Some Worcestershire Regiment Footballing Heroes

“Inter-war sport was marked by competition with foreign teams, but such interaction also illustrated problems with the British focus on amateurism. By the 1930s, Belgian and French teams were far superior to British counterparts because these armies encouraged sporting development along professional lines. Both the Belgian and French armies, which enforced conscription, found their countries’ best sporting players serving time in the military, in which they were carefully groomed for competition. The British army, being a volunteer organization, could not compete against such rivals, and this conflict between professional and amateur sporting ideologies led to the British breaking off sporting relations with the French. But sports were a major draw for the British army, in terms of recruitment, against declining pay standards and limited promotion prospects. To support this attraction, the British forces increased funding for sports through non-public service funds, rather than forcing payment through games subscriptions or gate money.”

Sport and the Military: The British Armed Forces 1880-1960 (2010) by Tony Mason and Eliza Riedi, Cambridge University press.

Key Inter-war Regimental Footballers

  • Alfred Dalloway

Joining the Worcestershire Regiment in August 1919, 3 months before his 18th birthday, Alfred Dalloway would go on to spend the best part of 40 years with the regiment in various capacities. He has been noted to be “one of the most loved and loyal members of the regiment” there ever was.

Being one of the most renowned servicemen in the Regiment, Dalloway possessed many great attributes. Many of which helped him to excel at sports, especially football. Clearly passionate about playing the game, Alfred Dalloway gained a British Army cap against Belgium in 1930. Unfortunately, he could not inspire the team to victory as they suffered a 4-2 loss in London. This is no surprise however; as the inter-war period saw foreign armies surpass the capabilities of the British Army in sport. This was in part due to the British Army’s attempts to keep sport amateur and discourage the “evils” of professionalism. Foreign Armies were doing quite the opposite as teams such as Belgium had the best pickings of their country’s footballers due to conscription.

On Thursday 13th of March 1930, Dalloway put in one of his best performances playing “like a Trojan” to score two goals that would make his team win the Worcester Thursday Medals Competition. During this era “he was always scheming on the field of play to try to bring off a win even when a weak side was fielded.” This sort of mindset shows that he was aware of the other members of his team and their strengths or weaknesses and could adapt to differing scenarios.

The man affectionately known as simply “Curly” was praised highly by his associates for his sporting prowess. One description of him provides some insight into his qualities, stating that he was a “tower of strength” and excelled in “every form of sport”. His athleticism is noted on several occasions but his footballing aptitude shines off the pages of the regimental magazine with accounts of matches, such as the ability to have “tricked 3 opponents,” lay it off and clinch the assist in a match against Bromsgrove E.C. on the 11th of March 1937.

Often the Captain of representative Army sides on Malta and China, he arrived in Shanghai greeted by Colonel Pelly with the remark; “ready for football tomorrow Dalloway?” as he marched down the gangway of the boat. One could argue he had a sort of cult fame when it came to football within the Worcestershire Regiment. After being the 2nd Battalion’s resident captain for a decade, Dalloway found himself posted to The Depot in 1936. He had been with the 2nd Battalion in Dublin, Dover before becoming part of the British Army of the Rhine and then going on to Malta and China. When it was time for the 2nd Battalion to travel to India, Dalloway, now a sergeant was posted to the Depot.

Upon arriving at the Depot he made an instant impact in the 1936/37 season, where the team racked up 110 goals, winning 14 out of 20 games. Whilst only netting 2 goals, “great credit must be given to Sgt. Dalloway for the very capable way he captained the team” during this period. This was the best set of results The Depot had mustered since 1923. 

After the Second World War Dalloway rose to prominence as a Billiard and Snooker player, extending his sporting vocabulary even further, adding to his experiences with football, hockey and cricket from his time with the 2nd Battalion. Retiring from service after 18 years in 1938 after some leg trouble, he stayed on at Norton Barracks as Sgts Mess Caterer. Dalloway operated in that capacity until 1959 when the Depot was closed down.

