The Final Whistle: A London Rugby Club at War 1914-18
Putney author Stephen Cooper, will give a talk followed by a book signing and late opening of Wandsworth Museum on
Thursday 7th February 7.30pm
Discover the story of fifteen men killed in the Great War at Wandsworth Museum’s upcoming author talk. All fifteen played rugby for one local club; none lived to hear the final whistle. Rugby brought them together; rugby led the rush to war. They came from Britain and Empire to fight in every theatre and service, among them a poet, playwright and perfumer.
Some were decorated and died heroically; others fought and fell quietly. Together their stories paint a portrait in miniature of the entire War.
Founded in 1879, when British soldiers fought in Afghanistan as they do today, Rosslyn Park has no Great War memorial. An old press cutting gave numbers - 350 served, 72 died - but no names. So began a quest to rediscover these men and capture their lives, from their vanished Edwardian youth and vigour, to the war they fought and how they died. This is their story.
The Museum Café and Shop will also be open on the night and talk ticketholders will be able to view the current Painting Wandsworth: Watercolours 1770-1925 exhibition after the talk. The Museum will close at 10pm.
Stephen has lived in Putney for over eighteen years after a three year stint in New York, and has played and coached rugby for over 40 years, including heading the youth rugby at Rosslyn Park for many years. After Cambridge, he worked in advertising and now runs a military charity.
Stephen's grandfather survived the Battle of the Somme and inspired in him a lifelong fascination with the First World War. Stephen told PutneySW15.con:
"My grandfather ran away from home to join the Army (under-age) and timed it badly as the Great War broke out in 1914. His Bn was recalled from India and he served at Ypres and on the Somme. He was wounded and lost much of his hearing. Like so many, he would never speak of the war especially to a child or grandchild – which of course piqued my curiosity in WW1. But he did try to teach me trench Latin. The book itself grew from the mystery of a missing memorial at a rugby club."
The royalties from the book are being split between two charities close to Stephen's heart:
"The Rosslyn Park Injury Trust helps young sports people who have suffered life-changing injuries. Prostate Cancer UK works to educate men about the cancer which claimed Andy Ripley, one of the club’s greatest players, in 2010."
“Stephen Cooper has written a haunting and beautiful book. Here we see the grinding slaughter and the everyday humanity of men hurled into the abyss of modern warfare at its most terrible. His book tells the story of men from one rugby club but it is a universal narrative of heroism and loss. He writes superbly and has produced a book of commendable scholarship. I cannot recommend it enough." - Fergal Keane
“A fresh and fascinating take on the impact of the Great War, with a novel and moving focus” - Ian Hislop
“This is a deeply moving book about the loss of fifteen members of Rosslyn Park Rugby Club during the Great War. A War that scarred Britain and took so many fine men, who had they lived would have enriched this country. The lives of these young men, all so promising, are poignantly and vividly recalled by historian Stephen Cooper.” - Max Arthur
January 27, 2013