Edgar Mobbs's wartime recruitment effort to be commemorated by rugby match

  • Published
Edgar Mobbs as a rugby player and as a soldierImage source, Olney & District Historical Society/Dave Fox
Image caption,
Mobbs is one of Northampton most celebrated rugby sons

A rugby match has been organised to honour 16 players killed in World War One and mark the game which helped recruit them.

On 30 January 1915, England played Scotland in a charity match organised by former England international and Northampton Saints captain Edgar Mobbs.

The aim of the game had been to recruit sportsmen to Mobbs's World War One battalion.

The commemorative match will take place on 24 January 2015 at Olney Rugby Club.

It will see players from the East Midlands region line up against The 1st Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment, while Olney Ladies will face the Army Women's XV.

Edgar Mobbs

Image source, Northampton Museum and Art Gallery
Image caption,
Mobbs was injured three times prior to his death at Passchendale

•Born in Northampton in 1882

• He played his early career in Olney and became captain of Northampton Rugby Football Club in 1907

•Selected for England in 1909, he scored a try on his debut against Australia and went on to win seven caps

•He went from private to battalion commander. fighting in Loos, Somme, Arras and Messines

•Mentioned in Despatches twice, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order

•He died while charging a German machine gun during the battle of Passchendale on 31 July 1917

Having retired from rugby in 1913 aged 30, Mobbs was refused an officer's commission when war broke out because of his age. Instead, he joined up as a private.

Image source, National Army Museum
Image caption,
Sportsmen were targeted by recruitment drives

He was called in to encourage people to sign up and on one occasion addressed a large crowd at a Northampton Saints game. He was credited with helping persuade more than 200 men to join.

The international match in 1915 is said to have inspired hundreds of men to sign up to his own corps, the Sportman's Battalion, which formed a significant part of the 7th Battalion of the Northamptonshire Regiment.

Among these were 16 Olney players who died during the war.

Members of Mobbs's family. including his great-nephew, also named Edgar Mobbs, will be attending next year's game.

He said: "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'."

Chairman of Olney Rugby Club, Jarlath McElroy, said Mr Mobbs was a "sporting and war hero".

Money raised at the event will go to the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association military charity.

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