Aujourd'hui nous sommes le samedi 21 juillet 2018. C’est la fête de Saint Victor.


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Un trophée manque à l'appel

AWOL: Wartime rugby trophy

 

La coupe du monde de rugby est le moment idéal pour se remémorer un autre match de rugby qui opposa, le 8 avril 1917 au bois de Vincennes, l’équipe de l’Armée française à celle de l’Armée néo-zélandaise. La France s’inclina – et pas qu’un peu ! – sur le score éloquent de 0 à 40.

A l’issue de ce match, un trophée fut remis à l’équipe néo-zélandaise : coupe de circonstance, puisque figurée par un bronze représentant un combattant français lançant une grenade... A la guerre comme à la guerre !

Cette figure fut modelée par Georges Chauvel quelques temps plus tôt, lors d’un congé de convalescence obtenu à la suite d’une blessure reçue sur front. Georges Chauvel (né à Elbeuf en 1886), dès avant guerre, se destinait à la sculpture et, après le conflit, dont il réchappa, fit, dans cet art, une très belle carrière. 

Le trophée du « lanceur de grenade » ou « voltigeur », encore  intitulé « Coupe de la Somme » est-il quelque part en Nouvelle-Zélande depuis ce match de 1917… ? 

War-time rugby trophy goes AWOL
The Somme Cup was awarded in 1917 to a team of New Zealand soldiers

By Andrew Stone http://m.nzherald.co.nz/ 

The New Zealand Defence Force is searching for a famous rugby trophy won by a team of New Zealand soldiers when they paused from the war on the Western Front in France almost 100 years ago.

The Somme Cup was presented to the Trench Blacks after they thumped a French selection 40-0 in April 1917 before a crowd put at 60,000.

The home players were all on active service, and two were aviators involved in raids the day before.

The trophy, by sculptor Georges Chauvel, was handed to the New Zealand captain, Aucklander George Murray.

Chauvel called it Le Lanceur de Grenades, as it shows a French soldier throwing a grenade. But the players called it La Coupe de la Somme, (the Somme Cup).

Last week in Paris a team drawn from the New Zealand armed services, the Defence Blacks, played once more for the Somme Cup.

They beat a French Military Pacific XV 50-0, but there was no trophy to mark the occasion.

A Defence Force spokesman said searches of online collections of major New Zealand cultural institutions had failed to turn up a record of the cup, and its whereabouts seemed unknown.

"Inquiries as to the Somme Cup's location are ongoing and the NZDF are very interested in any information about it - not only as a significant military trophy but also as a key historical New Zealand sporting award."

The Defence Blacks play in Belgium this weekend in honour of a famous All Black - Dave Gallaher, captain of the Originals, the national side that toured Britain in 1905-06. Gallaher was fatally wounded on October 4, 1917, during the Passchendaele offensive.

He was among the 484 New Zealanders cut down in the battle for Broodseinde, which was seen as a "success" for the British-led forces.

The game is at Zonnebeke, a Belgian town near Tyne Cot cemetery.

The World War I cemetery includes the graves of 520 New Zealand soldiers, 322 of them unidentified.

A memorial wall at the rear of the 3.5ha cemetery commemorates 1176 New Zealanders who have no known grave and were casualties of conflict on the Western Front.

A service to honour the Broodseinde casualties is being held at the Zealand Battlefield Memorial's Graventafe.

Next week the New Zealanders head to Britain for the International Defence Force Rugby World Cup.