IN the latest in Kerry Miller’s series on the sporting history in and around Bridgwater, clubs and leagues are springing back into action with some haste after the First World War had finally ended.

With men returning from the war, efforts were made to restart some forms of entertainment, and at Cannington Technical School a boxing tournament was staged just before Christmas 1918.

Lightweight Charlie Metcalfe battered Alf Cleverley, while the Murphy brothers were both beaten on points, Fred Riley knocked out Will Thomas, and Walter Ellis did the same to Cyril Lockett.

After a “hurricane battle”, Les O’Neill knocked out Charlie Williams, and Joe Haggis beat Wally Baker.

Bridgwater RFC and Bridgwater Albion RFC had both lost many current and former players and - with the rugby section of the Malt Shovel ground vulnerable to urgent housing requirements - the clubs amalgamated after a committee was formed in April 1919.

The new club was to be named Bridgwater & Albion RFC, although the press at the time had decided to refer to it simply as ‘Bridgwater RFC’, which caused some mild consternation from Albion followers.

On Good Friday the teams from Bridgwater and Taunton played each other at Taunton Road, in what was called a “happy reunion”, as virtually all 30 players had played a significant part in the war.

A huge crowd pitched up, despite the 8d admission charge and further 8d to enter the grandstand.

Bridgwater won 25-3, with a team of Washer, Jarvis, Wood, Mead, Sharman, Sharkey, Rossiter, Spriggs, Churchill, Wilcox, Fowler, Baker, Reed, Lewis and Spriggs.

Eager to tap into the public’s excitement, the club played Avonmouth OB two days later, beating them 26-0 - a very good sign for the start of the new season in September.

Councillor Berry was soon on the scene when he offered to sell 18 acres of land, at cost, at Blacklands adjacent to the current football field for housing. It was recommended although with the provisio that a proper sports field would be provided suitable for cricket and football in the area which eventually would become the Brewery Field.

Under the hard working and respected Jack Pippin, the club even persuaded a New Zealand side to play at Bridgwater on May Day 1919.

Having won the Southern Command Championship with a record of 27 wins out of 28 matches, the squad of 20 had all served in France and were based in Codford, near Warminster.

Around 3,000 excited men and women swarmed all over the Albion ground for the 6pm kick-off, and stood amazed as the visitors performed their Haka.

The Kiwis won 11-3, and word soon got out about the magnificent welcome given to the visitors, as an Australian side also offered to play.

A similar crowd turned up once more, with many watching free from the canal bridge as Bridgwater & Albion triumphed 25-6.

After the New Zealanders had asked if they could play once more before they embarked on their long journey home, a record crowd of 4,000 watched evergreen players Harry Baker and Bert Jones take them on.

The 9-0 home defeat was irrelevant, as the club had within a few weeks set themselves up to be a dominant force for the following campaign.

Sadly, it would be without Walter Tottle, the 26-year old who lived at 11 Quantock Terrace and had worked at Dunball Munitions before joining the army in 1916.

He served in India and Egypt between two spells in France at the Western Front and was discharged in January 1919 due to suffering from influenza, but his illness worsened and he passed away in May.

Predictably, the old Bridgwater RFC ground in Victoria Road was put up for sale for £2,300 as urgent housing was needed ‘for the working classes’ which would mean the demise of one of only two sporting grandstands in the town but happily, enough of the land was kept for football and cricket to continue and bowls was to join them, albeit a decade or so later.

The town cricket club opened up again at The Parks and, as was the case pre-war, they had influence enough to regularly field county players, which would attract hundreds of paying spectators.

Locally, North Petherton, Cannington, Nether Stowey, Stogursey and Stogumber could expect a hard game, as the likes of Albert Dudley Eric and Arthur Ernest Sydney Rippon would play when not turning out for Somerset.

Known as Dudley and Sydney, they were identical twins who went to Taunton School, where they often caused confusion.

Dudley made his county debut in 1914 alongside Sydney and made a century against Sussex and took five wickets at Bramall Lane against Yorkshire, but he was badly injured at Gallipoli.

He continued to play for the county and occasionally for Bridgwater, but his wounds were too severe and he later became a cricket journalist.

Brother Sydney also fought and was injured at the front, but he went on to amass more than 100 appearances, finally retiring in 1937, with six centuries and 15 fifties to his name.

Readers are welcome to email with any memorabilia or information on the sportsmen and women mentioned in this series.