War heroes recruited by Edgar Mobbs honoured at Olney rugby match

Edgar Mobbs as a rugby player and as a soldier Image copyright Olney & District Historical Society/Dave Fox
Image caption Edgar Mobbs was named Northampton Saints captain in 1907 and won seven caps for his country.

A rugby match has honoured 16 players killed during World War One and the "leader of men" who recruited 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' World War One battalion.

The commemorative match took place at Olney Rugby Club's East Street home.

Players from the East Midlands region lined up against The 1st Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment. The East Midlands team won 41 - 21.

Special guest for the day was Mobbs' great-nephew, also called Edgar Mobbs.

Mr Mobbs said his famous namesake had come up with the idea of playing rugby matches to boost morale while his troops were training at Shoreham in Kent.

He said they had been at a "pretty unpleasant" tented camp when Mobbs decided to do something to "encourage people to rally round the flag".

Image copyright Dave Fox
Image caption Edgar Mobbs was killed at Passchendale while charging a German machine gun

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

'Distinguished service'

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.

Mobbs went from private to battalion commander and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, before being killed during the battle of Passchendale on 31 July 1917.

"When I was young people used to come up to me, tell me all about Edgar and say they were named after him as well," said Mobbs' nephew.

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