Aviva Premiership Rugby clubs will once again be honouring the services of the Armed Forces by paying their respects across each and every ground this weekend.
Families of the Northampton Saints players who died in the First and Second World Wars gathered at Franklin’s Gardens on Wednesday afternoon for the rededication of the club’s memorial statue after it was relocated in front of the new Barwell Stand.
Richard Ormston, the Archdeacon of Northampton, led a service after the memorial was moved to within metres of the pitch at the Saints’ home ground following the building of the club’s new stand, which will be used for the first time in the Aviva Premiership Rugby match with Saracens on Saturday when a record-breaking crowd of around 15,500 is expected.
The statue was created in 1922 and listed the 12 players who had represented Saints and died during the Great War.
Initially it was not on the club’s grounds but it was first relocated to the north side of the stadium in the 1960s, by which point the six players who were killed in the Second World War had been added. It is now located in the north-east corner of Franklin’s Gardens in front of the new Barwell Stand.
BBC Radio Northampton’s sports editor, Graham McKechnie assisted the club in helping to contact the families and conduct research.
There were a number of touching stories about how McKechnie’s fine work had helped families discover information on their relatives which was previously unknown. Peter Clarke and his son Stuart were two of those in attendance. Peter’s great uncle, Lewis Brown, died on the first day of The Battle of Passchendaele in 1917 and is one of those remembered on the memorial statue.
Peter, who served himself as a military policeman in Northern Ireland, said: “I didn’t realise that he was mentioned on the memorial until Stuart found out due to Graham’s research. He then informed us because they were moving the memorial.
"I was always aware of him though as my grandmother had a little black disc with the information of her brother’s passing on there and I used to play with it.
"It has been a real pleasure to be here and to see the memorial."
His son Stuart added: "Since speaking to Graham we have been able to find out so much information about the battle and where he died.
"I am so proud because they all gave so much so we can have what we do today."
There will be a minute’s silence facing the memorial before the Northampton Saints v Saracens game on Saturday and every player will walk out with a child mascot who’s place has been auctioned by Northampton Saints to raise thousands of pounds for The Royal British Legion. There will also be a montage of photographs of the 12 Saints who lost their lives in the first World War and a collection for The Royal British Legion.
Remembrance tributes across the Aviva Premiership will start on Friday night at the Stoop as Harlequins hold a minute’s silence before their game with Sale Sharks.
At Sixways, Worcestershire Royal British Legion chairman, David Waldron, will be leading the Poppy Appeal with poppies available at all turnstiles. Waldron will also present the match ball for the game between Worcester Warriors and Newcastle Falcons.
Exeter Chiefs will also pay their respects with a minute’s silence ahead of their match against Leicester Tigers, and London Irish will hold a minute’s silence followed by the Last Post when they face Bath Rugby at the Madejski Stadium.
Wasps and Gloucester Rugby will walk out to a military guard of honour at the Ricoh Arena on Sunday. The teams will line up before the game and a bugler will play the last post followed by a minute’s silence then the Reveille. Then after the final whistle, there will be a fireworks display to music on the pitch.
Bath had their traditional wreath laying tribute and minute’s silence at the Rec when they hosted Harlequins last Saturday.