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Derek Teden

Derek Edmund Teden was born in Highgate, London on July 19th 1916, the son of Frank and Zilla Teden. Educated at Lord Williams School in Thame, Oxfordshire, and Taunton School the young Teden did not show the promise on the rugby pitch that he was eventually to fulfill and could not find a steady place in the school fifteen whilst at Taunton. After completing his studies Teden continued his association with the school turning out for the Old Tauntonians side and it was here that he was discovered by Richmond in a match between the two teams. A live wire prop Teden was invited to move his allegiance to the more prestigious London club where his form soon began to  move him through both the ranks of the Richmond club and those of English rugby. By 1937 Teden was playing for Middlesex and was further selected as a reserve for England ís match against Ireland . He also came to the attention of the Barbariansí selectors and pulled on the famous black and white hoops for the first time during the Mobbs Memorial match, losing to the East Midlands by thirteen points to three on March 4th 1937.

It was to be a further two seasons before Teden eventually made his breakthrough into the full England side, but finally on January 21st 1939 he received the call from the English selectors to take on Wales at Twickenham. Played in a sea of mud the treacherous conditions defeated the Welsh backs in a match that was to be decided by the opposing packs. The Welsh made a great battle of the game but were comprehensively outplayed upfront. England had most of the play and it was generally accepted that in better conditions would have won by a far greater margin than the final three points to nil score line suggested. For Teden it was to be a dream start to his international career, scoring the only try of the match and as the Times put it, ďwhat greater honour could have befallen a new front row man like D. E. Teden than to join in such a scrummaging triumph.Ē

After such a debut Tedenís place in the England side was never in doubt and he was to play in both of the remaining matches of the season. Returning to Twickenham, just down the road from Tedenís own Richmond club, on February 11th England next took on the Irish. This was England ís fiftieth match at the Twickenham stadium, but unfortunately there were to be few celebrations by the home side in its wake. The Irish, with a better balanced team that was both agile and canny, outplayed an English side that was quite simply not good enough on the day. The English pack, generally regarded as the best out of the four home unions, had trouble holding its own, whilst their backs folded under the pressure that they faced. Teden himself had a good game tackling well and having another try disallowed, but in the final analysis Ireland were worthy of their five points to nil victory.

England ís final match of the 1939 campaign involved travelling to Murrayfield to take on Scotland , the previous seasonís champions, on March 18th. Rain before play was expected to favor the English, although few expected the complete ascendancy that their pack were to show as they overcame the debacle of the Ireland match. Such was their hold on the game that the Scottish backs were hardly to see the ball during the encounter, although this was offset by the general underperformance the opposing English back line. Despite their dominance throughout the match the English pack seemed content to pass the ball to their backs, who continually squandered their chances, rather than play it themselves and at the end of play Englandís eventual nine point to six victory was thanks to a number of successful kicks rather than the tries that should probably have been scored. Non the less England took the Calcutta Cup and managed to claw back a share of the championship title, sharing this honor with both Wales and Ireland and leaving Scotland to face the ignominy of the wooden spoon. The following month Teden again joined the Barbarians, this time for their Easter tour to Wales, beating Cardiff by eleven points to six on April 8th and loosing by twelve points to three two days later. Although he would finish the season with Richmond and would turn out a few times for Rosslyn Park and in charity matches after the outbreak of war, Tedenís all too short rugby career was now essentially over.

Prior to the coming hostilities Teden had developed an interest in flying  joining the Royal Auxiliary Air Force and being commissioned as an acting Pilot Officer on 27th October 1938 in number 604 (County of Middlesex) Squadron. He was mobilized along with the rest of the reserve forces as war flared in Europe and by late in 1940 was serving with 206 Squadron. This was a member of the Coastal Command of the Royal Air Force and tasked with maritime reconnaissance and combating the growing threat posed by the German U Boats. On October 15th 1940 Teden, along with the rest of his crew took off in a Lockheed Hudson with orders to carry out a SA5 patrol. This meant flying in a figure of eight pattern over the North Sea and was essentially a reconnaissance mission to give early warning of any seaborne invasion. The operational plan for this mission involved Teden and his crew being on station by 2300, flying two circuits and then returning to their base. Teden, his aircraft and crew were never seen again, and no trace of them was found despite a concerted search over their operational area the following day. Although their fate is unknown and may have been due to mechanical failure rather than enemy action, it was considered most likely by the squadronís commanding officer that they encountered a German night fighter patrol and were shot down. At the time Derek Teden was just twenty four years old.


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

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The London Gazette Online


© D A Hunter, 2008
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