The 36th Battalion: a record of service of the 36th Battalion with the Third Division in the Pacific
Chapter Fifteen — Sports History
Rugby found many supporters in the battalion, and featured prominently in our life, wherever circumstances permitted. I am sure that some of the matches played will long be remembered. Though some of the grounds on which we played were far from good, who will forget those two wonderful grounds at Suva—Albert Park and Nasova Field? These two were indeed better than most New Zealand fields.
From March 1942 to August 1943, football was played almost continuously, inter-company competitions on Wednesday afternoons and inter-units contests on Saturday afternoon. Company teams were fairly evenly matched, so that one was always certain of a keen and vigorously contested game.
In the inter-unit contest the battalion fifteen, though unable to claim an unbeaten record, did play football of a consistently high standard. The selection of the first team was no easy matter, and though there were many subsequent changes, it is interesting to note that many who played in the first game still represented the battalion in the last game, that memorable match against the 29th Battalion in New Caledonia.
On 3 March 1942, the battalion scored a win in its first inter-unit game. From then on the standard of play improved, and continued to do so until our move from Fiji, and toward the end of the season we were able to field a team that played rugby of New Zealand page 92inter-provincial standard. Though the inter-unit competition was not completed before our departure, we were in a favourable position, and might possibly have emerged the winners.
Games that will long be remembered are the two matches played at Albert Park against a fifteen from HMS Leander. Here football was seen at its best. The pack, led by W. E. Thompson, played an outstanding game and more than held their own against the heavier Leander forwards. The backs handled well and took advantage of every opening—the result of the training and coaching provided by Jim Dempsey, ex-league player and undoubtedly the best back who has ever played in our fifteen. At this stage the battalion was field-ing a back line which functioned as well as at any time in its history.
|v. Div. HQ||Won 13-9|
|v. 34th Bn||Won 6-3|
|v. Rovers||Won 19-8|
|V. S/L Bty||Lost 5-6|
|v. 52nd Bty||Won 18-15|
|v. Bde. Units||Won 8-0|
|v. "HMS Leander"||Won 6-3|
|v. 2nd FDF||Lost 4-5|
|v. 34th Bn||Won 9-8|
|v. S/L Bty||Won 21-0|
|v. Rovera||Lost 5-6|
|v. "HMS Leander"||Won 12-3|
|v. "HMS Leander"||Won 11-9|
On Norfolk Island the position of rugby as the leading sport was seriously challenged, and inter-company football created more interest than inter-unit, because of the lack of opposition caused through the smallness of the force.
Teams playing on their own grounds usually won the matches because of their greater knowledge of the many irregularities of the fields. Anson Bay Field—B company's home ground—was almost completely covered by a thick mat of buffalo grass, and for some considerable time only B company knew of the less thinly covered areas where running was possible! Nobbs' paddock—the home ground of C company—had such an uneven ground that, until visiting teams learned its tricks, they were inevitably beaten. At the ground shared by HQ and D (S) companies, Bailey's paddock, visiting wing three-quarters soon found that the easiest path to the goal line was down the centre of the field, and not down the side lines. Inter-unit matches, though not of a high standard, were played regularly, and the battalion fifteen maintained leadership without a great deal of effort, and was able to claim an undefeated record. We were fortunate here in having R. W. Nieper, ex-Southland and Otago rep., a versatile player capable of filling a place in the forwards or page 93the backs equally well, whose knowledge of football proved invalu-able in the training of the fifteen.
In New Caledonia inter-company football showed a consistent improvement, with a greater number playing rugby, with the result that both companies and battalion were able to field A and B teams. Inter-unit contests commenced soon after our arrival. Two rounds of the competition were played, and in both rounds the battalion fifteen finished second.
The matches which created the greatest interest were the two against the 29th Battalion, the winners of the championship. The first game drew a large crowd, as the result would settle a controversy as to the better team which had begun in Fiji. Both teams were fit, and, as had been anticipated, the game was a fine exhibition of football. Highlights of the game were the sweeping rushes of the battalion pack, and the breakaways of Eastwood, the 29th's speedy wing three-quarter.
