Cymru’s fallen players

One of the most famous sporting faces in Britain climbed from an Allied trench near the French village of Gueduecourt and began running towards lines of German soldiers armed with guns. That soldier was Leigh Roose, a Lance Corporal and a Cymru international goalkeeper. 

Roose achieved 24 caps for Cymru at a time when only three matches a year would be played against England, Ireland and Scotland. 

After climbing from that trench, Roose, along with almost 200 of his comrades in the 9th Royal Fusiliers, was never seen again. To this day, his body has never been found.

Roose was born near Wrexham on 25 November 1877 and was a graduate of Aberystwyth University. For over a decade prior to the First World War, he was regarded as the best goalkeeper in the United Kingdom playing for a number of clubs including Arsenal, Everton, Stoke and Sunderland. 

Until 1912, goalkeepers were free to bounce the ball with their hands as far as the halfway line before releasing it. Few risked doing it for fear of losing possession, however, Roose did it all the time to the frustration of the English FA. Believing this provided an unfair advantage and ruined the spectacle of the game, the rule was changed stopping goalkeepers from using their hands outside of the penalty area. 

Roose joined the 9th Royal Fusiliers in July 1916 at the age of 38 and took part in the Battle of the Somme, which was the costliest loss of life in British history. 

Several Cymru international players were decorated for gallantry: 

Distinguished Service Order: Morgan Morgan-Owen  

Military Cross: George Latham 

Military Medal: Leigh Roose, Dai Collier & Stan Davies

Serbian Gold Medal: Harold Beadles 

In addition to Roose, the following senior Cymru internationals also made the ultimate sacrifice: 

Bob Atherton

Born in Bethesda, Atherton won 9 caps for Cymru. Atherton died on 19 October 1917 at the age of 41. He had joined the Merchant Navy as a steward. The SS Britannia carrying iron bound for France was sunk by a U-Boat in the English Channel. 

Bobby Davies

Davies was born in Cefn Mawr, near Ruabon, and played for Druids and was a Welsh Cup winner with the club. He was capped once for Cymru against England in 1885. Davies was killed in action during the First World War. 

Fred Griffiths

Griffiths was a goalkeeper born in Presteigne who was capped twice by Cymru. His caps came against Scotland and England. He died in October 1917 during the Battle of Passchendaele during the “big push”.  He is buried in Dozinghem military cemetery near Westvleteren in west Flanders. 

George Griffiths 

Born in Chirk, Griffiths earned one cap for Cymru and died on 7 July 1918 at the age of 53. He played for Chirk, with whom he won the Welsh Cup. Griffiths played for Cymru in a 4-1 defeat against Ireland in 1887. He was a veteran of the Royal Welch Fusiliers and was discharged from the Royal Army Service Corps in 1917 after a knee accident. He passed away a year later at his home in Leigh. He was given a military funeral. 

William James Jones

Jones was born in Penrhiwceiber and became the first player from the South Wales League to represent Cymru in 1901. He played four times for Cymru. Jones was a Royal Welch Fusilier and was killed in Macedonia on 6 May 1918. His body was not recovered. 

George Williams 

Williams was born in September 1879 and played for West Bromwich Albion. He was capped once by Cymru. Williams served as a rifleman in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps during the First World War and was killed during the Battle of the Somme on 27 July 1916. 

James “Ginger” Williams 

Williams, from Buckley, was at the peak of his career when war intervened in 1914. He was forward who played alongside Billy Meredith when he won his two caps. Williams was seconded to the Royal Engineers in the spring of 1916 and died on 5 June. 

Cymru’n Cofio

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