The PGA remembers the WW1 fallen

EXTENSIVE research has revealed that at least seven per cent of The PGA’s membership perished in World War I.

The research, undertaken by former PGA chairman Dr Phil Weaver OBE, aims to establish the names of all golf professionals and assistants who lost their lives in the conflict and include them on a commemorative plaque at the Association’s national headquarters.

Dr Weaver’s investigations have been inspired by the Royal British Legion’s Sport Remembers campaign to mark the Battle of the Somme’s 100th anniversary.

The campaign pays tribute to the sportsmen and women who died in the 141-day battle that claimed more than 1.1 million lives.

Eleven of those were PGA Professionals and, having established their identities, Dr Weaver has taken on the job of finding out the names of the other Members killed in a war that lasted more than four years.

Thus far the identities of 51 PGA pros who failed to return from the battlefields have been verified and those of another five are awaiting confirmation.

“The Association had 840 members in 1913, the year before the war started, so that’s seven per cent of the membership who were killed in the conflict,” he said.

Dr Weaver gained much of his information from a rare, if not the only surviving, copy of the Association’s list of members for 1913.

Thereafter, however, he has had to rely on other sources to help his research.

“All The PGA’s records, lists of members, minutes of meetings and the like were stored at Ethelburga House, London, and destroyed when the building was bombed during World War II,” he explained.

“If I had PGA documents from that period I feel sure there would have been a list, establishing who had been killed in the war and enabling me to conduct a far more straightforward process.”

The destruction of records means Dr Weaver has had to turn detective and trawl a variety of sources for information.

The website, www.antiquegolfscotland.com, which includes an important contribution by Douglas McKenzie, a Scot who lives in Romania, has been a fertile hunting ground; likewise Alan F Jackson’s Register of British Professional Golfers (1887-1930).

Poring through the archives of Golf Monthly has also proved invaluable but, perhaps due to a moratorium on disclosing information on troop movements, the details they published on the war and the involvement of professional golfers in it were sketchy after 1915.

In addition to exploiting these sources and the myriad paths they take him along, Dr Weaver plans to write to every golf club whose professional fell in battle asking if they too can help his research and supplement what is already a catalogue of tragic and heart-rending stories.

These include the fate of the Cottrell brothers from Guiseley in Yorkshire.

All four were professional golfers but three of them were killed in the conflict, Harry and Albert dying in each other’s arms.

Dr Weaver also discovered that two PGA members, Robert McDougall and Robert Barr, were born within 16 days of one another in April 1895, raised in the Scottish village of Bridge of Weir, killed on the same day in November 1916 and buried within four graves of one another.

“This is typical of the some of the stories I’ve come across in my research,” said Dr Weaver.

“Not only are they fascinating but digging them out is addictive. Aside from the terrible waste of life, one thing that stands out is that so many of our members who perished were very young, some no more than boys.

“It’s important The PGA remembers those who made the ultimate sacrifice so we’re determined and committed to identify those of our own who went to war and never returned.”

Brothers in Arms

The First World War accounted for the lives of three of the four Cottrell brothers who all became golf professionals and lived in Guiseley, Yorkshire.

Harry, Albert and William were killed in action and Leslie, the youngest who worked as a professional in the USA, avoided their fate because he was not old enough to enlist.

Harry, the eldest, and Albert, began their golfing careers with Harry Fulford at Bradford.

Harry became the professional at Ulverston and Fulford encouraged Albert to see some of the world and sent him to work with Brian Hylton H Cockburn, a Yorkshireman and the golf pro at Le Touquet in France.

The war broke out six months later and both Harry and Albert enlisted in the Sherwood Foresters and served together in the Dardanelles.

Albert was wounded during the landing at Suvla Bay and Harry was shot dead by a sniper as he dressed his sibling’s wounds. A second shot finished Albert’s short life.

Meanwhile, William, who was the professional at Otley, Yorkshire, and played in the 1913 Open, had emigrated to the USA a year later and was the pro at Plymouth Country Club, Massachusetts.

He volunteered for active service when America entered the war in 1917 and was killed in the Battle of Meuse two days after his 27th birthday in October 1918 and a month before hostilities ended.

Parallel lives

The short lives of Robert McDougall and Robert Barr ran uncannily parallel – from beginning to end.

They were born within 16 days of each other in April 1895, raised in Bridge of Weir, a Scottish village in Renfrewshire famous for its leather industry.

Before the war, Robert (Bobby) Barr was employed as an assistant at Ranfurly Castle Golf Club while Robert (Bertie) McDougall was the professional at neighbouring club Old Ranfurley.

Bertie McDougall enlisted into the 15th Battalion of the Highland Light Infantry in mid November 1914 and Bobby Barr followed suit a week later.

The pair first saw active service in November 1915 and survived for almost a year. Bobby was killed by shrapnel in the Battle of Ancre at Beaumont-Hamel on November 18, 1916. It was the final British offensive of the Battle of the Somme and Bertie was killed by a sniper’s bullet on the very same day.

Bertie was 24 years old, Bobby just 21. They now lie within four graves of each other in the Munich Trench British Cemetery at Beaumont-Hamel, France.

* If you have any information on any golf professional or assistant who were killed in the First World War, please email: philip.weaver@pga.org.uk

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