The second match drew an even larger crowd as a win would have placed us as leaders in the competition. It was without doubt the best game the battalion fifteen ever played. The two teams were as follows:—
29th Battalion.—Burke, McKenzie, Swinburne, Barlow, Gillespie, Conder, Waugh, Wright, Campbell, Meadows, Jordan, McDonald, Thurston, Bolt.
36th Battalion.—Thompson, Duncan, Werner, Forsyth, John-stone, Chilcott, Armstrong, Lister, Baynes, Glen, Chilton, Quinn, Blackmore, Nieper.
Here is a description written by the battalion reporter at the game:
'From the outset of the game the 36th proved the superior forward team and realised it. They kept the ball among themselves to stage spectacular dribbling and passing rushes. However, they were competing against Barlow who was having a field day as far as penalties were concerned. Through the entire game the 29th did not once cross the 36th line. In. the early stages 36th. Battalion forwards were all working with sting and determination, and led a rush on to the 29th line, the ball passing through several hands to Thompson who scored. Wagner converted. Later Barlow kicked two penalties for the 29th and also kicked a field goal, giving the 29th a lead of 10-5 at half-time.page 94
'Again, in the second half, the 36th forwards displayed even greater initiative and determination, leading rush after rush on the 2.9th line, some almost three parts of the length of the field, sweeping ball and all before them. From two such positions Duncan scored, and immediately after Nieper went over. Neither kick succeeded. Lister attempted a drop-kick, but did not get time for careful aim. From a penalty a considerable way out Barlow again converted for the 29th. The 36th forwards lost none of their dash, despite the heat and hard play, keeping the ball in the 29th quarter for the rest of the game.'
|v. 34th Bn||Won 6-3|
|v. 7th Fd. Amb||Won 14-0|
|v. 37th Bty||Won 16-0|
|v. 29th Bn||Lost 17-9|
|v. Bde HQ||Won 8-3|
|v. 4th RMT||Won 14-8|
|v. 34th Bn||Won 8-0|
|v. 7th Fd Amb||Won 20-10|
|v. 4th RMT||Won 10-0|
|v. 29th Bn||Lost 13-11|
Early in March 1942, Lieutenant-Colonel Barry called together all company sports officers, informing them that Wednesday afternoons would be set aside for organised sport and that he would like to see the first battalion athletic championships held in April.
In order to find out what athletic talent there actually was in the battalion a series of 'tabloid' athletic meetings was first held, followed by company championships. In Fiji there was little difficulty in finding grounds, and the companies were able to hold their own meetings at Albert Park and on the Samambula, St. Felix and Huon Street 'arenas'.
April 8 was the big day of the battalion championships. Albert Park had been transformed through the work of an energetic subcommittee under Major Pat Webster. The grass was closely cut, and the white track shone out against the vivid green. At intervals around the 440 yards track small yellow and black flags had been placed, while from a high, white flagpole in the centre of the ground, the big battalion flag fluttered proudly in the breeze.page 95
The heats occupied most of the morning's programme, together with the 880 yards event, which demonstrated that the battalion had a first-class middle distance runner in J. J. Wallace. His long stride and effortless style were a pleasure to watch, and his time of just over two minutes was a very creditable performance after less than a month's training.
The afternoon's programme began with a march past of the company teams, a splendid sight as they circled the grounds, tanned bodies clad in khaki shorts and white singlets, marked by the vari' coloured company sashes. By now quite a large crowd was present, which included the Governor of Fiji, Sir Harry Luke, who was the donor of the handsome tortoiseshell shield which was the prize for the competition.
The afternoon's contests produced some splendid performances, notably B. B. Quinn (A company), winner of the sprints, D. W. C. Lange (A company) in the jumps, and J. J. Wallace (HQ company) peerless in the middle distances. To A company went the honour of being the first holders of the Luke Shield.
