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Wally Rothwell, Remembered

Back in August, we celebrated Wally Rothwell's six off the bowling of Ray Lindwall (of the Australian "Invincibles" of 1948) in the match against the Lord's Taverners in 1961. It was with enormous sadness that we heard that just a few days later Wally had died at home in Australia.

Mike Ellis (a Brigand since 1961) recalls meeting Wally at HMS MERCURY in 1961, when, with 11 others they undertook the Royal Navy Communications specialist course. A stalwart of the group, Wally was always cheerful, encouraging everyone through exams and other hoops of the course. Several of the course joined the then recently formed Brigands and Wally soon revealed his innate sporting ability and is, of course, particularly remembered for his six over the Bat and Ball pub off Ray Lindwall. He was so much better than any of the rest of the team, that in the traditional match against the Navigation specialists of HMS DRYAD, he was required to be an umpire.

With the change of the seasons, so Wally turned to his favourite sport, Rugby, playing first for US Portsmouth, where his outstanding skills, especially his instinctive reading of a match, soon led to his being selected for the Navy and the Combined Services XVs. On return to Australia, he played rugby for Victoria, ACT, and for first-grade clubs Manly and Ainslie (sometimes being helicoptered in from sea for a match). During his 1967 captaincy of Australian Services, the coach said, “Rothwell was an inspirational leader and proved himself as good a breakaway [flanker] as any in Australia.”

Wally enjoyed a successful career in the Royal Australian Navy, serving in several ships during the Malaysia/Indonesia confrontation and the Vietnam War. As executive officer of the naval air station HMAS Albatross, he was awarded a Commendation for Brave Conduct for leading and himself manhandling aircraft out of a burning hangar. He commanded the frigate, HMAS Stuart and ended his career as Director of Naval Communications. He was always hospitable to visiting RN officers; and Mike Ellis recalls being taken to the Sydney Cricket Ground to see MCC v. NSW where bad light stopped play because of the intense shadow cast by the enormous stands.

Wally retired from the Navy in 1984 to become Executive Director of the Australian Telecommunications User Group and in 1995 became Deputy Ombudsman for Communications, finally retiring in 2002. A bad back, probably caused by an incident in the scrum, meant he was often in pain and he had to use a wheelchair as he got older.

Sport suffused his life, on a previous posting to UK in the late 50s, while at the Royal Naval College Greenwich, a blind tennis date led to his meeting Jennie, an Australian studying in London. By 1961 she was working in London and they married in 1962 - fellow Brigand Peter Tuke “gave away” Jennie. Sadly, Jennie died in 2021 and Wally never really recovered from her loss, dying on 19 August 2023.

A great sportsman and gentleman, he maintained his contact with the Brigands and sent a warm message of congratulations to the Club when its' Golden Jubilee was celebrated in 2009 with a dinner at the Hampshire Rose Bowl.

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