National Army Museum, Waiouru, New Zealand : Military History & Army War Museum

Artefact of the Month: 4th Field Ambulance Rugby Ball

Artefact of the Month: 4th Field Ambulance Rugby Ball

Monday, September 3rd, 2018

Passing and Punting the Time Away: 4th Field Ambulance Rugby Ball

 

2002.545: Rugby Ball, World War II. National Army Musuem, Te Mata Toa

2002.545: Rugby Ball, World War II. National Army Musuem, Te Mata Toa

This rugby ball was used by personnel of the 4th Field Ambulance during the Desert Campaign in World War Two and later in a German prisoner of war (POW) camp as a way to pass the time.

The original rugby ball was not the spherical shape that we see in today’s games. Initially, the rugby ball had a plum-like form. Historically, the ball was made from leather and had an inner pig’s bladder that was inflated by blowing into it.

Richard Lindon was a leather shoe maker in the English town of Rugby, which is where the game is said to have originated. Lindon also made leather sports balls for the Rugby school. His wife was responsible for inflating the pig bladders, but later died from an illness she contracted while blowing into a bladder. In response to his wife’s death, Lindon sourced a different bladder and invented a hand held pump to prevent people inflating them with their breath.

With these new developments and receiving feedback from players, the ball gradually changed over time to an egg-like shape, making it easier to kick and pass. Panels of leather were also used in the construction of the ball, in order to make the leather more durable.

In the 1980s, rugby balls began to be manufactured from synthetic materials which would not be easily damaged from wet conditions.

2002.545. ‘Hell Fire Waddle’ an unknown inscription of the 4th Field Ambulance’s Rugby ball. National Army Musuem, Te Mata Toa

2002.545. ‘Sgt Burke’ inscription on the same side. National Army Musuem. Te Mata Toa.

This brown leather rugby ball has four leather panels and the word “SCRUM” written in faint black lettering on one side. On the other side of the ball is HELL FIRE WADDIE” and “Sgt Burke” written in black.

 

Written by Loran McNamara,

Assistant Curator of Social History, Accoutrements and Medical

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