and the New Zealand troops during that dreadful time the New Zealand Maori touring side of 1926 wanted to come to Glasgow and play against Glasgow Accies at New Anniesland Unfortunately the Scottish Rugby Union would not sanction the match.
They had embarked on a remarkable tour covering Australia ,Ceylon,England France Wales and Canada.
The tone of the letter from the Maori team manager showed the warmth that they had for the Scots who had fought and died alongside them at Gallipoli and the hospitality extended to them when billeted in Scotland.
Again during World War 2 our founder clubs were represented in all branches of the Armed Services.
Amongst them was Tom Riddell who played rugby for Glasgow HSFP but excelled as an athlete setting Scottish and British records for the mile During the conflict he picked up a discarded rifle from the beach at Dunkirk during the evacuation and on his return to Scotland gave it to his brother in law who was serving in the Home Guard.This rifle eventually arrested Rudolf Hess in a field near Eaglesham.
Lt Col Riddell who later was awarded the Czech MC was a man of great principle and when athletics went professional he returned his honorary life membership of the Scottish Amateur Athletic Association.
Some may think all this remembrance is outdated ,old fashioned and no longer appropriate in modern society and modern Scotland however pause for in the last few years Anniesland players like Danny Ablett Royal Navy, Neil Mitchell ,team doctor Dr Roddie Neilson Craig Hodgkinson Royal Marines, and Lt Col Sandy Fitzpatrick have seen service in recent times including in Afghanistan and even more recently Lt Matt Stevens of 1st Scots has just completed a tour of duty in Afghanistan and as I write another ex Hawk Jamie Mackinnon who was at Anniesland for the Dundee match a few weeks ago is serving out there.
The following was penned by Sandy Fitzpatrick who plays for Accies and has recently served in Afghanistan.
There are nearly 9500 British troops in Afghanistan and in order to make it a better place a large number of soldiers have given the ultimate sacrifice. The Glasgow Academy and the Academicals are no strangers to providing soldiers to serve Queen and Country. More recently and as we remember, there are at least a few Accies serving in Afghanistan and in Helmand Province. Right now the place is getting colder and it would seem form the media that things may be quiet. Sadly, that is not the case and while no lives are being lost, there are still soldiers being injured in the fight to get rid of the Taleban and create a safe environment for development. There are glimmers of hope and the plan is working. First we get rid of the Taleban then, it requires reassuring the population and empowering local government and security forces to enable people to go about there daily business without fear of the Taleban. They want access to markets to sustain themselves, they want access to health care to live longer and healthier, they want their children educated and they want to know that their men folk will not be dragged away to fight for the Taleban. Success will not be tomorrow and it will take time and many instruments to make it so. The most important contributor that we are remembering to today is the British servicemen and women. They have given the ultimate contribution – their life!!
For six months they live a life away from their families and friends some in surroundings no better that a dusty compound with only two weeks at home in that period. The perception is that it is a boys own adventure, to some it might be, but when the fear of being injured while on patrol causes dry retching and cold sweats of fear before leaving base, this brings home the reality of the threat and the potency of an enemy that lives among the people. It is only through the pride, leadership, training and determination that makes these men go out to reassure the population and deny the Taleban a foothold. Leading these men and women is a great sense of pride and a privilege, losing them is a severe blow, their faces never leave you. We will always remember them and never undermine their sacrifice, but the void they leave can never be filled and it is on today that we remember them, never to forget them.
A J FITZPATRICK
C Div ACSC 14
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them