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The Last Stand - Remembering Other Ashbrooke Sportsmen

'On 9 November Ashbrooke Sports Club will be holding a ceremony of re-dedication for its century old and recently refurbished rugby grandstand. The stand will be re-named 'The Last Stand' and dedicated mainly to those who fell in conflict and also to others no longer with us who contributed to sporting life at Ashbrooke as rugby players. Many of these were also involved in cricket, tennis, hockey, squash and athletics at the club. As well as providing better facilities for spectators, the refurbished stand has been adapted to include much needed storage space for equipment used for training and on match days’.

The last two blogs have been based on the wartime activities of men for whom rugby at Ashbrooke appears to have been the main, possibly only, sport.

There were also a number of wartime rugby lads who died as a result of the conflict and who played cricket, tennis and hockey as well – (n.b. Squash did not come to the club until the 1960s and bowls was an activity for those, in general, which were past service age).

The cricket playing rugby players were among at least 80 of the club cricketers who signed up during the First World War. It is a sign of the tragedy of that particular war that five out of the first six batsmen who played in a 3rd team match v Fulwell at Ashbrooke on 8 July1914 gave their lives. Of these six, five were also rugby players. They were Clive Smith, Gordon Piper, Frank

Wilkinson, Arnold Corder and Wilfred Morton. (See newspaper cutting above).

Arnold Corder was in the 7th Durham Light Infantry alongside other fellow Sunderland cricketers and rugby players Charles Todd and Arthur Stockdale.

Todd and Stockdale (a 1 st XV winger in 1911) lived next door to each other in St Bede’s Terrace. All played cricket for the club during the 1914 season and died side by side in the same action in May 1915 weeks after landing in France.

Their stories are told in the club’s online history of the First World War (see below for details).

During the Second World War one of the victims was rugby and tennis player John B Deas, brother of actor and producer Max Deas. A captain in the East Yorkshire Regiment, he died in one of the early engagements of the war in Flanders in June 1940. Hockey and rugby player Leicester Little was a captain in the Air Observation Regiment and was killed soon after the D Day Landings in 1944. He is buried in Bayeux.

It is also in order to remember multi- talented sportsmen from the club who fought and survived. Among these were the Charles Pickersgill (1887-1957) – so talented that a cartoon was made up of him ‘wearing’ the equipment for all the sports in which he was involved. The 1960s history of the club put it as succinctly as it is possible to put it;

‘ He played for Durham County at cricket, rugby and tennis; amateur soccer for Sunderland AFC and was a member of the Sunderland Bowling Club rinks which in 1932 and 1935 won the All-England Bowls’ Championship’.

While a young lieutenant in the 7 th DLI in 1915 (and in the same action that those mentioned above) he was wounded and praised for his bravery in ensuring the safety of the men under his command when they were surrounded.

Charles Pickersgill

During the Second World War Lieutenant Alan Herring Parnaby (1916 - 74) was awarded an M.B.E. He played cricket for Sunderland, captained Durham and made first-class appearances for the Minor Counties and the Combined Services. He started his wartime career as a young 2 nd Lieutenant (on the day the war broke out) and ended it in the 1970s as a brigadier and equerry

to our current queen! He played in the front and second row for various Sunderland RFC sides in the years leading up to the conflict.

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