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AnotherWow002It is not often that we learn of international matches that we are unaware of.

We recently received an enquiry from a regular contact in Dublin, asking if we had any information on the British teams that visited Europe in 1935 and 1937. We certainly had not as, in our records, the first British team was at the London Olympics of 1948 and, even then, not without a great deal of persuasion. Participation in the 1908 and 1920 Olympics had been as England and until 1948 no agreement could be reached to enable a British team to take part.

Research in the Museum discovered a four-page article by EAC Thompson in the 6 September 1935 issue of Hockey World on a European international tournament between 4-11 May, held under the patronage of the Brussels Exhibition that year. The event was organised by the Belgian Hockey Association and 'controlled' by the International Hockey Federation (FIH). The British team was organised by the Hockey Association (HA).

It was described as "The most important of its kind yet held in Europe in the history of the game as, for the very first time, all the hockey countries in Europe were competitors": Austria, Belgium, a British International XI, France, Netherlands, Germany, Spain and Switzerland. The grounds used were the Heysel Stadium and the Stade de l'Union St Gilloise.

The British team comprised 15 players, including four Irish and one Scot.

The article stated: "It was the first time a representative British hockey team had participated in a tournament comprising all the other European hockey playing nations and so carried a world-wide hockey interest. This tournament, of course, easily transcended in general interest the past Olympic hockey games, in-as-much as, although the Indians were absent at Brussels, a representative International British XI was included, thus creating the main interest."

The British team won all their games, beating Belgium 2-0, Austria 4-0, Spain 4-0 and Holland 1-0 before winning the final against Germany 3-2 with a goal in extra time. After 70 minutes the score was 2-2 with two ten-minute periods of extra time producing no further goals, and during which the Britons lost a forward with an eye injury. Bowing to the pleas of the spectators, it was then decided to play on until a goal was scored and R Whitlock obliged.

The article's author placed the teams in order of playing merit: the British and German teams equal, 3rd Holland, 4th France, 5th Spain, 6th Belgium, 7th Switzerland, 8th Austria. However, the FIH official classification was 1 England, 2 Germany, 3 Netherlands, 4 Spain, after semi-finals, 3rd place and final were played.

A similar tournament was held in 1937 in Paris in conjunction with the Paris Exhibition but it was impossible to collect a representative British team. An effort was made to raise a wholly English team but the HA were unable to accept the invitation as a consequence of a previous ruling that only one foreign international match per annum could be played.

The German Hockey Association’s statistics also record a game in Munich in June 1938 between a British team and Germany, won 2-1 by Germany, but we have so far been unable to discover any more information on this event.

Although the Great Britain Hockey Board was not formally set up until 1947, in preparation for the London Olympics, all of the matches above appear in the international records of the countries concerned. These results are also verified and recorded by the FIH in their annual report of 1949. It is therefore a matter of very important debate as to how these matches are treated.

Photograph 1: The1935 British International team.

Photograph 2: The British team, about to board a German-built aircraft of SABENA, the Belgian airline.

Mike Haymonds, August 2015

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