Varsity Match remembers WWI

Image credit: J-Fair

This year’s rugby Varsity Match will take place on 11 December at Twickenham. When the 46 players meet this year, it will hold special meaning. In line with nationwide commemorations of the start of the First World War, this year’s match will be dedicated to the memory of the 55 Blues who fell in the fighting.

There were over 1.5 million casualties and roughly 800,000 British military deaths during the First World War. Many sporting disciplines suffered greatly as a result of these casualties, with Rugby Union seeing the loss of 130 international players worldwide.

Thousands of students from Oxbridge volunteered to fight abroad and many of those who remained behind helped in the protection of Cambridge itself.

The Varsity Match will focus on the 55 players who fell – 28 from Cambridge and 27 from Oxford. King’s College saw the greatest loss of Blues players, with six losing their lives, while Pembroke lost five and Trinity four.

Among these 55 men there were 26 internationals, including captains of England, Scotland and the British and Irish Lions. The youngest of the casualties was Charles Vintcent of Pembroke College, who died on 13 April 1915 aged 22.

The Varsity Match resumed in 1919 with only six survivors from 1913. Both team captains had been shot during the war; Oxford Captain Eric Gordon Loudon-Shand was honoured with the Military Cross. In total, between the two 1913 teams, there were eight Military Crosses awarded.

Oxford skipper Jacob Taylor has commented on the commemorations, saying: “The idea of paying tribute to the Blues who served in WWI at this year’s Varsity Match is a great one. It is difficult to imagine how things were 100 years ago, but it is easy to respect the decision made by so many young men to step forward to serve their country.”

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