Centennial Memorial Match

Event background

On 5 November 2016, an extraordinary international rugby match will take place in the Dutch town of Leeuwarden. A century ago in 1916, teams representing England and Scotland played an exhibition rugby match on foreign soil, to the delight of thousands of paying local spectators. But these were not rugby tourists: the teams returned afterwards, not to their homes, but to the wooden huts of ‘HMS Timbertown’ (het Engelse Kamp); their internment camp in Groningen.

Historical context

In October 1914, 1500 men of three battalions of the 1st Royal Navy Brigade, Benbow, Collingwood and Hawke, under the command of Commodore Wilfred Henderson were cut off after the siege of Antwerp. Rather than become Prisoners of War in Germany, they crossed the border into neutral Holland, where they spent the duration of the war as internees under the laws of the Geneva Convention.


Commodore Henderson was no longer faced with leading his 1500 men in war, but rather confronted with the unexpected challenge of building a workable, disciplined community in Timbertown. He made sure that the men in the camp could follow educational courses, as well as train in sports, as a way to develop themselves and boost the moral. The mantra of ‘Making Better People, Makes for Better Communities’, certainly applies to the approach taken by the Commodore and the navy men of the three battalions.


The excitement around the first international games on Dutch soil, and subsequent fixtures between internees and students from Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Delft and The Hague, led to the formation of the first rugby clubs in the Netherlands. Other sports such as football and cricket also benefited greatly through similar fixtures and interaction. 

3 November


In the evening of Thursday 3 November the Centennial Memorial events will have their kick off at the Historisch Centrum Leeuwarden. Three experts will speak on Timbertown, the Great War and sports history with a special focus on rugby.
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4 November

Welcome Teams

The program of Friday 4 November consists of a number of elements which embrace the core values, traditions and spirt of rugby.

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5 November

Memorial Rugby

Saturday 5 November is Match Day. At 14:00 the Centennial Memorial Match between Royal Navy Rugby Union teams from England and Scotland will kick off at the grounds of Rugby Club Greate Pier in Leeuwarden.

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Memorial Rugby: England vs Scotland 1916 – 2016
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