The Sportsmen of Fromelles

The Australian War Memorial says the campaign to enlist sportsmen was fuelled by a strong belief that by playing sport young men developed specific skills and qualities that could be used on the battlefield.

Rowers were urged to 'pull together to victory,' sailors to 'weather the storm,' and golfers to 'take their caddy and enlist.'

In fact, from the early months of the First World War, thousands of Australians who had excelled across many sports, were potential champions or played club sport joined up.

Source: Michael Grealy, SMH, "Sportsmen take up the fight" December 1, 2017 from

Sportsman 1000.jpg
Recruitment poster encouraging sportsmen to join up, 1915

The stories of Fromelles soldiers are littered with stories of their sporting deeds.

Men like:

“He excelled at tennis, cricket and football. His left hand drives and services were hard to beat at tennis; he bowled a fast medium ball at cricket, and was a reliable wicket getter for his side; and at football he is well remembered for his dashing play and marking on the left wing of the half-forward lines.”
FOR KING AND COUNTRY. LIEUT. THEO. PFLAUM KILLED IN ACTION. (1917, October 5). The Mount Barker Courier and Onkaparinga and Gumeracha Advertiser (SA : 1880 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved April 6, 2022, from

Of the more well known men of Fromelles,

  • Harold "Pompey" Elliot was a well known athlete in his younger years,
  • Major Victor Horatio Sampson, before being killed in action at Fromelles was part of the Sydney Rowing Club.
  • Jack Bowden, whose story kick started the hunt for Pheasant Wood was also a keen rower
Harold Pompey Elliott.jpg
Major General Harold Edward "Pompey" Elliott
source AWM
Jack Bowden.jpg
Jack Bowden
source Image courtesy of Jenny Ingham.

Rugby League

Rugby League players killed in action

  • Alexander Clignan Private, 53rd Battalion, played for Newtown and Stanmore/Wentworth. Buried at Pheasant Wood Cemetery.
  • William Outlaw Private, 53rd Battallion, Played for Marrickville, No known grave.
  • Herbert Thomas Bolt Corporal, 55th Battalion, 46 games for Newtown, Buried at Pheasant Wood Cemetery. He also represented New South Wales in all four matches on the 1913 tour of Queensland.
  • Erik Arkell Private, 30th Battalion, Played for East Newcastle, no known grave.
  • William Edward Noble Lieutenant, 53rd Battalion, Played for Wollongong, No known grave.
  • Benjamin Arthur Richardson Private, 54th Battalion, Played for Kangaroo Valley, No known grave.
  • Charles Murray Corporal, 30th Battalion, Played for Orange Waratahs, Buried at Pheasant Wood.
  • Herbert Vaughan Ettinghausen 14th Field Company Engineers, Played for Kiama, No known grave.


Australian Rules Football

VFL Footballers

Killed in Action at Fromelles

  • Hugh Plowman, South Melbourne/St Kilda 2nd Lieutenant, 60th Battalion, 26 games for St Kilda, No known grave.
  • William ‘Bill’ Nolan, Richmond Sergeant, 58th Battalion, 30 Games Richmond. Died of Wounds 23 July 1916. Buried Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, Pas de Calais France.
  • Richard Horace Maconochie Gibbs, University Lieutenant, 59th Battalion, 35 games for University, Awarded the Military Cross, No known grave.
  • William Joseph (Plugger) Landy , Geelong Private, 58th Battalion. 2 Games Geelong , No known grave.
  • George Challis, Carlton (killed four days before the battle) Private, 58th Battalion, 70 Games Carlton, Killed in Action 15 July 1916, Buried Rue-Petillon Military Cemetery.
  • Thornton Clarke, Fitzroy Corporal, 60th Battalion, 4 games Fitzroy. No known grave.

    Source: and


  • Thomas "Tom" David MacKenzie Private, 32nd Battalion. A three-time South Australian fairest and most brilliant footballer, was wounded at Fromelles and newspapers reported he was a delayed casualty of war when he died in 1927.

    Source: Michael Grealy, SMH, "Sportsmen take up the fight" December 1, 2017 from

Local Sporting Teams

Local teams were depleted as sportsmen across the country were encouraged to show their patriotic duty.

Nestled in the Kangaroo Valley, 9 members of the local Rugby team would sign up, 3 not returning. And soldiers from the district like Benjamin Richardson, 54th Battalion, Killed in Action at Fromelles and Fred Land, 54th Battalion, would fight at Fromelles.

In Finley, the 5 Jones brothers were integral members of the Finley Cats, winning premierships and on return from war captaining and coaching the team.

Kangaroos 1915.jpg
Kangaroo Valley "Kangaroos" Circa 1914
source Courtesy of Geoffrey Todd
Finley Cats
The 1914 Finley Premiership Team featuring Norman Jones, Killed in Action at Fromelles

The association between sport and military life continues to this day, with football and cricket clubs honouring past battles and indivudual soldiers stories.