|100 yds||B. B. Quinn||H. Waugh||W. Tricklebank|
|220 yds||B. B. Quinn||J. W. Cowley||W. Tricklebank|
|440 yds||T. L. Haro||R. W. Starr||D. R. Orton|
|One mile||J. J. Wallace||H. E. McDonald||S. A. Aim|
|220 yds hurdles||A. P. Thomas||H. Waugh||C. C. Wild|
|High Jump||I. G. Blake||J. Bool||E. A. Stratton|
|Broad Jump||D. W. C. Lange||J. Bool||C. A. Cardie|
|Hod. Step and Jump||D. W. C. Lange||W. H. Hartgill||O. G. Davey|
|Shot Put||H. W. Williams||D. W. C. Lange||E. P. Rutherford|
|Relay Race||HQ Company||A Company||C Company|
Next came the brigade championships on 22 April, open to all troops stationed on the Suva side of Fiji. Although some of our representatives put up fine performances—notably B. B. Quinn who finished a close third in the 100 yards, and J. J. Wallace, second in the mile after a grand race—it was those magnificent athletes, the Fijians, who scooped the pool. At the end of the day, the First Fijian Defence Battalion was on top, closely followed by the Second FDF, while the 36th Battalion, well behind, finished third. We were the only New Zealand team to win a place.
Athletics then gave way to Rugby, and it was not until we came to Norfolk Island that activities were resumed. Unfortunately, then, page 96some of the stars of Fiji were missing, notably J. J. Wallace, D. W. C. Lange and I. G. Blake.
On Norfolk company championships were first held on paddocks in the company areas, and then on 17 December the battalion meeting took place at Lee's paddock. Again Major Webster's committee had made an excellent job of the ground, though it was more restricted than Albert Park, and it was impossible to get more than 330 yards track.
B. B. Quinn again won the sprints in a convincing fashion, while a newcomer, L. H. Bedford took over Wallace's mantle in the longer distances. A. M. Stuart of C company surprised all but his own company by running away with the mile and three-mile events. He proved himself in a class of his own in the three-miler, and easily lapped the field, after establishing a big lead in the first lap. Mention must be made of the sterling performance of A. C. Cook of D (support) company in the three miles. 'Cookie' ran a wonderful race, and displayed such great heart and stamina that when he finished in the third place, the ovation which greeted him could have been no greater had he won.
|100 yds||B. B. Quinn||A. P. Thomas||E. A. Major|
|220 yds||B. B. Quinn||J. W. Cowley||N. E. Palmer|
|440 yds||L. H. Bedford||T. L. Harp||B. H. Bousie|
|880||L. H. Bedford||T. L. Harp||J. J. Mori|
|one mile||A. M. Stuart||I. T. Galloway||G. W. Broad|
|Three miles||A. M. Stuart||J. G. Muller||A. O. Cook|
|220 yds hurdles||A. P. Thomas||G. C. Wild||A. F. McKenzie|
|High Jump||A. F. McKenzie||T. Harold||J. W. Waewo|
|Broad Jump||J. W. Waewo||C. P. Haverbier||D. P. Taylor|
|Hod. Step and Jump||E. A. Major||N. E. Palmer||E. D. Butchart|
|Shot Put||H. Plowman||H. W. Williams||C. Harold|
Winners of Luke Shield: D (S) company.
Battalion championships were closely followed by the force meeting on Boxing Day, when the civilian population, including the Administrator, Major-General Sir Charles Rosenthal, turned out in force. Though we were confident of a win, we had to give way to the fine team put up by the ack-ack, who were fortunate in having such a fine athlete as Second-Lieutenant Thornton, the winner of the 100 yards, the 2.20 yards, the 220 yards hurdles and the broad jump —a remarkable performance.page 97
L. H. Bedford won the 880 yards convincingly, and the mile was a triumph for the battalion, as I. T. Galloway, C. W. Broad and C. Clibborn filled all the places. A. M. Stuart won the three-mile as easily as he had done in the battalion competition.
Hardly were we off the transports which took us to New Caledonia than word was received that the 8th Brigade championships were to be held on Anzac Day, 25 April. This gave little more than a week for training, and so it was decided that the team which had represented us in Norfolk should take the field again.
The contest was held right at our back-door on the Ouenghi sports ground, which though big was rather uneven in its surface. Again we proved that we were the best athletic team in the brigade, and came home the winners with the 34th Battalion second.
B. B. Quinn won the 100 yards flat and the 120 yards hurdles and L. H. Bedford the 880 yards, while we repeated our Norfolk performance of gaining all three places in the mile, with I. T. Galloway, C. W. Broad and C. Clibborn. A. M. Stuart romped home once again in the three-mile.
