Lieutenant Cecil Halliday Abercrombie (Plymouth ENG)

9 mars 2018

Lieutenant Cecil Halliday Abercrombie (12 April 1886 – 31 May 1916) was a rugby player, who represented Scotland and United Services RFC. He was also a first-class cricketer, playing for Hampshire.

Born in Mozufferpore, Indian Empire, Abercrombie was the son of an Indian Police officer. He attended Berkhamsted School and then underwent naval officer training in Dartmouth. Passing out in 1902, he went aboard HMS Hyacinth, joining the British campaign in Somaliland, and was part of the force that captured "Mullah" Hassan’s stronghold at Illig in 1904.

He won six caps for Scotland at rugby between 1910 and 1913, scoring a try in the match against France in 1911, which was nevertheless the first victory for the French over any of the Home Nations teams. In cricket, he played 16 matches for Hampshire, scoring 4 centuries, with a high score of 165 runs.

In the First World War, he was aboard HMS Defence at the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916. The ship was struck by German fire, exploded and sank with the loss of all men, including Abercrombie. He is remembered with honour on the Plymouth Naval Memorial.

Cecil Abercrombie played for United Services RFC and was capped six times for Scotland between 1910 and 1913. He played as a forward, and was said to have ’abundant energy... a splendid physique, great speed and height, and a good pair of hands’. He tackled hard and low, and was also an adept place-kicker.

For the Five Nations Championship game on 2 January 1911, Scotland was away to France at Colombes. The match was of particular significance for the French, who had never before beaten any of the Home Nations teams. The Scots came out strong, and through the play of the forwards, scored the first try within moments of the start. Soon after, the French scored a converted try, and took the lead, and then a second and third try, putting them 11–3 ahead. Shortly before half time, the ball came out from a maul to Abercrombie, who broke the French defensive line and scored, the conversion bringing the tally to 11–8 to France at the interval. After the break, a dropgoal by Pearson gave Scotland a one-point lead, 11–12, but the French responded with another converted try, taking them ahead, 16–12. With 15 minutes remaining, a Scottish try closed the gap to 16–15. The French were leading and on the verge of winning for the first time when Abercrombie crossed the French try line a second time, but seeking to get nearer the posts, he ran back again over the line and was tackled without having grounded the ball, giving the French a one-point margin of victory.

Abercrombie played a second time against France with Eric Milroy, at Parc des Princes on 1 January 1913. Ahead of the game, the French press wondered if the victory two years earlier at Colombes was to be repeated. The French scored the first try in the first five minutes, but the Scots scored twice in response and finished the first half leading 3–8. After another Scottish try at the start of the second half, Abercrombie twice attempted to kick a drop goal but was unsuccessful. Then, from a scrum, Abercrombie intercepted the ball from a French attack inside the Scottish half. Unable to run the length of the field, he passed the ball to Gordon, who passed it on to Steward, and he scored the fourth Scottish try. A final try sealed the victory for Scotland, 3–21.

By Sewell, Edward Humphrey Dalrymple (1919). The Rugby Football Internationals Roll of Honour. London, Edinburgh : T. C. & E. C. Jack.
By McCrery, Nigel (2014). Into Touch : Rugby Internationals Killed in the Great War. Pen and Sword. ISBN 1473833213.