It was recently announced by Clare Campion-Smith, the Lord Mayor of Bristol, that the city’s Ceremony of Remembrance in 2016 will be held at the Memorial Stadium. Usually the service and parade is held at the Cenotaph in the city centre, but this area is being remodelled for Metrobus. The directors of Bristol Rovers FC, who own the Memorial Ground, have kindly offered to host the event. This is a great and fitting honour. Next year will be the hundredth anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, which did for so many soldier sportsmen.
The Memorial Ground was given in trust to the Bristol Football Club (RFU) as a memorial to the 300 Bristolian rugby players who had lost their lives in the First World War. It was intended to be a dynamic, living and lasting tribute. Annual services of remembrance have been held at the war memorial sports ground ever since 1921, usually on Armistice Day. In 1945, the Ground was rededicated and the memorial tribute was extended to the rugby dead of the second world war.
The rugby memorial ceremony is usually held at the entrance gates to the Memorial Ground, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, at the eleventh hour. It is attended by the directors and playing squads of both Bristol Rugby Club and Bristol Rovers Football Club, former Bristol players, Bristol Combination club representatives, supporters clubs and local residents. Local clergy conduct the service and a trumpeter sounds the last post. Wreaths are laid and a silence is observed.
The Memorial Ground is dedicated to rugby and every day is day of remembrance. Could this historic, poignant and distinctive war memorial sport ground become the national rugby war memorial? The President of Bristol Rugby Former Players, has stated that “The memorial is not only for those who wore the famous blue and white jersey, but for all rugby players who died for their country.” Britain lacks a national rugby war memorial. In the centenary years of the First World War, this could be put right. Lest we forget.
World Rugby Museum blog: https://worldrugbymuseumblog.wordpress.com/2015/11/11/a-history-of-the-bristol-memorial-ground/