A good framed original Australian Rugby Union Team photo of the 1939 – 40 British Isles tour team. The Australian national rugby union team is nicknamed the Wallabies and this black and white team photo is mounted on the official photographers mount ‘Wilson Gould of Torquay’ with ink signatures of the team members. It has been newly framed in an old oak frame with gold slip. The photograph was taken at Torquay’s ground on the 4th September, 1939. The 1939 Wallabies tour was cancelled as war was declared a day after the team arrived in England; two weeks later they returned home.
The signatures that we are able to decipher appear to be:-
Captain Vay Wilson, Winston Ide, Cecil Ramalli, manager Dr Wally Matthews, Stan Bisset, Andrew Barr, Len Smith, Bill McLean, John Turnbull, Alby Stone, Mac Ramsay, John McDonald, Bill Monti, Keith Windon, Boyd Oxlade, Brian Oxenham, George Pearson, Welly Lewis, Vic Richards, Des Carrick, John Kelaher, Paul Collins, Ron Rankin, Basil Porter and Mick Clifford.
“The Tour That Never Was – the 1939 Wallabies”
Timing is everything in Rugby but if ever there was a mistimed tour it was the Wallabies 1939 visit to Britain beginning with an optimistic farewell aboard their ship, the Mooltan. This occasion was attended by an enthusiastic Billy Hughes, the Australian Prime Minister during the First World War.
A ten-month 28-match tour was planned but none of this was to be. The day after the Australians sailed into Plymouth Harbour, Britain declared war on Nazi Germany and all matches were cancelled as the nation flipped over into war mode.
Before their ship back home was organised the Australians pitched in by filling sandbags for defences around the team lodgings the Grand Hotel at Torquay. They were rewarded for this by having chauffeurs provided, who took them on a pub-crawl around the West Country.
The team was also introduced to King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace, where the captain Vay Wilson, a mathematics master, was introduced to the Queen as a “choirmaster”, to the great amusement of the Australians.
A feature of the return journey was the erratic patch taken by their ship constant “zig zagging” to avoid being lined up by any German submarine whose captain did not appreciate the finer points of rugby.
Copyright: State Library of New South Wales