Ladies’ Lacrosse Association

Lacrosse

"The Scottish Women’s Hospitals have many good friends, and deserve them all. The Ladies’ Lacrosse Association arranged a Scotland v. England match for them in London."

The Bulletin, 2 April 1917

Submitted by Karen Davies, University of Bedfordshire Special Collections

Lacrosse, as a sport for girls, started in schools in the 1880s and 1890s and the first schools where it was played included St. Leonards in St. Andrews, Roedean in Brighton and Wycombe Abbey in Buckinghamshire. The first ladies club, the Southern Ladies’ Club, was formed in 1905 by Greta Hindley, a former pupil of Roedean.

In 1912 the captain of the Southern Ladies’ Club, Audrey Beeton (1890-1980), a granddaughter of Isabella Beeton, the compiler of the celebrated book on cookery and household management, proposed that a ladies lacrosse association be started for the purpose of drawing up rules, etc. to which all clubs and schools shall conform. The Ladies’ Lacrosse Association (LLA) was founded on 29 April 1912 and a year later the first international matches in the sport between England, Scotland and Wales were staged at Richmond Athletic Ground, London.

Following the outbreak of war in August 1914, the LLA decided that no international matches should be played until further notice, a situation which prevailed until 1921. However, in the years 1915 to 1917, an annual charity match was played at Richmond to raise funds for the Scottish Women’s Hospitals for Foreign Service. Founded by Dr. Elise Inglis (1864-1917), a pioneer surgeon and physician, the Scottish Women’s Hospitals set up fixed and mobile hospitals across Europe and were staffed entirely by women – from cooks and mechanics to surgeons and physicians.

The monies raised by the LLA endowed a bed in the London Ward of the Scottish Women’s Hospital at Royaumont in France. Established in January 2015 in an abbey approximately 30km north of Paris, Royaumont was the largest British voluntary hospital and one of the closest such hospitals to the front line. The soldiers treated at Royaumont were mostly French with some Senegalese and North Africans from the French colonial troops. The hospital was especially noted for its performance in treating soldiers in the Battle of the Somme. Indeed, we know from a letter sent by the Scottish Women’s Hospitals to the LLA that one of the first occupants of the LLA endowed bed was Ali Ben Hassan from Tunis in Tunisia. He was wounded on 1st July at the Battle of the Somme and had a hand amputated. He told staff at Royaumont that he was injured whilst in a trench with five others including his own brother when a shell burst and he was the only one who survived, saying “there was nothing at all left of the other five.”

England fielded a team for the charity match in 1915 and 1917, playing against a mixed team from Roedean and Wycombe Abbey schools in 1915 and against Scotland in 1917. However, in 1916 an international team of players from England, Scotland and Wales played against a combined team from Bedford and Ӧsterberg Physical Training Colleges. A total of £140 was raised for the Scottish Women’s Hospitals and each match drew crowds in excess of 300 spectators.