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Reginald Schwarz

Reginald Oscar Schwarz, more commonly known as ‘Reggie’, was born in Lee, London on May 4th 1875. Educated at St Paul ’s and Christ’s College, Cambridge , he excelled at sport being particularly adept on the Rugby and Cricket pitches. Whilst an undergraduate he played in one Varsity match, gaining his blue on December 13th 1893 at the Queens Club. During an open, exhilarating game Schwarz made several runs from his preferred position of halfback, harrying around the fringe of the scrum where possible, as recorded in the Times “Oxford heeled the ball out, but before any of their side could hold it Schwarz raced up”. Although the Cambridge pack played well and their backs were equally resolute in defense, they lacked spirit in attack and the match went Oxford ’s way by one try to nil.

Playing his club rugby for Richmond as well as Middlesex after Cambridge Schwarz’s representative career now took a dip for several seasons. It was not until April 10th 1897 that he was selected to play for the Barbarians against Hartlepool Rovers in a fourteen points to nine victory. It was then another two years before he again wore the famous black and white hoops as the Barbarians romped home to a thirty three points to nil win against Stade Francais on February 15th 1899. It was at about this time that he first caught the eye of the English selectors and was picked for his international debut against Scotland in a match played on March 11th 1899 at the Rectory Field, the home of Blackheath. It was a disastrous season for England , who had already lost to both Wales and Ireland . Many thought this was due to England’s apparent desire to emulate Welsh back play to the detriment of their pack, a recipe for disaster when facing the agile Scottish forwards who were quick to break. “Schwarz… was mostly engaged in stopping rushes” noted the Times as Scotland enjoyed the majority of the ball as they won by five points to nil also consigning England to the wooden spoon.

The 1900 season again saw Schwarz in the international wilderness, although he was recalled the following year on January 5th 1901 to play Wales at Cardiff . The English pack shone in this game and if their backs could have made something of their chances the result may have been very different. The thirteen to nil score line in Wales ’ favor was not representative of the play. Possession had been roughly equal and the match could have gone either way with ten minutes to play, but it was a loss non the less.

Schwarz retained his place in the England side for their next match against Ireland on February 9th at Lansdowne Road in Dublin . Although England upped their game and played better than they had against the Welsh, this match was also lost by ten points to six. The result was generally deemed to be a fair one. The English backs played well, but poor passing let them down. Although fast and furious the game was generally disappointing with bad temper flaring from both sides at times. The deciding factors were the Irish pack, who were full of energy, and the superb showing of the Irish halves who were both lively in attack and resourceful in defense and outshone the English halves. England again received the very dubious honor of the wooden spoon this season. After this match Schwarz was never selected to play rugby for his country again, although he did rejoin the Barbarians for their Easter tour to Wales that year playing a further two matches for the club, losing nine points to three to Newport on April 3rd 1901 and drawing six points all with Cardiff two days later.

As well as his exploits on the rugby pitch Schwarz had also continued with his love of cricket. After playing for Oxfordshire in the closing years of the nineteenth century he moved to the Middlesex County side for the 1901-1902 seasons. After emigrating to South Africa he played for the Transvaal , interspersed with his work as personal secretary to Sir Abe Bailey, a notable diamond tycoon and politician. It was in South Africa that Schwarz began to truly make his mark as a cricketer, although ironically it was when he returned to Britain with the touring South African sides of 1904 and 1907 that he became regarded as one of the great bowlers of his era and was named Wisden cricketer of the year in 1908, topping the bowling averages with his expertise in the googly. In total he won twenty caps for South Africa at cricket, retiring from serious participation at the end of the 1912 season.

With the outbreak of war in 1914 Schwarz soon enlisted initially serving in the campaign is German South West Africa . Such was the superiority of the South African forces that its result was never in any realistic doubt with German settlers being interned in prison camps. Those Germans who remained at large along with Afrikaner volunteers could offer little more than token resistance during the doomed Maritz rebellion against the pro British South African government. Non the less Schwarz served with distinction during the campaign and was mentioned in dispatches for his part in it. Schwarz, along with many other members of the South African armed forces next travelled to Europe and the battlefields of the Western Front, in Schwarz’s case joining the sixth battalion of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps. Again Schwarz served with distinction. By the end of the war he had attained the rank of Major and been awarded the Military Cross. More latterly in the war he served in a number of staff positions, surviving the horrors of battle to see the armistice.


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

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© D A Hunter, 2008
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