Just found a wonderful memory of Cardiff’s historic win at the Twickenham Sevens in the spring of 1939 in an article from Wales Online.
The team featured Les Spence and Wilf Wooller who three years later would be captured by the Japanese in Java.
Les kept a secret diary (of which a lot more here: https://greglewisinfo.wordpress.com/tag/from-java-to-nagasaki/) in the camp and on April 25, 1942 he wrote:
“No working party today. Very hot. Played chess and bridge most of the day. Passed a very pleasant hour with Wilf reminiscing on our past exploits. Three years ago today we were playing 7s at Twickenham.” (‘From Java To Nagasaki’, Magic Rat Books)
In the Wales Online article from 2011, 91-year-old Graham Hale recalled how Cardiff were the only Welsh-based club to lift the trophy.
“Only our captain, Wilf Wooller, had ever played in Sevens before as it was not played in Wales and it appears he was in the Sale side that had won in 1936,” said Graham. “I was a centre then and with Wilf at outside-half, we had Gwyn Porter outside me and Willie Davies, the brother of the Wales prop Cliff, playing scrum-half, though he was really an outside-half.
“Willie was a splendid player but turned professional soon afterwards. In the forwards were Selby Davies, Evan Jones and Les Spence, while Wilf dropped the Wales forward ‘Wendy’ Davis, as Wilf said he was too slow.
“Selby, ‘Wendy’ and I had all been at Cardiff High School.
“We had a small practice and the next day (April 22, 1939) we caught the train to Twickenham.
“We had never seen a Sevens match and watched the first one from the grandstand, the ground was full.
“We opened against the good St Mary’s Hospital side and the referee said we had two minutes left and we were losing 6-0.
“We ran down field and I was clear, but for some reason I stopped and dropped a goal.
“It was four points then and a try was three.
“It was the only drop goal I ever attempted!
“From the kick-off we got the ball and when I received it, I was again clear and scored to make it 7-6. I don’t think we attempted the conversion.”
Cardiff then beat the Met Police 5-3 and Birkenhead Park 8-5 in the semi-final.
The BBC broadcast had broken down and those in the Cardiff club were resigned to the team losing.
However, Cardiff met London Scottish in the final.
“Wilf was always loud off the pitch, but quiet on it,” added Mr Hale.
“He sat with me watching the Scotland fly-half Logie Bruce Lockhart run rings round their opponents.
“He said that if I got Lockhart low, he would take him and the ball high.
“We did and won 11-6.
“We caught the train home with Wilf running down the platform as it was going.
“We got in the club that night and nobody knew we had won the splendid Kinross Arber Trophy.
“It was a great day to remember.”
Like Les and Wilf, Graham joined the army during the war and became a POW in North Africa.
By the way, here is the link to the article mentioned:
My father was in the same camp and was Frankie Fryett’s cousin – Frank Dunn. I have the same photos of the christmas meal but my father wrote the names of the prisoners on the back. As part of my degree in Genealogy I have carried out research on these men. I have also looked at debriefing interview notes held in Kew about Les Spence – he did a lot of brave things which are not reported in his diary. I also have a diary written by my father covering the time from when the bomb was dropped until they were moved. I now feel i must transcribe it.
Fascinated by your message. I must email you soon.
You must do your father’s diaries when you have time.
I am intrigued by your reference to the records at Kew and the photo caption.
Thanks for getting in touch.