Aldermaston Rugby Club History

A Short History of Aldermaston RFC

By Kevin Bambury

Forged in the cold heat of the Nations struggle for supremacy in armed strength, Aldermaston saw an influx of highly skilled and educated Scientist, Technicians and Workers to the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment. Among these people were sufficient young fit men who had a passion for the game of Rugby. Among those people were, Jack Kirkham, George Hornby and Gwyn Morgan. At the time, Jack was playing for Basingstoke Rugby Club and after a long conversation between the three of them; they wondered what interest there may be in forming a Rugby Club on site. The idea resulted in an advert being placed in the AWRE News. The response was very encouraging and about fifteen or so people put their name down. 

They then held an ad hoc meeting and GH was nominated as Captain and Secretary, GM as Treasurer and JK became Vice Chairman and Fixture Secretary. It so happened at that time, the Chief Admin Officer, Eric Hewitt had played rugby at a fairly high level, (Lancs County), so they asked him to become Chairman, which he enthusiastically accepted. Shortly after this, the Director of AWRE, then Dr William Penney (later Sir William then Lord) became the President.

In its early life, the club found it very hard with no pitch, no club house and at times, not enough players to make up a full side, but determination and steady progress brought them to a point where abetted by the growth of the establishment, the Club and its incumbent facilities grew with it. They obtained permission to practice on the an open space in the middle of site and the Ministry of Works erected one set of goal post for kicking practice. Training sessions were every Tuesday and Thursday evenings straight after work and they changed in the B Group Changing facilities.

Being that the majority of the committee were Welsh, they decided that the club colours would be scarlet with black shorts, which they played in during their first match against AERE Harwell 2nds, loosing rather heavily.

Most of the early matches were played at local Clubs, AERE Harwell, Basingstoke, Old Readingensians, Lord Wandsworth College, RMA Sandhurst, and RAE Farnborough.

Because of no home pitch and always playing away, transport to the games was often a problem. There was an old airport coach belonging to the Rec Soc which they could hire, but the borrower had to provide a site qualified driver and they were always in competition with the football club for its use. However they did manage to use it for several of their matches.

At the end of the first season, they did manage to hold their first Club Dinner, which was held at the Falcon Pub, cost 6 shillings per head, thirty two players attended, with one of the menu’s being signed by them all!

By 1957, the Club was strong enough to field a second team and having a first class pitch, changing facilities and a Club house at the Rec Soc, they were able to compete at first team level, playing the likes of; Henley, Marlow, Basingstoke, Camberley, Winchester, Slough, Swindon, Bracknell and Portsmouth

There were also memorable trips to RAF Benson, Oxford Thursday and AERE Harwell on a Wednesday afternoon, (sports afternoon). After an enjoyable game of rugby, the beer would start flowing and their vocal cords would start vibrating to late in the evening, but in those early days of very little restriction on drinking and driving, they still had some sense of responsibility and were very lucky that the opposition always had someone in the local Constabulary who was able help to escort them home in convoy!!!

There was also the time that that they were invited to play at Dave Wrights old University “Aston” Birmingham.

The Club hired a coach and driver from Kent’s Garage, a local Coach company. Now the driver was also local, Arthur Taylor who was very fond of rugby and even fonder of drinking.

They arrived there safely and enjoyed a very friendly game and afterwards, the company and the hospitality were even better, with everyone, including Arthur, having his fair share of cheap beer and excellent food. The time had come for Arthur to drive them all home, no problem; Arthur seemed as sober as a Judge, the players wouldn’t have known any difference, and by the time all of them had sung a few verses of; The Lobster song, Alphabet, The Engineer, Dinah, Alluette, 3 German officers and Sing us another one, most of them were asleep and only a few miles from home. As they were going through the village of Ashford Hill, which is only  one and half miles from the Rec Soc, Arthur skidded on a piece of ice and hit a telegraph pole and the coach ended up in a ditch! They all had to get out and do some late “weight training” to get the coach out of the ditch. No one was hurt and Arthur manage to cover up what damaged was done to the coach.

Times have certainly changed!!!

It was after Ken Knight, our Chairman and the Rec Soc Chairman for many years, died, that a Cup was bought for the annual match between AWRE Aldermaston and AERE Harwell. This was known as the Ken Knights Trophy and is still played between the two Clubs today.

The Club continued to grow and by the sixties and seventies they were able to field five senior sides, Colts and junior teams. But in the nineties fortunes changed and the club had to look at other means to attract more and better players into the Club. To which end, the Club opened its doors to players outside the Establishment and this eventually led to the AWRE prefix being dropped from the Club name.

Until the introduction of the leagues, the club opponents were mostly found in the areas of Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Hampshire and the London areas. Initially, the leagues that we were first placed in took us to Dorset, Wiltshire and Berkshire with a lot of travelling, especially in in Dorset Clubs. This has now changed and we find ourselves now playing back in the Berks Bucks and Oxford Championship league and travelling has been reduced considerably

With all the consequences of drinking and driving and many other sports to compete with in schools and colleges, we still survive and are well into our sixty second year of existence. For their part, Aldermaston are working with the local schools to maintain the clubs existence and to promote the game. Aldermaston has a strong conscience and pride of their past and their responsibility to it and are determined to continue to be a presence in the game for a long time to come.

Kevin Bambury