Lionel Alfred ('Todger') Hamblin

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By Martin and Teresa Davies

Lionel was born in Gloucester in 1891, the third son of Thomas, a Railway Servant, and Ellen Hamblin; the family lived at 17 Llanthony Street, South Hamlet. Lionel worked as a Labourer at the Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Company Limited.

In 1909 Lionel, primarily a centre, joined the Gloucester Club and between 1909 and 1920 he made 146 appearances of which 113 were for the First XV. He scored thirty-six tries and with an ability to kick the ball scored a total of 345 points for the Club. Initially he played for Gloucester A but in the 1911-12 season established himself in the First XV playing in thirty-two of the forty matches, and amassed a total of sixty-eight points. At the end of the 1912-13 season Lionel’s rugby prowess was well established and in its season summary The Citizen reported that “Lionel Hamblin was undoubtedly the best centre of the season [who] never had an off day. In defence he was the strongest asset the Club possessed; his kicking was…of immense value, whilst he brought off some of the most thrilling runs witnessed during the season.” He won the first of his fifteen Gloucestershire County Caps against Devon in the 1912-13 season and scored four tries and a total of thirty-four points in his county career. In the 1913-14 season the England selectors tried him in an England versus The North trial match, although he was not selected for an international cap.

Along with the rest of the Club’s players, Lionel’s rugby career was interrupted by the outbreak of the Great War. On 28 August 1914 the 5th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment held a recruitment rally at Shire Hall. In front of a large crowd, Lionel together with Sid Smart (back row), Albert Cook (back row) and William Washbourne (wing) approached the stage and volunteered for active service. The four men were instantly recognised and amidst cheering and a general mêlée 300-400 men rushed the stage to follow the example of their rugby heroes. Lionel, as Private 2680, landed with the 5th Gloucesters at Boulogne on 29 March 1915 along with other many players from the Gloucester Club. He continued to play rugby in the army and was variously a member of the Battalion XV which defeated the Canadian First Contingent at the Queen’s Club by 49 points to nil on 12 December 1914, the D Company XV which was crowned the 5th Gloucesters 1915 Inter-company champions and the 48th (South Midland) Division XV which defeated the 4th Division XV, containing English, Irish and Scottish internationals, by 17 points to nil at Pont Nieppe on 13 April 1915 during a break from front line duty. During the war Lionel was promoted to Lance Corporal and was demobilised (disembodied) on 8 March 1919. Lionel’s Victory Medal awarded for his service in the Great War is on display at the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum, Gloucester Docks. He played a further season after his return from France but his career was now effectively over.

Lionel died on 12 February 1944 with his funeral held at St Swithin’s Church, Hempsted. William Bailey’s (W.B.’s) recollections in The Citizen recalled Lionel’s career and in particular Gloucester’s first encounter with the Harlequins at Twickenham which Gloucester won by 8 points to nil with all the points being scored by Lionel; in the same season Gloucester defeated Cardiff by 6 points to 4 with Lionel once again getting all of Gloucester’s points. W.B summed up Lionel’s career as a player with an “…ability to pull out a bit extra for a great occasion…” and as “..a clever attacking player and equally effective at centre or outside half. He was also a successful place kicker and dangerous near goal with his accurate drop kicks

Lionel’s brother, James (1886-1948), a centre, also played for Gloucester between 1908 and 1913 making a total of 101 appearances for the Club, fifty-seven of which were for the First XV. James also fought as Private 11506 in the 7th and 13th Battalions, Gloucestershire Regiment. He initially fought at Gallipoli but was wounded and after treatment and recuperation in an Egyptian hospital was transferred to the Western Front and served in the Ypres Salient. James died in Gloucester in 1948.

[We are grateful to Chris Collier for the statistics on Lionel’s career with Gloucester.]

This page was added by Dick Williams on 12/11/2015.

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