Club History

23rd Varsity Hockey Match (1912)

Over 1,500 spectators turned up in glorious weather at Beckenham on the afternoon of Wednesday 28th February 1912 to watch the 23rd annual hockey match between Oxford and Cambridge. A photograph of the Cambridge team has recently come to light at The Hockey Archives at the University of Bath.

Cambridge side of the 23rd annual hockey Varsity matchThe players were R.P. Dalley (Pembroke) in goal; W.N. Scholes (Pembroke) and K. M. Robotham (Caius), backs; R. B. Lagden (Pembroke), H. M. Robinson, the Captain, (Pembroke) and D. O. Light (Pembroke), half-backs; B. S. Bland (Emmanuel), S. H. Saville (Trinity), A. H. A. Vann (Jesus), B. P. Nevile (Trinity) and J. M. Kendall (Corpus), forwards.

The Cambridge side had played brilliantly for most of the season and were considered favourites, though there was some concern that they had been playing too many games in the previous fortnight and might be suffering from staleness.

Within ten minutes “Harry” Vann had scored the first goal for Cambridge but the Oxford side proved the better on the day and eventually won 3-1. It was a great shock to the correspondent of The Cambridge Review, who railed against the lack of combination of the forwards who “played like girls”. He thought that it was a most disappointing finish to an excellent season and all that they could hope for was victory the following year. (Revenge was indeed sweet in 1913 when three of the 1912 Blues, Harry Vann, S. H. Saville and B P Nevile scored two goals each in the 7 -2 victory.)

Three years later every man in the 1912 photograph would be involved in a different kind of battle and it is a testimony to the men that all of them volunteered and served in His Majesty’s forces. Captain Harry Vann of the 12th West Yorkshires was killed in action at Loos on 25th September 1915 and Bernard Nevile, a Captain in the 7th Lincolnshires was killed in the Ypres salient on 11th February 1916. (Bernard had also played golf for the University and five first class cricket matches for Worcestershire in July 1913.) Captain B. S. Bland of the West Yorkshires and Captain H. M. Robinson of the North Staffordshires were both wounded twice. Major R. B. Lagden of the Rifle Brigade was wounded and also won the Military Cross. Captain D.O. Light of the RASC was wounded and taken prisoner. Captain W. N. Scholes of the Royal Engineers was awarded the O.B.E. Captain K. M. Robotham served with the 2nd Ghurkha Rifles, Captain J. M. Kendall with the Norfolk Yeomanry, Captain S. H. Saville with the Essex Regiment and Lieutenant R. P. Dalley served in the Indian Army attached to the Sappers and Miners. Both Captain H. M. Robinson and Captain D. O. Light were mentioned in despatches.

Article contributed by Charles Beresford, who came across the photograph during researches for a biography he is writing about Harry Vann’s brother Bernard, a Cambridge hockey blue in 1910. Lt. Col. The Rev Bernard William Vann was the only ordained clergyman of the Church of England to win the Victoria Cross in the Great War as a combatant.