  • Reginal Horton Couchman

The 10th March 1901 saw Reginal Horton Couchman enter the world. After leaving Sandhurst for Worcester in 1920, he would go on to serve for 9 years in the Regiment. He is one of the most important figures for football in the Worcester Regiment as when the “The Green ’Un” first took shape in 1922, it was Couchman that was responsible for the first set of articles headed “Association Football”. A true pioneer for the documentation of history. He gave his opinions on the various teams across the battalions, performance analysis and gathered the results. Although at times the information on football can appear sparse in the regimental magazine, it must be remembered that the only reason it is there initially is because of Couchman.

In terms of playing the game himself, he was perhaps Worcester regiments highest recognised player. With an impressive British Army cap record of 12 games, playing a total of 5 against both the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. The other 7 games were against the French and Belgian Armies. Not only is this impressive by British Army standards, as hardly any players got to play on that many occasions, it is remarkable for a solider in the Worcestershire Regiment. It is ironic that for such a prolific shooting regiment, one of Couchman’s earliest complaints in the Regimental magazine is “the weakness forward” and the use of the phrase “we cannot score goals” is rather a blunt and effective description of the team’s form at the time.  

In 1929 he transferred to the reserves and then the following year to the 1st London Rifle Brigade (TA) as a Captain. The 27th February 1937 saw Couchman become a Major. Throughout the Second World War he performed a few different roles and was eventually invalided out in 1944.

During his time with the Worcester Regiment, R.H. Couchman proved himself a stellar performer when it came to Athletics, most notably in 1928 when he was awarded a plaque for reaching Olympic standard in the Modern Pentathlon.  Championing the importance of fitness throughout his Army sporting life, he certainly had the wherewithal to back it up. A true credit and pioneer to the Regiment.

  • Arthur Temple Burlton

Born on the 10th March 1900 Arthur Temple Burlton was commissioned into the Worcestershire Regiment from Sandhurst on the 15th December 1919. His first role was in the 4th Battalion in January of 1920 just before they were moved to Cologne in March where the Battalion engaged with BAOR activities. 1922 saw the 4th Battalion disbanded so Burlton was placed in the 2nd Battalion who were stationed in Dublin. Having spent 1927 to 1930 in Allahabad, it would seem that this would be the longest period of A.T. Burlton’s army career spent in one place. A very different scenario to his involvement in the Norwegian Campaign of 1940. A loyal servant to the Worcestershire Regiment, gaining promotion in 1941 to become a Lieutenant Colonel commanding the 10th Battalion. Burlton would eventually spend 24 years with the Worcesters. Upon leaving the 1st Battalion, it is noted that the group penned, “the loss to us can not be overestimated” in the Regimental Magazine in April 1936.

Marrying on the 16th November 1927 to Enid Doreen, Burlton had two Grandsons who would go on to serve in the 4th/7th Royal Dragoons.  

Before joining the Military Government of the British Army of the Rhine in 1945 and then retiring from the Army in 1948, Burlton had accomplished much in the way of sporting endeavour. A proficient boxer who often featured in bouts for the Army Officer’s Boxing Team. He is also the one responsible for chronicling the first few regimental boxing activities in the Regimental Magazine. A talented athlete, taking part in a variety of activities during his time with the 1st 2nd and 4th Battalions respectively, alongside proficiency in cross country. He occasionally partook in Hockey duties but in his own words only “when they were hard up” due to injuries and the like.

He was the 12th man in A.E.R Gilligan’s 1926/27 Army-n-India Cricket side. Demonstrating a serious passion for the sport of Cricket, Burlton founded The Mount Cricket Club in 1934 and “after the war killed the club, resurrected it in 1962”. A statement filled with pride. As the Regimental Magazine states, Burlton’s “record as a cricketer needs no emphasis”.

Arthur Temple Burlton was extremely proficient at football and was one of the most valued inter-war stars for the regiment. His “chief asset being the way he feeds his forwards,” a statement most likely thought up by and approved for publication by his good friend at the time, R.H. Couchman. A footballer “who plays with his head and works very hard,” a most perfect combination of work ethic and a footballing brain. These highly prized assets gained Burlton an international army cap against Belgium in 1924. Also in 1924, Arthur Temple Burlton was awarded his Regimental Colours for football, an honour that was no doubt prized as much as his other stellar achievements.