The tragic last victory of a Wales rugby giant

Charlie Pritchard was a star of "the greatest rugby game ever played" – Wales’s victory over the mighty New Zealand in 1905. He was in another fight as a captain at the Somme and would give his life to win that one. Wounded and dying, he said: "Well, I have done my bit."

Charles Meyrick Pritchard, born in Newport in 1882, had rugby in his blood; his father was one of the founders of their home town club. Pritchard Jr captained Newport, his only club, and played 14 games for Wales between 1904 and 1910.

Pritchard had the strength of a giant – and he needed all of it to see off the All Blacks pack. Described as the "cleanest, straightest, most chivalrous" player, the forward was "always in the thick of the fight" as Wales won 3-0 in front of 47,000 at Cardiff Arms Park. It was the All Blacks' only defeat of their historic 35-match first British tour.

Journalist W. J. T. Collins wrote in his book Rugby Recollections: "Charlie, an inch short of six feet, six pounds short of fourteen stone, had a giant's strength; and in the match with New Zealand he performed prodigies of aggressive defence.

'He sent 'em down like ninepins' said [team­mate] George Travers. Charlie... had fire, thrust, and resolution; he was a mighty scrummager; and in the open his swerving bursts were very hard to stop."

"Have we got the Hun? Well, I have done my bit" Maynard's dying words

The All Blacks game is famous for two other reasons.

After the visitors had performed the Haka, the Welsh gave a spontaneous rendition of Hen Wlad fy Nhadau (Land of Our Fathers), the first time a national anthem had been sung at a sporting event. And a disallowed New Zealand "try" at the end of the game is still debated by rugby fans.

Pritchard was a 33-year-old captain with the 12th Battalion South Wales Borderers on the night of August 12, 1916, when he led a raid to capture an enemy soldier near Loos. He was hit in the wrist but still managed to grab the German from his trench and bring him back towards British lines. Only when he was hit a second time did Pritchard hand the prisoner over to one of his comrades.

Mortally wounded, he asked medics: "Have we got the Hun?" and when told they had he replied: "Well, I have done my bit." He died two days later at No. 1 Casualty Clearing Station, Chocques, and was mentioned in dispatches for bravery.

'Always brave as a lion'

Major Joseph Partridge, who also played for Newport, wrote to his family: "I have never met a man who played more in the spirit of the game. He was a fine example of what a British sportsman should be, and was loved by all who came into contact with him."

A letter from his colonel to Pritchard's wife and sons told of "the grief we all feel at the loss of a brave comrade. His death has cast a gloom over the whole battalion... He did much to cheer us up and to keep us from that depression that sometimes is hard to overcome... He led his men with great dash and bravery... the success of the enterprise was largely due to his gallant leadership and devotion to duty. He was always as brave as a lion."

Pritchard is buried in Chocques Military Cemetery. Dave Gallacher, New Zealand captain in that legendary 1905 match, was also killed in the war, fighting with the Auckland Regiment at Gravenstafel Spur, Belgium, in October 1917.

Remembering the Somme

This year marks the 100-year anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. The Royal British Legion is calling on communities across the UK to take the time out from their daily lives to honour those who fell. We have created a Somme 100 toolkit which contains everything you need to organise a Remembrance event in your community.

Make your own commemoration to Captain Charles Meyrick Pritchard or one of the other casualties of the First World War by simply placing a virtual poppy in their memory on our Every Man Remembered website.

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