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46 NAVY NEWS, SEPTEMBER 2009 A CENTURY OF NAVAL HOCKEY – SPECIAL FEATURE
YE OLDE SPORT
● ‘Sport in the midst of war’ – a sketch of the hockey teams from HMS
Barfl eur and Revenge playing at Canea (today Chania), Crete, in 1897
Pictures: RNHA, Royal Naval Museum
A PROUD CENTURY
used a pitch so close to fi ghting that England cap in 1920 at
the sound of rifl e fi re could be clearly the age of 36 – even if an
TURKS TO TALEBAN
heard. admiral later despairingly
While England’s hockey wrote of the fact that all
association was formed in 1886, this offi cer wanted to do
NO MOTHERS-IN-LAW
Navy and Army Hockey did not was play hockey.
TOM Nicoll surges across the hockey
become affi liated until the 1908/09 He’s probably not the only ly lyy
pitch, channelling his youthful agility
season. one.
and natural talent into tackling a
The fi rst Inter-Services match
Naval Airman.
took place in 1909 at Dulwich with
Seizing control of the ball, he
the Army winning 7-2, though the
cracks it to a fellow Royal Marine,
Navy redeemed itself both in 1910,
then races after the action, urging
when they beat the Army 5-1 and,
again, in 1920 when it gave the
his team on as he goes, writes Ali
Rayden
recently-formed RAF an introductory
.
thrashing of 12-0.
Not bad for a young man the
Taleban nearly killed.
Tom’s back was broken during an
enemy attack in Helmand Province
in January 2007 and he’s lucky to be
walking, let alone representing Royal
at an Inter-Command tournament.
Navy sportsmen and women
are obviously used to fi tting their
matches in around the job, which
these days includes not only long
deployments at sea, but tours to Iraq
and Afghanistan.
To an extent, it’s what they’ve
always done, suspending games for
the duration of the two World Wars,
time the Navy had won it was in 1946, time the Navy had won it was in 1946,, or on duty in or on duty in AAfghanistan and Iraq or fghanistan and Iraqor ● The 1953 WThe1953 Women’s team
then springing back to life in peace
he added: “Senior naval ofhe added: “Senior naval offi cers were cers were were soon to deploywer . whose exploits were famously
time.
seen to laugh and admirals unbend.” “Hockey helps build fi tness, depicted by Fleet Street
But it’s a far cry from the
Eager for more excitement, both teamwork and the will to win. And cartoonist Tom Webster
organisation’s beginnings a century
he and The Times’ Sydney Friskin the camaraderie is second to none.”
ago, when a rule was passed
were on the touchline at Aldershot And it was against the backdrop of
forbidding mothers-in-law from
entering the club house at Burnaby THE FIRST CAP WRNS TO THE FORE
when the Navy beat the Army 1-0 to Portsmouth’s HMS Temeraire – home
become the outright Inter-Services to Naval Hockey since its inception
Road – HMS Temeraire – even if
Champions for the fi rst time in – that the men’s seniors marked the
they were permanently residing with
“DEADLY TACKLE” LEAN YEARS FOR MEN 44 years. Both cited the Navy’s association’s centenary in July with
an association member.
teamwork in their win. a game against the England A team
And it’s a world away from the
As enthusiasm for the game grew, Although not allowed to go to sea
(who won comprehensively...).
lively discussion in the late-1940s
so did the standard, with full-back until 1990, the Navy Women’s team
over how long female players’ skirts
A NEW MILLENNIUM
Then, later that evening, at the
Thomas Harbottle (pictured above) began fi ghting for their Service on
end of a reception in HMS Victory
should be, which resulted in teams
being the fi rst association member to the hockey pitch in 1947.
attended by the Second Sea Lord,
Four association members
kneeling to check that their hemlines
gain an England cap. One of their fi rst star players was
THE GOLDEN AGE
RNHA Secretary Lt Cdr Alan Walker
have been Olympians – and
were less than four and a half inches
Hockey Field wrote of the tall Chief Wren Peggy Peters (pictured
was invited to take the salute as
more than 20 have played
above the knee.
sailor with a distinctive loud guffaw: above), whose identity card describes It was not until the dawning of the
The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal
for their national teams,
Yet, for the true origins of Naval
“With his long reach, deadly tackle her as being 5ft 11½in – and carrying new millennium that the men’s game Marines performed a Ceremonial
such as Capt Robin Martin
Hockey, you have to go right back to
and smothering of a forward rush, the two possibly hockey-induced scars really came into its own and, since Sunset ceremony.
RM who earned 46 senior
the reign of Queen Victoria and the
old Royal Navy Commander is not an on her left shin and right arm. 2004, they’ve practically swept the And what of Tom, the 22-year-
and two junior caps for
industrial revolution.
easy back to circumvent as forwards A team stalwart during the late board at Inter-Service level. old who has shrugged off a broken
Wales.
When warships became powered
know to their cost.” 40s and early 50s, she was among And this all against a backdrop back?
The four Olympians are:
by steam, sailors were no longer
When not displaying grit on those featured in famous sporting of punishing operational schedule: L/Cpl Nicoll remains in the
kept fi t by a gruelling daily grind of
the fi eld, Harbottle was a steely cartoonist Tom Webster’s appraisal conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, not Royal Marines, has re-trained as a
John Peake (England
working a sailing ship.
submariner involved with the of a match the Navy won against the to mention the RN’s myriad other physical training instructor, and was
and GB, London 1948
Deck hockey, using twisted rope
notoriously-dangerous ‘steam subs’ Army. commitments worldwide. in that team facing England for the
Silver Medal)
as a puck, had always been popular.
during WW2. This post-war period, however, “We take our hockey seriously exhibition match.
Roger Midgley (England
But now ships would fi eld teams
And he was captain of one of them proved a lean patch for the men. but have to fi t it around operational “The people I know within the
and GB, Helsinki 1952
against each other wherever they met – K-14 – during the ‘Battle of May It was not until 1972 that reporter duties,” says Cdr Heber Ackland, Navy hockey world were massively
Bronze Medal)
around the world. Island’, when more than 100 sailors Dickie Hollands gleefully reported in vice chairman of RN hockey. supportive during my recovery,” he
Bruce Trentham (GB,
An etching survives of a match died during a fl urry of accidental The Daily Telegraph that the Navy “I’ve played all round the world says, his lopsided grin briefl y leaving
Mexico 1968)
between HM Ships Revenge and collisions between British submarines had surprised “themselves and most with my ship and the Navy team in his face.
Peter Ewles (Scotland
Barfl eur while both were involved and naval vessels in fog just outside others” by beating the RAF in the South America, Australia, the Baltic, “When I missed the Inter-Services
and GB, Munich
in the blockade of Crete during the the Firth of Forth. fi rst of the season’s inter-services even the Falklands. tournament because of my injury, it
1972).
Greco-Turkish uprising of 1897. Luckily Cdr Harbottle survived hockey championships. “At this year’s Inter-Services, made me determined to play the next
Not only did the sailors play in not only that tragic night but the rest Observing that it was only their there were players from all three year.”
the heat of the mid-day sun but they of the war and went on to win his 14th victory in 46 years and the last services who had recently been at sea And he did.
Hockey.indd 1 18/8/09 11:11:19
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