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1914 -Arthur James Dingle, 1891- 1915 Rovers, Durham, Barbarians, England


Arthur James Dingle, more latterly known as ‘Mud’ by his teammates, was born on November 5th 1891 in Hetton le Hole, County Durham. The son of the Reverend Arthur Trehane Dingle, Rector of Eaglescliffe, and his wife Beatrice. The young Dingle was educated near to home, attending both Bow School as well as Durham School itself. He was soon initiated into the game of rugby union at his junior schools, both of which he turned out for as a three quarter playing either at centre or on the wing. Rugby soon became a passion that he would carry for the rest of his life.

Finishing his time at school Dingle went up to Keble College, Oxford. He was selected to play for his university at the annual varsity match, gaining his blue in 1911. Held at the Queen’s Club on December 12th the emphatic nineteen points to nil victory over Cambridge was a result of the relative experience of the Oxford side over a young Cambridge, whose attempts to nullify Oxford rather than play their own game failed disastrously. Their defense had no answer to the strong Oxford backs and, as the Times put it “…. AJ Dingle settled matters by scoring between the posts.”

Such was the strength of the Oxford squad at the time this was to be the only blue that Dingle received. Although he flirted with Richmond and Surrey his heart remained nearer to home. He also played for Durham County as well as settling at Hartlepool Rovers as his home club, playing for them during their 1911-12 season which saw the club score a total of one hundred and twenty two tries and amass eight hundred and sixty points. After graduating from Oxford Dingle returned to Durham School as a Master in 1913. On the pitch he scored fifty five tries during the course of the 1913-14 season and also Captained Hartlepool Rovers in 1914.

His club form made him an obvious choice for international honours, and his debut cap came on February 8th 1913 in the match against Ireland held in Dublin . At this time Dingle was still up at Oxford , and gained his first cap despite being held out of the varsity side that year. The match started as a close affair before England asserted themselves and pulled away to a fifteen points to four victory with the English pack playing well and giving their backs every chance to capitalize against a relatively ineffective Irish back line.  Dingle himself did not have the best of matches in this victory, described by the Times’ correspondent as “…. Strong in defence, but was not altogether a success.” As the competition for England selection was no less strong, and probably more volatile than that at Oxford Dingle was dropped for the remainder of the international season, but had still played his part in what was to become England ’s first grand slam season.

Despite this international set back, and no doubt on the back of his continuing good club form, Dingle was recalled to the England side half way through the following season to play Scotland at Inverleith on March 21st 1914. Poor weather that had prevailed for the previous week cleared on the morning of the match, although high winds made kicking difficult. To counter this England played a wide game, although this was not without it’s problems. As the Times recorded “At the opening of the game Dingle missed a pass with the goal line undefended 10 yards away.” Despite this England steadily drew away until with twenty minutes to play they were ten points in the lead. At this point they became so engrossed in attack that they almost forgot to defend and in a nail biting finish Scotland fought back just failing to overcome the English whom won by sixteen points to fifteen, claiming the triple crown as well as the Calcutta Cup.

Dingle’s efforts were appreciated, despite the missed pass, and he was picked for England ’s final match of the international season on April 13th against France at the Stade de Colombes. In an easy victory England ’s backs outclassed their French opponents by thirteen points to thirty nine. The match was marred by rough play from some of the French team as well as the poor behavior of the home crowd who heckled the player’s throughout. England started slowly before their strength began to show. This was particularly true of Dingle who again failed to show his best and replicate his club form on the international stage. Discussing the English back line the Times’ correspondent said of him “AJ Dingle was the weakest of the four. He failed to take the passes and was very slow getting into his stride.” This easy victory, however unsatisfactory it may have been, also gave England a second consecutive grand slam, and the player’s must have drawn some comfort from this far from easy achievement.

With the outbreak of war Dingle, along with thousands of others, immediately joined up, serving with the East Yorkshire Regiment from September 1914 and eventually being posted to its sixth Battalion. Despite being in training for far more serious matter’s there was still time for rugby and on April 10th 1915 Dingle made his only appearance for the Barbarians in a match against the Royal Army Medical Corps in aid of the Red Cross Fund that was held at Old Deer Park in Richmond . Played in front of a good crowd of three thousand the Barbarians, although their usual scratch team, played with the class that their line up deserved and won by ten points to three, with Dingle scoring a try in the second half. Soon after Dingle embarked for active service with his Battalion. By now a Captain he was bound for the Mediterranean and the Dardanelles campaign.

By late 1914 the war on the Western Front had had largely become one of static trench warfare. Also the Ottoman Empire’s entry into the war on the German side had closed the only supply route to Russia from the Mediterranean, a route that was the most viable given the climactic and tactical difficulties presented by both overland routes and by sea through the Baltic. Russia was at this time fighting the Germans on the Eastern front, splitting the Imperial forces, an effort that had to continue. The Dardanelles campaign was originally drawn up as a purely naval affair by Winston Churchill in November 1914 whilst he was first Lord of the Admiralty. This soon expanded into a land war that had also ground to a halt in the face of fierce Turkish opposition to the allied forces that were largely drawn from Australia and New Zealand on the Gallipoli peninsula. In an effort to break the deadlock forces were to be landed at Suvla bay, in a campaign starting on August 6th 1915 that was planned to force a breakout that would join up with the besieged ANZAC forces some five miles to the south. The 6th Battalion of the East Yorkshire Regiment, including Dingle, were to form part of this task force. From the start the campaign was badly mismanaged. Their commander’s, Lieutenant General Sir Francis Stopford and Major General Frederick Hammersley, were imprecise in their orders, requiring only that the high ground should be taken if possible. Made at night the landings resulted in chaos for the allied forces. The sixth East Yorkshire ’s did manage to drive the Turks off the small hillock of Lala Baba, but at great cost and generally the allied forces achieved little more than actually getting ashore. Despite light initial opposition this hiatus allowed the Turks to realign and claim the tactically vital high ground. By August 9th the expeditions overall commander, General Sir Ian Hamilton, pressed for an attack to kick start the failing campaign and the sixth East Yorkshire Regiment were ordered to attack Scimitar Hill as a prelude to a larger attack the following day o the Teke Tepe ridge. Met by strong Turkish resistance they took severe casualties before they took the hill, subsequently being forced to relinquish their gains as Brigade staff ordered a change of attack to the Sulajik Wells. After this the fighting at Suvla Bay largely descended in to the trench warfare that it had been designed to replace. One final push was planned to break the stalemate on August 21st 1915. Dingle, with his battalion, was to again attack Scimitar Hill, control of which would unite the allied forces as had been originally planned. The largest battle of the Gallipoli campaign the attack failed, essentially ending any hope of an allied victory. Exactly what fate befell Arthur Dingle remains a mystery. In the aftermath of the battle he was posted as missing presumed killed. His body was never found.


"The Complete Who's Who of England Rugby Union Internationals", R Maule,  Breedon 1992

The Times Online Digital Archive



© D A Hunter, 2008



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