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100 years international rugby in The Netherlands
England – Scotland, the rematch
The Frisian city of Leeuwarden was the stage where, a century ago, the first international rugby match in The Netherlands took place. In 1916 teams representing England and Scotland played an exhibition match to the delight of thousands of paying local spectators.
But these were not rugby tourists: the teams returned afterwards, not to their homes in the United Kingdom, but to the wooden huts of ‘HMS Timbertown’, their internment camp in Groningen. The rugby players were part of the 1st Royal Naval Brigade which as a result of WW I and the Siege of Antwerp ended up in the neutral Netherlands. Commodore Wilfred Henderson made sure that the men in the camp could follow educational courses, take part in all forms of sport. The mantra of ‘Making Better People, Makes for Better Communities’, certainly applies to the approach taken by Commodore Henderson and the navy men of Benbow, Collingwood and Hawke battalions.
The excitement around the first international game on Dutch soil, and subsequent fixtures, contributed significantly to the establishment of rugby in the Netherlands.
On 5 November the Rugby MAD Foundation (Make A Difference Through Rugby) in collaboration with rugby club Greate Pier and EersteWereldoorlog.nu, organises a rematch between British Royal Navy teams from England and Scotland.
The Centennial Memorial Rugby Match is part of a three-day schedule of events, including a symposium featuring award winning author Stephen Cooper on WW1: HMS Timbertown – Rugby – Football (NL). For further details and the full program see rugbymad.nl
A celebration of the sporting legacy of the navy men of HMS Timbertown (1914-1918), with live music and spectators in period dress, Leeuwarden is the place to be on 5 November: a unique event, a step back in time as the Royal Navy teams once again take to the pitch in Leeuwarden.
Rugby MAD (firstname.lastname@example.org) is keen to receive any information that would allow them to contact descendants of Timbertown rugby players and other internees.
Jan Gaastra (Noord Nederland)
T: 06 52717156
T: 06 48067822