Wales at the 1908 Olympics
By Phil Bailey.
This month we travel back 112 years in time to the Olympic Games of 1908 and the story of Wales’ only Olympic Field Hockey appearance.
Prior to the London Olympics in 1908, the annual Home Internationals were played in the February and March between England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Wales lost all three of their games, but the scores were reflective of an improving side losing narrowly to all three countries: 2-1 v Scotland at Glasgow, 2-4 to Ireland at Whitchurch and by the same score to England at Lansdown Cricket Club.
The Olympic hockey competition took place between 29-31 October 1908 at The White City Stadium, Shepherd’s Bush.
Prior to the competition The England Hockey Association had proposed that the Olympic side should be a combination of the four Nations but, at an Emergency General Meeting on 21 November 1907, the Irish Union rejected this with support from Scottish and Welsh associations. As a result, this would be the only time the Olympic Games had the four home Nations playing independently in the tournament.
With only six teams playing and three days to complete the competition, Ireland and Wales received byes through to the semi-final.
The Preliminary Round on 29 October 1908 saw Scotland beat Germany 4-0 and England thrash France 10-1. Germany and France then played an extra game with Germany beating France 1-0 to secure the unofficial 5th place.
Friday 30 October saw Wales play Ireland in the semi-final of the Olympic Games.
At 1:45pm sides lined up on a pitch that had seen three games in 24 hours.
Wales struck the first blow after only 4 minutes of play. The Welsh half backs and forwards combined well to send Williams into the D. Brown checked Williams, but the Welshman still got his shot away, beating the Irish keeper Holmes.
Wales already had a foot in the Gold medal match!
After this setback Ireland pressed hard but the Welsh backs Richards, Evans, Shepherd and Lyne defended brilliantly and Bertie Turnbull made some great saves to keep the Irish at bay.
Ireland were awarded a penalty corner that was partially cleared by Shepherd but from the next attack Robinson pounced to equalise for Ireland and, shortly before half time, Power put the Irish 2-1 in front.
In the second half most of the play was in the Welsh half. Wales battled valiantly and had some dangerous breakaway opportunities; the game was still in the balance until Gregg scored late in the game for 3-1 to see Ireland safely progress.
Wales had given their all and they made Ireland work hard for their deserved victory.
No third and fourth Bronze Medal Play Off took place as both sides had to return home, so the bronze medal was awarded to both the Scotland and Wales players.
England won the Gold medal match, easily beating Ireland 8-1 and, although the medals were awarded to individual nations, the medal table showed them all credited to Great Britain.
Whilst there have been other great Welsh hockey players that have won Olympic medals as part of Great Britain (see below), this is the only Welsh team to have ever won an Olympic medal at hockey.