‘Spyda’ Webb Packs His Bags For One Last Time
As the 422nd player to represent the Royal Navy Rugby Union and the first and only, non-commissioned officer to become Selector, Spyda Webb’s name will always be engraved in the history of the Union. However as an extraordinary bagman to the Senior XV and a driving force in promoting the Game, his memory will be etched in to the heart and soul of Navy Rugby. He will be fondly remembered by all those who were fortunate to work, play and most definitely tour with him.
C.M. ‘Spyda’ Martin was born in Shardlow, Derbyshire in April 1949 and joined the Royal Navy in October 1964 as a Junior Electrical Mechanic (2nd Class). For the next 35 years he was a ‘Man of Air’. Although he spent some time at HMS Seahawk and, for courses and Command Field Gun, spent time at HMS Daedalus, it was at HMS Osprey and HMS Heron that he made his mark as a competitive and combative loose head prop. Through a string of strong performances for the Fleet Air Arm he was rewarded with his first cap, playing in both 1972 Inter Service games as part of an all Fleet Air Arm front row, which included John Ackerman at tight head and team captain, Binge Gatehouse, at hooker. He returned to the side in 1976 for his third and final cap, in the win over the Royal Air Force, giving Spyda two wins from his three Service matches.
When not playing, Spyda continued to be a driving force in unit, Command and also Navy Rugby and there are many throughout the Fleet through the late 70s, the 80s and early 90s who he either introduced to, or brought back to the game of rugby, a game he loved so much. After a long association as ‘Bag Man’ for both the Fleet Air Arm and for the Navy side, Spyda’s commitment to, and knowledge of rugby in the Royal Navy was rewarded when he accepted the role of Selector for the 1998/1999 season. He became the Royal Navy Rugby Union’s 35th Selector since the role was introduced in 1911, but was the first, and to date, only non-commissioned officer to have held this prestigious position.
However it was as a remarkable and special bagman that Spyda made his mark. With a twinkle in his eye and carefully worded briefs he ensured that a number of Chairmen, Secretaries and Selectors were content that the ship remained on an even keel and the course held was good and true. There was rarely anything ‘for them to worry about’ in the team. For the team he was the man who cared for them, at times cajoled them, whilst always championing their cause. And on more than one occasion, often on tour, cleaned up the mess after them, and not in terms of sweeping out the changing rooms! The comments that have flooded in to the Royal Navy Rugby Union since Spyda’s passing from the players he nurtured in his years as Bagman will remain the most fitting testament to the contribution he made over those many years.
Unusually for such an outgoing man, Spyda was fiercely protective of his forename, which he had an acute dislike for. Whilst it was revealed on the RNRU tour to South Africa I feel that the tour Omerta, that Spyda was certainly signed up to, should remain and ‘what goes on tour, stays on tour’. So Spyda Webb now undertakes his final rugby tour and will be remembered by Field Gunners, the Fleet Air Arm, Royal Navy and Combined Service Rugby for his huge contribution to our sport. He was a rugby man.
C.M. ‘Spyda’ Webb 16 April 1949 – 26 January 2016 - RIP
Spyda's funeral will take place at the United Church of All Saints, Belper Road, Stanley Common, Derbyshire DE7 6FS at 1415 on the 9th February 2016. The Wake is planned on completion of his burial at The Services Welfare Club post code DE7 6FY (a 300 yard walk along the road) where ‘Up Spirits’ will take place. There is parking at the church and also at the Welfare Club (probably best option!)
by Geraint Ashton Jones
Images © Crown Copyright & Army Navy Match Committee