An 8th Brigade team travelled up to Moindah for the divisional championships on 8 May. B. B. Quinn finished third in both the 100 yards flat and the 120 yards hurdles, while Stuart won the three-mile.
About this time the battalion lost the services of its capable sports officer, Major N. J. T. Webster who excelled in the organisation of athletics, and his departure for New Zealand left a big gap.
Since New Caledonia days, it has been impossible to organise further athletic meetings, but what has been accomplished will always be a source of pride and happy memories.
Though cricket may not have played so spectacular a part in the battalion's history as other sports, our eleven has at least had the distinction of having had its colours lowered by no other unit—no mean achievement.page 98
In Fiji cricket was not very popular, mainly because of the intense heat of the early months of 1942. In addition, the tactical situation demanded a six-day working-week, which left only Sundays to play games and prepare everything else for the following week. Still a few enthusiasts got together, and arranged friendly games against other military and civilian teams. Possibly the most enjoyable games were those played against the Fijian native police on their picturesque ground at Nasova Barracks. No player will ever forget the wonderful bowling performances of Villiami,. the big Fijian constable. For long spells, unchanged, he would bowl those medium fast in-swingers which few could play with any confidence. In these games E. G. Batstone and W. Barr-Brown proved themselves first-class batsmen, and any runs made by them were well worth watching.
It was not until Norfolk Island that cricket really came into its own. The interest was very keen, and a good rivalry soon grew up.
However, there was a great difficulty in preparing wickets. Norfolk had only one good wicket—the concrete matting one on the Kingston Oval. Some of the companies set to work on the rough paddocks, and produced quite fair wickets, possibly the best being 'Orton's Oval' of C company. HQ company had quite a good wicket on Ike's paddock, but the boundaries were short, and very often a lucky snick through the slips would go for a six over the fence into the vegetable garden at one end or on top of the tents on the other.
On Wednesday afternoons inter-company games were played, in which HQ company and C company proved the strongest teams. Two complete rounds were played, with HQ the winners in the first and C in the second. Nevertheless, due to the vagaries of the wickets, either of these sides was liable to collapse and several times was beaten by other companies. Later in the season the RNZAF entered a team in the competition, and this brought rivalry to its keenest pitch.
His Excellency the Governor-General, Sir Cyril Newall, meeting: men of the battalion in their jungle camp during his tour of units of the Third Division
CommandersAbove left: Lieutenant-Colonel J. W. Barry, the battalion's first commander. He was succeeded by Lieuten-ant-Colonel K. B. Me-Kenzie - Muirson, MC, (above right), who took the battalion through the action in the Trea-suries. On the left is Lieutenant - Colonel B. H. Pringle, who took command of the battalion after Lieu-tenant-Colonel McKen-zie - Muirson returned to New Zealand
Our main rival, though, was the ack-ack team. Our first clash took place on the tricky Hutchinson Domain wicket. On the first innings the battalion team was slightly in the lead, so the ack-ack went after the runs in their second knock and declared, leaving us 80 runs to get in forty minutes. Mainly due to a great knock by E. G. Batstone of 45 runs in fifteen minutes, we did the trick and wrote off the runs with five minutes to spare and with eight wickets in hand. In the second encounter, held in Kingston Oval, we batted first and made 135 in two and a half hours. In the same time the ack-ack made 87 for seven wickets, and we claimed a moral victory. Lyons' feat of bowling for two and a half hours unchanged and returning four for 32 was a great effort.
The third and final game was held at Kingston late in March 1943. Again we batted first, but could make only 98 runs. The ack-ack went in full of confidence. A thrilling finale to the season came when their last man, in attempting a big hit which probably would have given them victory, had his stumps spreadeagled by a good length ball from W. Tricklebank.
The battalion eleven more or less picked itself, in the company games, and remained fairly constant throughout the season. Our regular players were T. Lyons, R. E. Thomas, E. G. Batstone, A, Siddall, D. R. Orton, W. Barr-Brown, W. Tricklebank, E. Densem, A. B. Willis and W. Thompson. As the season progressed, the civilian eleven could not field a full side, so members of the battalion under T. Welch helped them to maintain their side. Toward the end nine members of the battalion were playing regularly for their., and met with average success.
