John Walton – a true friend to Navy Rugby

John receives his award from Vice Admiral Ben Key

To Royal Navy Rugby Union players, training support group members, executive committee members, and Vice Presidents, John Walton is a well-known, respected figure seen on the touchline at the majority of Navy Rugby fixtures.  But John is not just an avid supporter, he is also an RNRU Volunteer.  

Wherever the Royal Navy is playing rugby, you can find John Walton.  Festooned with multiple cameras hanging from his neck; his now iconic broad brimmed hat, which can be seen from afar, and his infectious enjoyment all form part and parcel of a rugby-mad fan who has contributed most generously to the Royal Navy Rugby Union as a match day photographer and reporter.

John’s involvement with the RNRU grew from his involvement at the Army v Navy fixture, which ignited his interest in Rugby Union in the Royal Navy.  Before John became part of the RNRU family, he had two long and distinguished careers in first the British Army and then the Police.  On his retirement, he was determined to spend more time enjoying his passion for rugby and he also wanted to develop his skills as a photographer.  By combining these passions and over the past 20 years, John has contributed most generously to the RNRU by capturing the on-field action during matches.

John is a dedicated supporter of Navy Rugby in all its forms: Senior Men, Senior Women, Mariners, U23s fifteen a side and, conceivably his favourite, the 7s game played by the Sharks.  He also maintains a strong interest in community rugby, attending Inverdale Challenge and Navy Cup games.  Based in Crawley, John gives up his time to travel all around the country with his great friend John Boakes.  John has travelled to matches as far afield as North Wales, Waterloo and Birkenhead Park to Plymouth, Portsmouth, Twickenham, Swansea and he even went to Cape Town (Simonstown) for the Commonwealth Cup!  John processes the images after the match and shares them with the RNRU and players.  As well as match photography, John can be relied upon to produce honest and factually accurate match reports as well as a word or two of wisdom, which is always well received due to his time around the game.  He has been following Navy Rugby for so long now that he sees the sons of former players pulling on the shirt and taking their fathers' places in the team.

Guy Pallett, former TSG for the Sharks said, “While working with the Sharks, he integrated with the team, giving advice, pointing out ways to improve or even telling a story or two from his service years...and he has a few to tell!  A valued member of the RNRU communication team who is always on hand, willing to travel to fixtures or weekend tournaments for note taking for match reports or great photos which the players love.  A friend for life, his commitment to the RNRU is second to none.”

And Nathan “Pony” Moore, Sharks TSG, President’s XV and U23s coach said “John is such a dedicated supporter – he has been at almost every Under 23 Inter Service fixture since 2012, even this season’s U23 Navy v Army fixture that was relocated to Devonport and played in awful weather.”

John has also been a Royal Navy Rugby Union Patron since the 1990s.  He was recruited to the scheme by Clive Lambshead, RNRU Life Member and former RNRU Honorary Secretary.  For more information on the Patrons scheme click here.

For his good humour, wisdom, advice and generosity, in addition to the many hours he has spent travelling around the country, and for his excellent catalogue of Navy Rugby images going back many years, John is a most worthy recipient of a Royal Navy Rugby Union Value the Volunteer award.  John was presented with a RNRU Value the Volunteer award in December 2019 by RNRU President Vice Admiral Ben Key.

The RNRU is always looking for new members, whether as players, referees, coaches, supporters, volunteers etc.  For more information about volunteering as part of the RNRU please contact

By line: Jamie Campbell-Baldwin
Image credit: Royal Navy Rugby Union © Clare Valentine.