Hockey's Military Stories

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I was in The Hockey Museum one Tuesday morning and was asked to look up some information to help answer an enquiry from a man researching his family tree, whose mother, Mrs Belchamber, played for England in the 1920s. He had some information and a letter dated 23 October 1920 notifying her that she had been selected to play against America on 23 November at the Old Deer Park. He also asked, in passing, about Misses Bettine and Janice/Janet Ellis who were also thought to have played for England.

My first port of call was the collection of The Hockey Field & Lacrosse magazine (HFL) but came across the first stumbling block; it wasn’t published during WW1 nor for several years afterwards, in fact not until 1921. So I then looked up the International Playing Records we hold for AEWHA.

In those AEWHA records I found Mrs Belchamber was selected for England first in 1920 and played in all 7 times for England, captaining in 1921 and 1922. In those days it looks as if players were selected for the whole season, unless replaced for injury.

Back in the copies of HFL, I then found more detail. She played at right back against Scotland and Ireland in 1920, captained England v. Ireland and Scotland in 1921 and again against Ireland and Scotland in 1922. As I found in the AEWHA records that she played 7 international matches, I deduced that she must also have played against Denmark that year and, although I could not tell for certain, it seems likely that she was the captain for that match too.

I also found references to Mrs Belchamber having been selected for ‘The Rest’ of England against an AE Touring Team on their return from America in 1921 and again in 1922. The HFL report said of her: "Mrs Belchamber never gave a finer exhibition of back play and no greater praise could be given to her". But as for the selection letter of 1920 for a match against the USA, I can find no record; presumably the tour here was cancelled as the first recorded match against the USA was in 1924.

I also found photos of her as Captain of England in 1920 (sic) and in the team in 1922.

BelchamberIn HFL, dated 2 February 1922 there was an article on her in the series "Models For Young Players" and another article in HFL dated 12 October 1922 was written by her on how to play the right back position. By all accounts she was a very quick, clever back and one report remarks on the duel she had with England’s best forward Marjorie Pollard as being the highlight of the match; an outstanding right back who became a very good England Captain. She is reported to have been a prime example of how a small but quick and inventive player could outwit many an incoming forward and come away with the ball, creating an attack from defence with a telling pass.

After her playing career she stayed in the hockey world, being elected President of Surrey Ladies' Hockey Association in October 1923 and, after moving north, officiating for Derbyshire at a tournament in Surrey in 1927.

When I moved on to look for Miss Bettine Ellis and Janet Ellis, I got a surprise! The Museum records found that Bettine had played for Surrey and South and an AE Touring Team to the USA in 1928. Janet had played for England from 1930-33 and again in 1935; also touring to South Africa in 1930 and again to Denmark in 1933. During this time there were some 19 international matches (touring matches did not count as full internationals) and she played in 17 of them. She scored an outstanding 38 goals for England, 2 on her debut.

The surprise came when I found reference to Janet Ellis’s married name, Mrs Beard. I remember as Secretary of Wimbledon Ladies’ Hockey Club (WLHC) in the 1970s and 1980s, sending club information to non-playing members, including a Mrs Beard; no doubt the very same Janet Ellis as was. This link is particularly fascinating as I have been involved in the WLHC 125th celebrations this autumn. 

It just shows how interconnected the world of hockey is; and how much colour and life can be brought to playing records by researching all the documents now preserved for the future at The Hockey Museum.

Evelyn Somerville, December 2014

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