Tony Watts

Wandsworth School 1949 – 1954

Tony WattsBorn two years before WWII started. I spent the war years in Wandsworth. In between running to the shelters I watched German bombing raids, runaway barrage balloons, the sky alight with anti-aircraft shells, searchlights and incendiaries and listened to the drone of doodle bugs and to Lord Haw-Haw (on our accumulator powered radio) explaining that the factories at the end of our street were going to be bombed tomorrow. My hobbies at this time were collecting hot shrapnel, exploring bombed out buildings and training to be a hooligan. I also experienced life in the shelters when a V1 exploded 200 yards from where we lived and when the first V2 exploded a mile away in Summerstown.

Once peace arrived I saw my first bananas and oranges and ended my primary schooling by getting a scholarship to Wandsworth GS. At the interview with HRK I met Barrie Smith and Peter Pierce and we went through school together in the same forms and sets throughout, competing to be top of the class, going to dance lessons at Arthur Road and trying to get uppers in sports. The three of us eventually played for the first XV together and got our first introduction to the Old Boys. Pete and I both left at the end of the fifth year and continued our education through day release schemes. Barrie stayed on for two more years and I think he eventually got into the 6th Form. Peter and I started playing for the OWRFC when we were demobbed from Wandsworth School, and as we were only working for peanuts I had to cycle from Tooting and Wandsworth to the White Heart at Kingston, play for the extra ‘A’ and cycle home again. I became a keen cyclist and most Sundays throughout the year would pedal off with the Circle Racing Club to Brighton, Littlehampton, Portsmouth and other coastal towns. I also played right back for Armoury Way FC. All this led to clashes of interest and one weekend I played rugby on Saturday, rode in a 30 mile time trial over the Hogs Back course in the early morning on the Sunday and a football cup final in the afternoon.

However, the influence of the OW fraternity pulled me away from such diversions and under the tutelage of Bob Hammond, Derek Finch, Tom Boucher, Murray Deards and Fullers Ale I immersed myself in the OWs. Rugby and table tennis in the winter and rugby netball and cricket in the summer. Then came the momentous decision to buy the ground at Claygate in 1957 and for most OW’s the ground became our way of life, a community and a second home and still provides great memories; including begging and borrowing materials to build the clubhouse and refurbishing a BMW petrol driven generator in Jimmy Lyon’s shed in Twilley Street. The generator had been the standby generator on the roof of the Lancaster Hotel in Bayswater throughout the war and rebuilding it took Peter Shillingford, Reg and Ted Sparkes and me many evenings, over six long winter months and it was a sight to behold when after so much effort and hard work we manage to get it to light up a 50 watt bulb. The generator went on to light and heat the clubhouse for some years and added much to the evenings when it would put us all in the dark. Building the clubhouse was rewarding and cemented lifelong friendships through our combined efforts – digging the septic tank, drainage and footings, erecting the second hand building, carpentry, laying concrete slabs, laying the cricket square, mowing and rolling were all par for the course. Great characters and families – the Muntons, Dickers, Haywoods, Finches, Bouchers, Hammonds, Forresters, Normans, Macleans and more all working towards a common goal.

Then in 1958 everthing we had worked for came to fruition the ground was officially opened in the presence of the assembled dignatories which included HRK. By this time I was vice captain of the club under Tom Boucher and in 1959 became club captain. Our efforts in building the clubhouse were matched by our team efforts on the playing field. The OWRFC became very successful and at one stage fielded six teams each week. The first XV lost very few games in the years through to 1966 and claimed the scalps of many of the leading London Old Boy Teams of the day – Surbitonians, Wimbledonians, Barking Park, Reigatians, Raynes Park, Hertfordians, Bec etc. We ran our own sevens competition with teams from all around taking part and won the first tournament by defeating Bec Old Boys in the final – I scored the winning try!

The 1960s were golden years for old boys sides around the country and during that time our 1st XV had some great matches and our teams were a blend of experience, youth and toughness; playing hard and for the most part training hard. During this period I played for the 1st XV mostly at open side wing forward by preference although I often played centre when called upon. In my best season I scored 22 tries – when a try was 3 points. The club regularly fielded a Sunday XV with many of us playing two games over the weekend. Sunday rugby was much more enjoyable – not taking penalty kicks at goal and throwing the balls around in the 25 – not worrying if we lost – he lied.

In 1965 I moved to Birmingham to read for a MSc and while I was there I played for one of the Mosley teams. When I returned to London I again played for the 1st XV and then skippered the A team. In 1971 I moved to Newbury and played for their 1st XV for a season and then the lower sides. In 1973 I tired of the travel involved in playing there and opted to travel from Newbury each week and once again play for the Old Boys in Ian Macleans’ magnificent vets side. It was great to be back!

Eventually I retired from playing in my forties. I am currently custodian of OW photographic archive. My current website has a 150 or so photographs and in recent years I have scrounged more images from many OW’s and I am tasked with putting them all on a new website and CDs to make them available to all OW’s. It is a real privilege to have known and still be in contact with the OW’s I have known since 1949 and to regularly meet up with them to rekindle memories and relive our youth.

Favourite stories: remaining unbeaten by county chess player Peter Eastwood since I checkmated him in the 1960s; Dick Moody and the coal scuttle and his broken leg; Bernard Munton and his lost teeth; feather plucking at the Webbington Country Club; Mickey Stemp and the Tank; and many more.

Comments are closed.