President’s Caps would be the ideal way to recognise Scottish rugby’s war heroes

Matt Vallance urges the Council of the Scottish Rugby Union to move swiftly to recognise players who represented Scotland in the 'Services' and 'Victory' Internationals

J Anderson and J Kirk remain uncapped despite being part of this Scottish XV which beat the New Zealand Army.
J Anderson and J Kirk remain uncapped despite being part of this Scottish XV which beat the New Zealand Army.

FURTHER to our piece yesterday about players who played in ‘non-cap’ internationals, there is another group of overlooked players who wore the thistle in internationals – those who played in the war-time ‘Services Internationals’ and the ‘Victory Internationals’ between 1942 and 1946.

Many of the players in these games had been capped pre-war, or would go on to be capped when normal rugby resumed in 1947, however, there are 29 players who represented Scotland in war-time Services Internationals or the Victory Internationals of 1946 but were never officially capped.

There is a way these players’ contribution to the rich history of Scottish international rugby could be recognised, however. Some years ago, the Welsh Rugby Union decided to honour their war-time players with the introduction of ‘A President’s Cap’. These were then presented to their war-time players who never got an official full cap, and also to players who had played in non-cap internationals on tours etc.


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The SRU Council are now keen to do something similar, and if they manage to get the initiative to fly then the war-time uncapped players, who played between 1942 and 1946, are:

EC Hunter (Watsonians), ECK Douglas (Edinburgh University), M Dewar (Watsonians), J Maltman (Hawick), N W Ramsey (Army), SGA Harper (Watsonians), AWB Buchanan (London Scottish), DA Roberts (Edinburgh University), JB McNeil (Glasgow High School FP), JM Blair (Oxford University), R Cowe (Melrose), C McLay (Edinburgh University), WB Biggart (Army), E Grant (Royal New Zealand Air Force), MD Kennedy (Army), AE Murray (Oxford University), JR McClure (Ayr), HG Uren (Glasgow Academicals), JR Henderson (Glasgow Academicals), JB Nicholls (New South Wales), DD McKenzie (Merchistonians), C Wilhelm (South African Forces), RM McKenzie (New Zealand Army), AL Barcroft (Heriot’s), JAD Thom (Hawick), AE Melling (Sedbergh), J Anderson (London Scottish/Hawick), J Kirk (Edinburgh Academical), KS Wilson (London Scottish).

In particular, you have to feel sorry for two of the last three players on that list, J Kirk, of Edinburgh Academical and Jack “Darcy” Anderson, a weel-kent Hawick man, but, for this match listed as playing for London Scottish. They made their debut in the match at Murrayfield, on 19th January 1946, in which Scotland beat the New Zealand Army 11-6. This is the only occasion on which we have beaten a New Zealand team in a 15-a-side international. A unique win, but no cap.

Anderson, who scored a brace of tries in the game almost immediately disqualified himself from a full cap, it should be noted. Shortly after the match, he signed for Huddersfield Rugby League Club, where he spent seven successful years, winning ten trophies, in what is still considered a golden era at Fartown, before returning to Hawick. One of his nephews also had a fine sporting career, he was the great John ‘The White Ghost’ White, of Falkirk, Tottenham Hotspur and Scotland.

As a further aside, it is interesting to see that list includes two ‘kilted kiwis’, Eric Grant, who flew bombers during the war and former All Blacks captain Rod McKenzie, a humble Private in the New Zealand Army.

Scots-Australian, Wing Commander John Nicholls, DFC, from Lane Cove New South Wales, played for New South Wales and was the captain of the Royal Australian Air Force team in 1945-46.

The one South African Scot, Sub-Lieutenant C Wilhelm, locked the scrum with All Blacks’ captain McKenzie in the 18-11 win over England, in Leicester, in February 1945. Wilhelm appears to have risen without trace, since an extensive google search failed to return anything on him, even a first name.


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About Matt Vallance 36 Articles
Matt is a former member of Cumnock Rugby Club's 'Mean Machine' - motto: "Well, we won the fight". He has written about some 60 sports in a long career, mainly spent freelancing for, amongst others: The Herald, The Scotsman, The Sunday Times, Scotland on Sunday, the late-lamented Sunday Standard and just about every national paper. He survived a spell at the Paisley Daily Express, covering St Mirren and the Paisley Pirates every week. He now writes a lot of sporting obituaries, since he saw many of his subjects play. Opinionated, passionate and, as one Bill McMurtire once said: "The only Cumnock member (other than Mark Bennett) who can be let out without an escort". In his 70th year, Matt, known to many as: 'Snuff', still has a few noses to get up. Unfulfilled ambition - to live long enough to see Scotland beat the All Blacks.

6 Comments

  1. Matt you are a true professional. You might recall meeting when my father Lew Griffith Doug Hashley and myself were involved with the Barr Construction basketball club. I am in Wisconsin and wanted to reach out and say hello

  2. Matt
    Since caps are now awarded to full-time professional players, is there now an argument that says we should only award caps to amateur (and/or semi pro players) to reflect the purer origins of the awards?

    • It’s a point of view Bryce but that would penalise those full-time professionals who still cherish the history of the game.

  3. These men having fought in a world war justly deserve recognition for their rugby achievements that were no doubt curtailed by the conflict.Their families will I’m sure be proud to accept their cap especially as this is the only Scottish international victory over a Kiwi side to date.

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