One of the first international military rugby trophies, the Somme Cup, is on display at National Army Museum in Waiouru until 26 April 2016
The Cup, a cast bronze sculpture of a French grenadier by French artist Georges Chauvel, has been preserved in a private collection since the end of the First World War. It was brought to the attention of the New Zealand Defence Force when the Defence Blacks rugby team played a replica commemorative game against the French military’s Pacific XV in Paris late last year.
National Army Museum Director, Ms Tracy Puklowski, said the Museum was grateful to the lenders for the opportunity to display the Cup to the public, especially during the centennial year of the Battle of the Somme.
‘Not only is the Somme Cup an important First World War artefact, it’s also a remarkable piece of trench art and a symbol of the enduring ties between New Zealand and France built as a result of the First World War’, Ms Puklowski said.
The Somme Cup was awarded to the New Zealand Division’s rugby team in 1917 after winning against the French military team in Paris. The New Zealand Division rugby team, or Trench Blacks as they were later known, won the final game 40-0 in front of a crowd estimated by contemporaries to number 60,000 spectators. While it was reported as a great victory in French and New Zealand newspapers at the time, the Somme Cup subsequently disappeared from public consciousness as the First World War entered into one of its darkest years.
The Cup’s creator, Georges Chauvel, was an ordinary soldier in the French Army who continued to sculpt during the war. After he was demobilised in 1919, Chauvel was commissioned to design war memorials by French towns. After the Second World War, he devoted himself to the restoration of monuments and statues, carrying out restorations in the parks of St Cloud and Versailles.
The Cup is currently displayed within the ‘Balls, Bullets and Boots’ exhibition which tells the story of New Zealand rugby during the First World War. When the exhibition closes on 26 February, it will be displayed in the Museum’s Medal Respository until 26 April.