Swimming was at first given little consideration in the battalion sports world, and the first competition was not held until 20 June 1942, in the Suva public swimming baths. No outstanding times page 100were recorded, as there had been very little intensive training. It was a close contest, with HQ company winning by a narrow margin from A and D (S) companies which tied for second place. The fastest swimmers proved to be: R. Starr, E. S. Densem (BHQ), D. W. C. Lange, S. C. Armstrong (A company), J. F. Ryan, R. S. Lawrence [D (S) company].
On Norfolk Island swimming was taken much more seriously. A company had lost a good swimmer in Lange, but B company came to the top with the addition to their ranks of R. K. Wood and J. Hanafin, two fast swimmers over all free-style distances. In the sports held at Emily Bay on 26 February 1943, B company came in an easy first, with HQ company second. The fastest times were recorded by R. Lawrence, R. Starr (BHQ), S. C. Armstrong (HQ company), R. K. Wood and J. Hanafin (B company). Later on 11 March, a force carnival was held, again in Emily Bay, when the 36th Battalion won with a large margin. Both these meetings were held in the open sea, and despite the many difficulties they were excellently run, mainly because of the work done by Lieutenant Leuchars, who had also organised the Fiji carnival.
A feature of the force carnival was the emergence of a battalion surf life-saving team, trained by Lieutenant Leuchars. They gave a good exhibition of reel and beach work, and provided a regular beach patrol, necessary for the rough waters around Norfolk.
Camped on the banks of the Ouenghi River, the battalion found New Caledonia an ideal place for fresh-water swimming. The first carnival held here was a brigade meeting. The pool was formed by two stagings right across the river, making a thirty-three and one-third yards bath, and at this spot the current was negligible and did not impede swimmers. This was the first occasion in which the battalion team had met really good competition, and all the events were keenly contested with our team winning by a narrow margin from the 34th Battalion. Our team swam well and deserved its win. A battalion carnival was held in the same pool on 2,1 August and resulted in a win by one point for B company from D company. This occasion marked the first appearance of R. Gurr who swam for D company.
With our arrival in the Treasuries swimming really came into its own, both for pleasure and for sport. Because of the natural condi-tions it was almost the only sport which could be held, though the page 101battalion team did not have much chance of training as a team, in view of the scattered nature of the companies' positions. Water-polo was played for the first time as a battalion sport, and a number of inter-company games held. B company had the best team, with HQ company holding second place. The battalion team benefited considerably by these games, as was proved when they defeated all-comers at the 34th Battalion gala day held at Malsi and in subsequent games in the brigade competition. New-comers to the swimming strength of the battalion in the Treasuries were R. Shepherd and C. N. Chamberlain, both keen water-polo players and swimmers.
In the first brigade carnival held at Falamai on Boxing Day, we filled fifth place in the final results; our team swam well, but was outclassed. On the later brigade gala day, the 36th Battalion won the surf race from Watson Island to Falamai, with a team consisting of R. K. Wood, J. Hanafin, J. W. Clarke, C. N. Chamberlain and R. Shepherd. In the last carnival held in the Treasuries, on 18 April, we made a poor showing, with a number of our best swimmers not available, although R. M. Gurr took a place in the 50 yards, and R. Shepherd came second in the 2.20 yards.
Although the results in competitive swimming were not outstand-ing in the Treasuries, there has been a great improvement in the general standard of swimming throughout the battalion. All com-panies did considerable work in improving their company swimming areas, and excellent stagings and diving boards were erected. The percentage of non-swimmers, quite high in Fiji, was almost negligible in the Treasuries, where it had shown a greater reduction than in any other place we were stationed. And this is probably the best achieve-ment of battalion swimming.
