St. david's press

September 2019




978 1 902719 672

Large Format Paperback

150 illustrations/photographs


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St.David's Press


War Games
Rugby Union during the Second World War

Howard Evans & Phil Atkinson


‘The intention behind War Games is to provide, for posterity, a record of ‘the great game’ during the war years, and of thosre embroiled in the conflict who held a deep passion for rugby and sought every opportunity to play the game.’
Phil Atkinson, from his Foreword


During the six years of a brutal global war - from the battlefields of Europe, to the deserts of North Africa, the jungles of the Asia and even in Prisoner of War camps - rugby union continued to be played wherever and whenever possible by the servicemen of Britain and her Allies from New Zealand, Australia and South  Africa,

Dedicated to 'all those in rugby who did - and who didn't - make it through those troubled times', War Games is a comprehensive and highly illustrated commemoration, packed with stories and statistics that for the first time chronicles the history of rugby - the men and the matches, from ‘scratch’ to international - during the Second World War.

Starting with the short-lived 'infant' season of 1939-40 and ending with the ‘Victory’ series of internationals in 1945-6, and including the hugely successful New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) 'Kiwi' tour of 1946,  War Games details all the major rugby contests and the hundreds of players including: Bleddyn Williams, Prince Alex Obolensky, Bill McLaren, Wilf Wooller, Blair Mayne, Sir Tasker Watkins, Ralph Sampson, Gus Risman, Willie Davies, Les Manfield, Charlie Saxton, Fred Allen and Jim Sherratt.

Essential and entertaining reading for followers of rugby and military historians alike, respected rugby authors Howard Evans and Phil Atkinson tell the tale - meticulously and with great affection for the game they love - of those men who played for fun but who, on too many occasions, lost more than a rugby game.


Howard Evans is a respected Cardiff-based rugby writer who was, for many years, a rugby correspondent for the South Wales Echo and Western Mail.
Phil Atkinson is a retired headmaster  and history teacher, who is editor of Touchlines, the magazine of the Rugby Memorabilia Society, and lives in Newport.
Howard and Phil have also authored The King’s Cup 1919 - Rugby’s First ‘World Cup’ (St. David’s Press, 2015), and The Wizards - Aberavon Rugby 1876-2017



Foreword by Howard Evans
Foreword by Phil Atkinson

1. Before the War

2. 1939

3. 1940

4. 1941

5. 1942

6. 1943

7. 1944

8. 1945

9. 1946

10. 1945-6 Kiwis Tour

Select Bibliography and Thanks


Also of interest


The King's Cup 1919
Rugby's First 'World Cup'

'this rugby spellbound people'
The Birth of Rugby in Cardiff
and Wales

'Call Them to Remembrance'
The Welsh rugby internationals
who died in the Great War


Spikey: 2 Hard to Handle
The Autobiography of
Mike 'Spikey' Watkins

Nerves of Steele
The Phil Steele Story

The Wizards
Aberavon Rugby 1876-2017