Boys at Bedford School are eagerly anticipating this year’s Varsity Match on Thursday, December 12 - and not just for the great rugby.
This year’s Cambridge Blue team will be captained by Old Bedfordian (OB) Will Briggs, and in a year which has seen OBs Ilia Cherezov, Harry Peck and Sam Farmer on the side, the Cambridge Varsity team could well feature a very strong Bedford School line up.
However, Briggs is not the first OB captain; indeed Bedford School has a long and distinguished tradition in the Varsity Match.
Perhaps the greatest coincidence is that exactly 70 years ago two OB captains went head to head for Cambridge and Oxford.
The matches in 1943/44, although not referred to as Varsity Matches during the war years, were the highlights of the fixture card.
Dudley ‘Ben’ Garton-Sprenger, who left Bedford School in 1940 to read Chemistry at Merton College, captained the Oxford side for the second year running.
And John Langham, who left the school in 1942 to read Mechanical Engineering at Queens’ College headed up the Cambridge side and also played in the pack.
Although not in the same side whilst at Bedford School, the two Old Bedfordians played each other on a number of occasions, as in those days the two teams met twice in a season. No doubt, despite having been at the same school the competition was just as fierce!
From the archives for the 1943/44 season it appears that Cambridge won the first fixture, 2 goals, 1 try (13 points) to 1 dropped goal (4 points), and Oxford won the second by 2 tries (6 points) to 1 goal (5 points).
After university, both captains went on to successful careers, Ben worked in the chemical industry in Europe and Africa, and John in marine engineering, for which he was awarded a CBE in 1976. Ben is now aged 92 and living in Cheshire and John is aged 89 living in Dorset.