Harry Rutherford's
Festival of Britain Mural

Friday, 8 October 2010

Hyde In War Time (1914-16) Page 35-36


Famous International Poloist’s Loyalty.

Probably there is no local sporting organisation that has been affected by the war to the same extent as the famous Hyde Seal Swimming Club. Before the this celebrated organisation had achieved Almost as much fame in certain parts of the continent, as in this country. The Seal swimmers and water polo players had several times visited Belgium. They were well-known to the sporting fraternity of Brussels, and had swum in the Seine at Paris. Not only Belgians, but also Hungarians and Germans, had visited Hyde not long before hostilities opened, and we had also had in Hyde Baths a Swedish team. Between the Belgians in particular and the prominent members and officials of the Hyde Seal Club there had grown up a strong bond of friendship. Unfortunately war’s rapacious way had severed many old friendships, and some of these international water poloist will never again clasp the hand of fellowship. Several noted Belgian swimmers have fallen. The Captain of the Brussels Swimming Club, M. Fernand Feyaerts, so well-known to many of us, and who before the war occupied a commercial position of considerable importance in his native country, was very heavily hit - financially and otherwise, - when hostilities opened.  He and his family were driven from home; and for a time they were practically refugees in this country. M. Feyaerts had been rejected for military service on physical grounds, but later he cured himself to the extent of being accepted, and early in 1916 it was found that he had been wounded in action on the Belgian front against the Germans.

As the time war broke out, the Hyde Seals had won various big swimming and water polo championships, and were confidently expecting to again become the National Water Polo victors. With the declarations of war, the remaining competitions were abandoned. The “Seals” proved themselves as keen for country as they had been for sport. The new President of the Club, Mr. J. Leadbetter Knott, joined the colours.  He became a Captain, and early in 1916 it was officially reported he had been promoted to the rank of Major. He had then been in France some months. At the Annual Meeting of the Hyde Seal Club, held on the 20th April, 1915, it was reported by the secretary, Mr. A. Heron, that every member of the reserve polo team had enlisted; and Councillor Walter Fowles, the treasurer, announced that 34 members  of the club were serving with the forces. Subsequently, other members followed suit. But for the war the club would now have been celebrating its “majority” -1895-1916. 

Private Tom Clegg


One of the many patriotic Hydonians who came from distant parts of the British Empire to fight for the Mother Country is Private Tom Clegg, who formerly was associated with the Swimming Club. Six or seven years ago he went to the Antipodes, spending three years in New Zealand, and a similar period in Australia. He joined the Australian Forces within two or three weeks of the outbreak of war., and on the 18th October, 1914, sailed from Sidney to Alexandria. After several months training in Egypt, Private Clegg accompanied the Australian Expeditionary Force in the Dardanelle’s, where he was in the early landing, and subsequently went through much fighting of a terrific character. On April 27th, his birthday, he was in four bayonet charges. In the first four days of fighting, his Battalion lost over six hundred officers and men, and those who survived, Private Clegg among them, were complimented by three commanding officers upon their continuous gallantry. Private Clegg, under a heavy fire, bandaged a serious wound sustained by an officer. In later fighting, a Turkish shell burst near him and two comrades. The other two were wounded, and Private Clegg’s nerves were so shattered that he was unable to continue in action. He left the Peninsula on the 23rd, July, and on reaching Malta it was found he had a poisoned hand. Here he remained under treatment a month, and then was sent to England, where he spent time at a convalescent hospital at Bethnal Green. At the beginning of September, Private Clegg arrived at Green Street, Hyde on a visit to his home, and returned to military duty on the 6th October. 

Private Cleggs C.W.G.C. Casualty Details (1918) 


Tom said...

The story of Private Tom Clegg war was one I found very moving... in his first year of the war he had seen much action. and it is hard to imagine the fear of going into a bayonet charge.. not once in a day but four times.. and on your birthday as well. I was hoping his name would not show up in the Commonwealth War Grave Commissions archives... but alas he did show up...and I was left wondering of all the fighting and battles this chap must have been involved in.. A name that I don't think I'll ever forgot now.

Hydonian said...

One of many sad stories that have come to light, Tom. I ,too , find it hard to comprehend what fear must have been with them each time they went into a bayonet charge - if they survived the one before.