HMS Vindictive after Zeebrugge with VC medal

Rugby cup named after WW1 hero

Arthur Leyland Harrison is the only England rugby player to win the Victoria Cross, awarded for his bravery in the First World War. In 2015, he was recognised by the International Defence Rugby Competition (IRDC) naming its trophy, the Arthur Leyland Harrison VC Cup.

Arthur Leyland Harrison made his debut for the England Rugby team against Ireland in February 1914, winning 17-12. His second cap was against France in April for a convincing 39-13 win. He was the 58th player to be capped by the Royal Navy Rugby Union but only played in one match, losing to the Army before war intervened.

Born in 1886, Arthur commenced his Naval career as a cadet officer in 1902, was commissioned as a Sub-Lieutenant in 1906 and made a full Lieutenant in 1908. As a serving naval officer, he was immediately engaged in active service when the First World War started, participating in the Battle of Dogger Bank. In 1916 he was on board HMS Lion, the flagship of Vice Admiral Sir David Beatty, in the Battle of Jutland, the most significant naval battle of the First World War. He was mentioned in dispatches and then promoted to Lt Commander in October 1916.

In April 1918, a raid on Zeebrugge in Belgium successfully blocked the canal entrance making it impossible for German submarines to use. During the raid, Lieutenant Commander Arthur Leyland Harrison commanded the naval storming parties embarked in HMS Vindictive. He was struck on the head by shrapnel which broke his jaw and knocked him senseless but he recovered consciousness and led his men in the attack on the seaward end of the mole which defended Zeebrugge harbour. He was killed during the attack.

The IDRC 2015 celebrated the same spirit of comradeship and heroism demonstrated by Arthur Leyland Harrison and the 'Vindictives' as the men that he led in the attack have been called.

"Simply seeing his name will remind everyone of those uncompromising and selfless qualities which shown in moments of extreme danger, have inspired generations of military people, and others, from across the World."

Remembering ww1 casualties

If you would like to commemorate one of the over 1 million Commonwealth Service men and women who were killed during the First World War, visit the Legion's First World War commemorative website.


31 May 2016 is the centenary of the Battle of Jutland. The Legion is encouraging communities to organise their own local commemorations to complement the National event being held in the Orkney Islands. Visit our Jutland 100 page to download a toolkit to help you arrange an event near youFor more information about commemorative events associated with the centenary, visit our calendar of events

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