30 Aug



Amongst those attending tomorrow night’s annual Scarborough RUFC reunion will be Mr Peter Marshall who will travel from Helmsley to honour his relative*, R.M. Marshall one of the club’s most illustrious members who was the only player to have played as a full England international whilst still turning out for Scarborough. A picture of R.M. (Mike) Marshall has hung at the club for as long as I can remember with his England shirt displayed above the bar at both Newby and Silver Royd and behind these adornments lies a thrilling tale of a relatively short life of achievement, bravery and heroism. Robert Michael Marshall was born on May 18th 1917 at Pontefract the son of Robert and Elizabeth Marshall.  He was educated close to home at Giggleswick School in North Yorkshire where he soon showed his sporting prowess as a cricketer and as a dynamic Rugby second row forward. His family subsequently moved to Cloughton and in 1933 the young Mike joined Scarborough rugby club at the age of 16. Having been an outstanding first teamer at Newby, Mike went up to Oriel College Oxford in 1936 making an immediate impact on Varsity rugby, gaining his first ‘blue’ and a call up from the Barbarians later that year. A further blue and more baa-baas action followed in 1937. By now his prowess at the game brought him to the attention of the England selectors and he won his first cap for England against Ireland in Dublin on February 12th 1938 and scored the try of the match running some fifty yards to score in England’s 36-14 win. During 1938-39 he played five times for England during which time he turned out for Scarborough, Harlequins, Cambridge University and the Barbarians. His rugby career was cut short by the Second World War and after enlisting in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve his meteoric rise in the sporting world was probably eclipsed by his remarkable naval war service.  He served with distinction and courage on motor gun boats (MGB) on a variety of missions including raids on the Dutch Coast, special operations and the first Bonaparte mission where he and his crew  sailed to France to pick up nineteen men, probably downed airmen who had evaded the Germans and were escaping back to England. By then a Lieutenant Commander he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) in1944 after ramming and sinking a German E boat which was attacking a convoy; he was later awarded a bar to his DSC.  Four days after the end of the war he and his crew were sent on a mission from Aberdeen to transport Merchant Navy Officers to Gothenburg to arrange the return of three British merchant vessels. His vessel MGB 2002 left base at 8am on Friday 11th May 1945 and was due to arrive in Gothenburg at 8pm the following day. She was never seen again after hitting a mine in the Skagerrak the following day. Ironically the mine had been cut free by a British minesweeper a few days earlier and of the 28 souls on board only two survived.  Robert ‘Mike’ Marshall was not one of them. He was survived by his wife Stella and four year old twin daughters Wendy and Nesbitt. So if you visit the J.M. Guthrie clubhouse and you’re having a look at the club memorabilia I hope this tale of sporting achievement and courage under fire, all packed into 28 short years will perhaps help you understand a little more about the man in the photograph: Robert Michael Marshall DSC. (Research for this story was carried out by Mr Alan Readman with thanks to the Rugby History Society).




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