The ground at Thames Ditton

After early days playing in Battersea Park and then at Wormwood Scrubs (where the mud had a particularly pungent odour) the OPFC shared St Paul’s secondary ground in Ealing until 1930. Then, thanks mainly to C. Montgomery White, QC, 15 acres were purchased with a loan from the RFU. The opening ceremony was performed by WT Pearce, three times President of the RFU, who said:

“Nothing gives the RFU greater pleasure than assisting old boys’ clubs to get their own grounds. The tremendous growth of the game, and the publicity given to it creates an ever-increasing danger of the game being sacrificed to the result, and old boy clubs helped to counteract that tendency.” The first match was played at great speed throughout against the Old Blues, and only one free kick was awarded!

In this period between the World Wars the fixture list was a remarkably strong one and included such sides as Bath, Bedford, Blackheath, Bridgend, Bridgwater, Cheltenham, Coventry, Gloucester, Liverpool, Llanelli, London Irish, Newport, Northampton, Pontypool, Rugby, Taunton and Wasps.

During, this period high honours were won by Old Paulines: RJ Hillard, JIA Embleton and GE Delafield obtained Blues at Oxbridge and Hillard played for England against the 1924-25 All Blacks.

In the mid-1930s the almost legendary ‘Rusty’ Hogbin left Guy’s Hospital and, in spite of invitations from some leading clubs, played and captained some outstanding OP sides.

In 1937-38 the OPs won fourteen of their last seventeen matches, beating such clubs as Wasps and London Irish as well as all four of the Hospital’s cup semi-finalists and only losing far away from home at Penryn, Liverpool and Bridgend, to none of which, significantly, Rusty was able to travel. During the same season adequate reserves were provided by the “A” side under Ronnie Wise which scored over four hundred points and was unbeaten by any other old boys’ side, whilst the “Extra A”, captained by Alex Jankel and the “B”XV under Cecil Maitland were almost as successful. Hogbin himself, one of the best kickers in the country, played in every one of the Middlesex 7-a-side competitions from the start in 1926 until 1949 – a record which is unlikely ever to be surpassed. During that time the OPs reached the semi-final in 1934 and 1937. Are we the only club to get that far with a forward in the full-back position? Maurice Marsh was both big enough to play in the second row for Bedford and sufficiently speedy to win the quarter mile for Cambridge in the University sports!

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