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Alfred Maynard

The son of W. J. Maynard, the probate registrar of Durham , and his wife Annie, Alfred Frederick Maynard was born in Croydon on March 23rd 1894. Educated at Durham School , the North East of England was to become Maynard’s home. He was later to play for both Durham City and Durham County . Despite this Maynard was to move south in order to continue his education at Cambridge University as an undergraduate at Emmanuel College , also joining the Harlequins whilst at Cambridge .

A large man, full of vitality, humor and life, Maynard customarily played in the second row, where he soon established something of a reputation. This was soon recognised by his university who selected him for a debut blue against Oxford on December 10th 1912 in a match played against the Prince of Wales at the Queens Club. The Cambridge team played well as an entity and overwhelmed their dark blue opponents spending three quarters of the match in their half. Their eventual ten points to three victory was Cambridge ’s first in the annual fixture since 1903.

The following year Maynard again played for the Light Blues during his final year at Cambridge . Again held at Queens Club on December 9th 1913 his Cambridge side were technically sound rather than brilliant, playing a conservative game that ground out a thirteen points to three win as they closed down the Oxford backs. During the match Maynard was to score one of the fixture’s most improbable tries. After receiving the ball near halfway Maynard, not noted as the fastest of locks, began to lumber towards the Oxford line desperately searching for a better placed and faster Cambridge player to pass to. The Oxford defence also expected Maynard to offload and raced to cover all his open team mates, forgetting In the process to cover Maynard himself, who was eventually left with little option but to go for the line himself. Testament to his strength, if not his speed, was provided by the Times, “At any rate the Oxford man who finally ran a him full tilt, in order to push him over the line a foot away, bounced off him without causing him any inconvenience or preventing him from scoring a try in the corner.”

On the back of this victory it was unsurprising that further representative honors were to follow and Maynard was picked to represent England for the first time just a month later on January 17th 1914 in a match against Wales at Twickenham. During a close and hard fought game the England team pulled off a ten points to nine victory with dogged determination and persistence, tackling hard at every opportunity. The match was won largely by the English backs who outplayed their Welsh opponents in a reversal of the usual form, something that could also be said of the Welsh pack who outplayed, but never routed, their English opponents. Despite this Maynard himself had a good game, playing with pace, dash and resource. As the Times put it “To… AF Maynard go the scanty laurels of the English forwards.”

For the following match Maynard returned to Twickenham on February 14th to play the Irish in front of both the King and Prime Minister. The Irish started at a frantic pace, as is often their way, overwhelming the English defence to score early points. It was only later in the match as they tired that the English were able to dig in and score enough points to take the fixture by seventeen points to twelve.

Maynard’s final match in his all too short international career came on March 21st 1914, this time travelling to Inverleith to take on the Scottish. The English pack looked stale in this game as their backs raced to a good lead with twenty minutes to play. Indeed so engrossed in attack that they almost forgot to defend allowing the Scots to fight their way back into the game for what would be a nail biting sixteen points to fifteen victory for England that gave them the Calcutta Cup as well as the triple crown. Although Maynard was not to travel to Paris for the England victory that secured their second successive grand slam he certainly played his part in this rare achievement.

With the outbreak of war Maynard joined the Royal Navy and was commissioned a Sub Lieutenant on October 18th 1914. It is unlikely that he anticipated serving in the infantry, but with some twenty five thousand men surplus to seagoing requirements this manpower was enough to form a naval division of fighting men and Maynard was posted to the Howe Battalion. Initially poorly trained and almost totally unequipped for land warfare the naval division was non the less soon sent into action, despatched to Belgium to defend the strategically vital port of Antwerp in October 1914. Facing overwhelming odds they fought a fighting withdrawal that soon became a confused rout. Maynard returned to Britain , although many in his unit were killed, injured or interned as they fled across the border into neutral Holland . It was far from an auspicious start for Maynard and the Royal Naval Division. After this there was at least a lengthy period of training for their infantry role before they again embarked on active service.

Maynard and the Howe Battalion were next ordered to Egypt to protect the Suez Canal, which at this time was controlled by the British and provided a vital link with it’s colonies in the East. In February 1915 it was attacked by a Turkish expeditionary force of some twenty five thousand men. The attack failed largely due to the stout defence of the canal by the allied forces as well as the logistical problems facing the Turks of keeping their troops supplied as they advanced over two hundred miles of desert. The attack did however have the effect of tying up allied forces that could have been put to far better use across the Mediterranean at Gallipoli. Later this is where Maynard and the Royal Naval Division would sent.

The Dardanelles campaign was also tactical in nature. The allies required a safe means of resupplying Russia on the eastern front and this was the only real alternative with the northern approaches closed either by ice or the German Navy. The campaign was originally planned to be a purely naval affair using old battleships too decrepit to take on the German high seas fleet. With the failure of his gambit a land campaign was started against a by now forewarned and prepared Turkish defence. Quickly the landings became entrenched in much the same way as the allied forces serving in France and Belgium , which was the last thing that the Admiralty had planned or wanted. Maynard and his division went ashore to assist in the assaults on the Turkish positions. Fierce fighting and blistering sun soon began to take their toll and on May 19th 1915 Maynard received a gunshot wound to his leg and was evacuated to Alexandria . Eventually the campaign in the Dardanelles was to fail with a huge casualty list and cause the fall of Winston Churchill, its prime instigator, from influence for the rest of World War One.

Recovered from his wound, promoted to full Lieutenant on July 11th 1915 whilst remaining with the newly retitled 63rd (Royal Naval) Division which had now been transferred from the Admiralty to the War Office, Maynard was sent to France and arrived in Marseille on May 19th 1916. The 63rd Division soon moved to the frontline where it took part in the Battle of Ancre, the final act in the Somme campaign of that year. This advance was largely planned with political rather than military objectives in mind as General Haig required positive news to impart to his French allies. An attack was planned on either side of the river Ancre, with the Royal Naval contingent being part of the Northern attack, advancing towards the villages of Beaumont Hamel and Beaumont sur L’Ancre, a sector that had not seen concerted action since the opening of the Somme offensive in July 1916. The attack, launched on November 13th 1916 was largely successful. The objectives to the south of the river were easily taken, with the 63rd Division taking Beaucort the following day. Haig may have been happy with the result, but Lieutenant Alfred Frederick Maynard fell the first day of the attack, doubtless showing the same resolve on the battlefield that he had on the rugby pitch.


"Harlequin Story", HBT Wakelam, Phoenix House Ltd 1954

"The Complete Who's Who of England Rugby Union Internationals", R Maule,  Breedon 1992

The Times Online Digital Archive


© D A Hunter, 2008
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