David Gallaher (NZL). During the war, rugby matches were organised far behind the front line. Allied troops all battled one another. One of the best known games, between the French and New Zealand troops was played on April 8, 1917 at Vincennes. Shortly after the game, many French soldiers left their trenches to begin General Nivelle's great offensive on the Chemin-des-Dames. Many French players never returned.
On October 4, 1917, legendary All Black captain David Gallaher was fatally wounded during the successful siege of Graventafel Spur, Belgium. The New Zealand Division achieved an advance of more than 3000 metres to provide the Allied troops with a good view of the Passchendaele ridge. It was successful siege at a massive cost. The New Zealander Division suffered 1,653 casualties including the death of 330 troops.
Harold Wilson (GBR). Wilson was the first man to run a sub four minute 1,500 metres, with a time of 3:59.8 in May 1908. He could not quite repeat his earlier form in the Olympic 1500 metres final and took the silver medal two metres behind the American Melvin Sheppard. Wilson enlisted as a Private in the West Yorkshire Regiment, serving overseas. He was killed in action in France during the First World War.
Anthony Wilding (NZL). Wilding was one of the stars of tennis in the decade before the First World War. His ‘manly brand of tennis’ saw him win eleven grand slam titles including four successive men’s singles titles at Wimbledon between 1910 and 1913.
When war broke out the Wilding joined the Royal Marines. He was promoted from lieutenant to captain less than a week before he was killed. during the Battle of Aubers Ridge at Neuve Chapelle in northern France.
Cecil Healy (AUS). Healy was an Australian freestyle swimmer who won the bronze medal in the 1906 Olympic 100m freestyle, silver in the 1912 Olympic 100m freestyle, and gold in the 1912 Oympic 4x200m freestyle.
Cecil wasn’t the only Olympian in his family – his brother Harold was also selected in the team and competed in the 110m hurdles, in which he won the silver medal.
Healy enlisted in September 1915. He underwent officer training in Cambridge in England and in June 1918 became a second lieutenant in the 19th Battalion. He was killed near Mont St Quentin on the Somme, just 74 days before the armistice was signed. Healy remains as the only Australian Olympic Gold medallist to die on the battlefield.
Harry Kerr (NZL). In 1908 Harry Kerr became the first New Zealander to win an Olympic medal, taking the bronze medal in the 3500m walk at the London Olympic Games. Kerr served in Europe during World War I. In 1925 at the age of 46, Kerr decided to make a comeback winning the one and three-mile titles at the national championships.
Tragically, this article could continue for a a very long time. In the famous words of Laurence Binyon. They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.