The Early Days Of The Woolwich Polytechnic Rugby Club
In the spring of 1937 a Mr John Sage who was already an active member of the Polytechnic Operatic Society had discussions with Mr J S Halliwell, who was the Secretary and Clerk to the Governing Body of Woolwich Polytechnic, regarding the formation of a Rugby Club as a member club of the Woolwich Polytechnic Union of Clubs and Societies with a pitch to be provided on the Sports Ground at Well Hall.
Agreement was made to investigate support amongst students and notices were posted within the Polytechnic inviting those who would support a rugby club to attend an inaugural meeting. At the meeting, which was chaired by Dr German of the Chemistry Department, support was encouraging and a committee was elected to proceed.
The committee was to take steps to form a rugby club to commence playing in 1937. To this end a pitch was marked out on the Westhorne Avenue side of the Sports Ground at Well Hall, running parallel to the main road. The present soccer stand was not then in existence.
One team was fielded regularly in the first year, and two in the second. Dr German, an enthusiastic supporter, refereed many of the home games.
The first hardback Fixture List was issued for the 1939/40 season with fixtures for three teams. However, the outbreak of war caused considerable revision, as many opposition sides were unable to field teams. In this respect the Polytechnic fared well during the war as many of the members were in reserved occupations. The Poly teams were very successful and it was rare to lose a match.
Between 1940 and 1944 an RAF Balloon Barrage was stationed on the Sports Ground but play was allowed to continue. The first floor of the pavilion was requisitioned by the RAF for accommodation and offices of the Balloon Unit. Players were able to use the ground floor which housed the changing rooms and plunge bath, so the players turned up, played, won, washed and went home or to a nearby pub. There was no organised entertainment. When the Barrage Balloon Unit moved off the ground, things slowly got back to normal with teas provided for the players, and soon after a licensed bar was opened on the first floor.
It is worthy of mention that, with the support of the Governing Body of the Polytechnic, successful Sunday afternoon tea dances were held in the Polytechnic Hall, which did much to hold together the members of all the clubs and societies of the Union, and kept people in contact with each other for the duration of the war.