US Portsmouth’s Salute to a One Cap Wonder

To play rugby for the Royal Navy is an accolade that many strive for but few achieve.  I always find it slightly disconcerting when some are described as only having one cap.  The one cap wonder.  Well for all those players who achieved that still remarkable honour you belong to a club that has, in its midst, a true ‘one cap wonder’.  A man who holds a unique place in English rugby – Arthur Leyland Harrison.

The 58th player to represent the Royal Navy, Harrison played more times for England than he did for the Royal Navy.  His home club was Rosslyn Park but he also graced Burnaby Road in US Portsmouth’s colours before being one of a number of leading rugby players who lost their life in World War I.  He fought in the war like he played the game, hard and from the front.  Never prepared to back down; always a player for his team and a leader of his team.  He is the only England International rugby player who has been awarded the Victory Cross.

On Tuesday 29th October US Portsmouth RFC are supporting the Portsmouth Book Festival with a talk and book signing by Stephen Cooper.  His book, The Final Whistle, tells the stories of 15 Rosslyn Park players killed in the Great War, it includes the exploits of Arthur Leyland Harrison and in 2013 was the winner of the British Sports Book Award.  This is sure to be a fascinating evening from a man who has painstakingly researched the loss of life that one rugby club, Rosslyn Park, suffered through World War I.  That the talk will be given at a club who’s own history has always been inextricably linked to the wartime heroics of Service rugby players, will only add to the poignancy.  Finally the link between the Royal Navy, US Portsmouth, Rosslyn Park FC and the book The Final Whistle – Lt Cdr Arthur Leyland Harrison VC – when you listen to Stephen I am sure you will appreciate why he was truly a one cap wonder.

The event is in the US Portsmouth Clubhouse, Burnaby Road Portsmouth on Tuesday 29th October.  Doors open at 7pm with the Talk starting at 7.30pm. Stephen's book will be on sale at the venue and he will be signing books after the Talk. Tickets are £5 (£4 to Portsmouth City Library Card holders) and you can use your ticket to redeem £2 off the price of the book purchased at the event for signing by Stephen.  Tickets from The Box Office on 02392 688037 or from The Hayling Island Bookshop on 02392 466620.

By Geraint Ashton Jones

Images provided by The Britannia Museum Archive