Quartermain found it difficult to send mail during his captivity but several former members kept up a lively correspondence with the association through Secretary, Lindsay Lancaster. In particular, Robert ‘Percy’ Moore (F) wrote regularly as he moved from India to Egypt and finally the South-West Pacific.
At one stage, while he was recovering from a shoulder injury – sustained falling off a captured Italian motorcycle – the call went out for a football umpire.
Moore wrote, “I offered my services and they were gladly accepted. The match was between a South Australian and a Victorian side. The day for the match arrived and I strolled to the ground. One of the South Australian chaps came over and asked if we were playing league or union rules. I was a bit puzzled as I had never heard of union rules. I had a look around and discovered that the ground was laid out for rugby!”
“I tried to back out but they would have none of it. After they had explained the main rules, I decided to give it a go. I lasted about fifteen minutes and, apart from almost being knocked over a couple of times, I did nothing at all. I walked off the ground as the game seemed to be proceeding adequately without an umpire.”
It transpired that Moore had gone to the wrong ground. The Australian football match had been postponed due to his absence and was played the next day.
Three umpires, George Smith (B), Harry Clayton (FG) and Vincent Baker (B), served in the Royal Australian Air Force. Edwin Boyes (F) was the only umpire to serve in the Royal Australian Navy. He was active on HMAS Swan and HMAS Perth.
Unlike the Great War, some umpires served in Australia and it was possible to obtain leave and return to Melbourne. On some occasions, they were even able to umpire.
George Smith joined the RAAF nine days after umpiring the 1940 VFL Preliminary Final, but managed to stay in Melbourne through 1941 and 1942 and continue to umpire. Posted outside Victoria for the next two years, in the middle of 1944 he returned on leave and was able to umpire the mid-season rounds. He resumed his umpiring career after discharge and completed 145 VFL matches.
Jack McMurray Jr (F) had a similar experience. It was 1941 when McMurray was appointed to his first senior VFL match — Round 4, Hawthorn versus Geelong at the Glenferrie Oval. He completed the season with a total of twelve matches and, in 1942, missed only one of the first 15 rounds before being granted a leave of absence. He joined the AIF on 30 November and left Melbourne, and umpiring, to serve with the Australian Army Service Corps and spent much of the next three years in New South Wales and New Guinea. He managed to keep his hand in by umpiring many games while in the Army and even made it back to Melbourne for a ‘cameo’ appearance at Victoria Park in 1944.
With the war finishing in September 1945, tens of thousands of the military forces were discharged and many former umpires rejoined the VFLUA to continue careers interrupted by hostilities. Ken Creighton (B), McMurray Jr and Tom Bride (FG) were three who had significant post-war careers.
Many other ex-servicemen put on the white at VFL level for the first time after the war.
Alan Arvidson (F) had served in the famous Catalina squadrons in the South West Pacific theatre and Signalmen Stan Tomlins (F) and Bill Graham (F) spent time overseas in the Pacific Islands.
Flying Officer Tom Rossiter flew in the Royal Air Force’s 57 Squadron. This was part of Bomber Command and Tom saw action flying raids in the European theatre of operations.
Michael ‘Leo’ Noone (F) initially joined the RAAF in September 1944, but one year later transferred to the AIF’s 29/46 Australian Infantry Battalion where he served until his discharge in February 1947.
No experience in the Second World War is more disturbing than that of Phil Stone (B) and his comrades. Stone joined the VFL as a boundary umpire in 1947 and amassed 194 matches in the next 13 seasons. But it was not until the 1990s that he was able to speak of one of his war time experiences.
The Australian, British and United States governments were concerned about the effects of mustard gas that could be used either by or against their troops. They wanted to know how the gas could best be used in the jungle and what its effects were on troops. To this end, they asked for volunteers without informing them of the details of the program.
Stone recalls, “At Proserpine in Queensland I was a volunteer in the 1st Aust. Field Coy as a Gas Guinea Pig for mustard gas and lewicite gas in their experimental trials. As it was highly classified information for 30 years, we were not allowed to speak of it.”
Those servicemen who volunteered were told they were required for Top Secret war work. They were asked to sign “Secrecy” agreements. Over a period of time, approximately 1,000 men, usually wearing minimal protection, were either exposed to mustard gas in a large stainless steel chamber, or were exposed by gas mortar shells being fired into open paddocks, or were exposed by tramping through jungle heavily bombed with mustard gas. Tests were also carried out to see how long it would take for a soldier involved in an arduous assault course to become unfit for duty when exposed to mustard gas. Mustard gas causes severe burns and is particularly effective on moist skin, meaning areas such as the neck, groin and armpits were especially susceptible.
Stone had discernible for the remainder of his life.
While no umpires served in Korea nor did any Korean service men become umpires two men who served in VietNam did become VFL umpires – Glenn James OAM (F) and Trevor Pescud (G).
Lest we forget
The AFLUA has compiled a series of Rolls of Honour
The Rolls of those members who enlisted may be viewed here.
The Rolls of those servicemen who later became VFL umpires may be viewed here.
If anyone knows of any former VFLUA/AFLUA who should be included, they should contact David Flegg, AFLUA Historian/Statistician, firstname.lastname@example.org