True heroes remembered

Today we remember all those who have lost their lives for their country especially our former players who fell in the First and Second World War.

The nation will fall silent for two minutes this morning in memory of those who made the supreme sacrifice for their country.

Armistice Day has been observed on the 11th hour, of the 11th day of the 11th month every year since World War I and it is a chance for us all to reflect on the sacrifice made by others on our behalf.

A century on from the outbreak of World War One, we especially recall Billy Jarman, Leeds and Great Britain star who died during the Great War. Samuel William Jarman was born in Leeds in 1887. Aged 21, Billy signed for his home city club, making a try-scoring debut in a home defeat by Wakefield on 28th December, 1908. A back row forward, he became a hero of the Leeds faithful when scoring the winning try at Keighley in a Northern Union cup quarter final tie a year and a half later, capitalising on a long punt downfield by Frank Young late on to help the Loiners qualify for their first-ever semi final in the competition.

A narrow win over Warrington saw him line up in the drawn final with Hull, the first time the decider had gone to a replay and, two days later – also at Fartown – he featured in a record 26-12 triumph as Leeds’ ribbons adored the trophy. Establishing himself as one of the eye-catching forwards in the game, there was surprise the following season when he was switched into the centre for a league game at home to Bramley, quelling the doubters with the match-winning try and establishing himself as a vital utility player. He was superb during the 1911-12 campaign, almost beating Hull single-handedly on the opening day of the season with a hat-trick of tries – his only treble – and a goal – one of only four he kicked for Leeds – in a 16-13 triumph. By season-end, he had grabbed eleven touchdowns, his best haul.

He was still in fine form as the next touring party was chosen, making the trip down under in summer 1914 with Headingley memories fresh of his virtuoso performance in a 22-5 home win over Bradford when he grabbed a try and two goals. One of the oldest members of the squad, as the boat set sail, he had pulled on the Leeds jersey just short of 150 times and crossed the whitewash on 35 occasions.

The tour was significant not just in a quest to regain the Ashes but also as it was to break new ground with matches in Adelaide – where the Lions beat South Australia 101-0 in the opener – and Melbourne for the first time; Ipswich, Bathurst and Newcastle. He was selected at full back for the opening Test at Sydney’s Agricultural Ground on Saturday 27th June, 1914, the pitch heavy and the day overcast and, although he missed a conversion attempt, the Northern Union side ran out easy winners 23-5.

The second encounter was played two days later, a public holiday, with over 50,000 fans turning up at the Sydney Cricket Ground, the first such encounter to be played there. During the 12-7 defeat, Jarman suffered a serious knee injury which curtailed his further involvement, ruling him out of the series defining ‘Rorke’s Drift’ Test the following weekend.

On his return, and with War having been declared, he was called up as a reservist to the second battalion of the Scots Guards, his knee condition seeing him initially ruled out of active service. He returned home, where he was the assistant groundsman at Bramley Cricket Club and, his rehabilitation complete, Guardsman 6295 was posted to the Western Front in August 1915. Almost exactly a year later, on 15th, he was killed in action on the Somme. His name is listed within the Thiepval Memorial to the 72,195 missing British and South African men who died in the Battles of the Somme of the First World War between 1915 and 1918, with no known grave. Back home, as news reached, he was feted: “As fine a forward as ever played for Leeds.”

In World War II many young men and women gave their lives in the efforts to defeat the evil of Nazi Germany.

Scrum half Les ‘Juicy’ Adams was born a stones throw away from Headingley on Meanwood Road and was obviously a star in the making from his schooldays, which totally endeared him to the Headingley faithful who were delighted that one of their own had made the grade. He made 109 appearances in total before being forced out of his beloved club to join Huddersfield. However, he continued to live in Leeds and was back at Headingley for the last time on Christmas Day 1942, and in the Blue and Amber that meant so much to him, in a wartime guest appearance.

Showing all the skill that made him so popular at Headingley a decade earlier, he thrilled the crowd in a half back partnership with Oliver Morris and between them they orchestrated the Loiners to a 36-5 victory over Oldham.

Juicy became a landlord in Leeds and volunteered for war duty with the RAF as a rear gunner. He was killed in action in 1944 over Japan, aged 33. There were eight men on the plane when it was shot down by the Japanese in late 1944. Two of the occupants were killed when the plane crashed and two others, including Juicy were never found. The remaining four were captured and tortured by the Japanese before being killed. After the war the Japanese officers responsible were tried for war crimes and were executed. Despite numerous searches of the area around the crash site and discussions with villagers who found the plane, no trace of the body of Juicy could be found.

His half back partner that final time at Headingley in 1942, Oliver Morris, also paid the ultimate sacrifice for his country. Morris made his debut for Leeds against Broughton Rangers on 26th August 1939. He had joined for £450, a big fee at the time, from local rivals Hunslet, with Leeds remarkably agreeing to pay a further sum if hostilities did not break out within a specified period. The Welshman had crossed codes from Pontypridd RU join Hunslet and helped his new club win the Championship against Leeds at Elland Road in 1938. He scored five tries in his first four games for Leeds, including two against Bramley on 2nd September at Headingley, unfortunately, war was declared on Germany the following day.

Although he continued to play in the Emergency war time Leagues for a further three seasons, winning the Cup in 1941 and 1942, Leeds never got to see his true potential. In total he made 61 appearances for Leeds scoring 44 tries and 198 points. When he was called up he asked to be posted with the Welsh Regiment apparently because they played more rugby. On 20th September 1944 in Northern Italy Lieutenant Oliver Morris was killed.

In 2016, the Leeds Rhinos Foundation Heritage Committee researched and collated a full list of Leeds players, both first team and second team, who made the ultimate sacrifice during the First World War for the first time. In the summer of 2017 a special commemorative stone was unveiled to remember all those men and fans are encouraged on their next visit to Emerald Headingley to spend a moment at the memorial which can be found in the Memorial Garden on your right as you enter at Gate B on St Michael’s Lane.

In total 51 Leeds Rugby League players enlisted in the First World War, 16 died of whom nine were first teamers with heritage numbers. They were:

First team
Samuel William Jarman (225)
Jimmy Sanders (231)
Leonard Leckenby (267)
Sidney Clifford Abbott (269)
Joseph Henry Hopkins (286)
Arthur Llewellyn (287)
Belfred Ward (289)
David Harkness Blakey (290)
John Robert Pickles (295)

Second team
H.E. Bannister
J. Harkness
L. Farrar
B. Thorpe
N. Parker
George Pickard
G.R. White