The Auckland Boxing Championships of 1942 were the first in which members of this battalion took part. Nicolle, Huzziff and Bates took part. Nicolle put up a remarkable performance in the first round of the heavy weight, as, after taking a lot of punishment page 102for the first two rounds and most of the third, he knocked his oppori-ent out in the last half-minute. Unfortunately he was not able to box in the second series, as in his first fight he had damaged his knuckles. Huzziff easily won his weight, and the third entrant had the misfortune to suffer injury to his eyes. Altogether it was an auspicious start for battalion boxing.
|Heavy Weight||E. P. Nicolle||Welter||J. A. F. Robertson|
|Light Heavy||R. L. Cole||Light||A. E. Bryant|
|Middle||L. F. Huzzif||Feather||L. W. Petersen|
|Heavy Weight||E. P. Nicolle||Middle||L. F. Huzzif|
|Light Heavy||R. L. Cole||Feather||I. W. Petersen|
It was not until an island tournament was held on Stirling Island in the Solomons that battalion boxers were again to the fore. Com-petition was here much more severe, mainly due to the competing Americans. C. C. Forbes, L. F. Huzziff and J. L. Rea were the battalion entrants, and of these three Forbes and Rea both reached their respective finals only to be beaten. Rea was unfortunate enough to run into a man very much older than himself and, although he fought pluckily, was soundly beaten. Forbes quickly became a favourite of the crowd because of his tear-away tactics. For a man of 42 his stamina was amazing, and an education to most. Boxing in the Solomon Islands is not easy, and most fighters were obviously tired at the end of the third round, but not so Forbes who at the end of his fights was still on the offensive. Although beaten in the final he lost nothing by the decision, as the result could just as easily have gone his way.
To Captain H. W. Williams and E. P. Nicolle must go much of the credit for what battalion boxers have accomplished.
It was in Fiji that association football became recognised as a battalion sports activity. The first game was played early in March at Samambula Camp, and from then on weekly inter-company games were played. These early games were played on grounds where, one week merely falling over would mean skin off in several places, whereas during the next, one could scarcely move for mud. Later a Brigade Soccer Competition was organised, and the venue was the mission grounds at Nausori, where two comparatively level and well-turfed grounds were available. Some good football was seen, and battalion A and B teams held their own against other units. Perhaps mention should be made also of the Riwa Hotel, popular rendezvous for players after a game, where more games were lost and won over a glass of iced beer.
When we played a team from HMS Leander we struck very different opposition from anything previously experienced. Several of the Leander's players had been members of first-class English teams before the war, and the first five minutes' play showed what we were up against. Beamish, captain of the Leander team, delighted the spectators with an exhibition of soccer at its best. We considered it no disgrace to be beaten by such a team—0-7. On a return match with the Leander team we held them down to a 3-0 win. Our team exploited the 'kick and rush' tactics so beloved of English Cup finalists, and succeeded in upsetting the planned football of the sailors.
Another interesting match was against the Suva Indian team, winners of the Fiji championship at Lautoka in 1941. The Indians demonstrated that their standard of play was comparable to that of the Indian hockey team. Sheer speed—for they were all slim, almost frail youngsters—overwhelmed our team, which had to be content with the wrong end of a 4-1 decision.
Playing conditions on Norfolk Island were more suitable than the tropics, though the grounds were poor. Bailey's paddock, our main ground, tested the players' capabilities to the full—the folds in page 104the ground, including one four feet deep, often resulted in players disappearing completely from view!
A competition was organised involving two teams from the 36th and several teams from other units on the island. At the close the battalion A team was still unvanquished, while the B team suffered defeat only in their encounters with the A team.
In New Caledonia a brigade competition was organised, and soon inter-unit games, together with the company games on Wednesdays were in full swing. Here also many very rough grounds were encountered, and many a member of the battalion team will remember one ground in particular with grass which was knee-deep.
Nevertheless we had a successful season in New Caledonia, and lost to only three teams during the season. The best match of all was that in which a very strong field regiment was defeated by three goals to one.
There are quite a few of the battalion's soccer players who played alike in Fiji, Norfolk and New Caledonia, notably E. Harwood (captain in Fiji and Norfolk), A. Niven (vice-captain in Norfolk and captain in New Caledonia), G. Batstone, C. Cardie, A. Pink-stone, and A. McGrath.
During the course of the soccer activities several officers did their share in making each game a success, including Mr. Steggles in Fiji and Norfolk, and Mr. Utting and Mr. Hutchinson in New Caledonia. Mention must also be made of the help of the National Patriotic Fund Board who, by the supply of the necessary gear, enabled the team to look spick and span.
All in all, players and officials of the team co-operated to the fullest, and the games were thoroughly enjoyed and played in the best of spirits.