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Ironsides Founder remembers the beginning

Updated: Nov 3, 2019

Insight from one of the last two surviving founder Ironsides. Ted Elford (92) was a Cadet in the 42nd Battalion of the Royal Tank Regiment in WW2 based at The St Johns Drill Hall opposite Clapham Junction station, shared with the 23rd Surreys.

His Commanding Officer, Eric Toope, arranged some sport for the lads and as it became more organised the Ironsides Cadets were playing rugby, football, cricket and a bit of tennis.

Ironsides first Ist XV Ironsides Cadets 1943-44 - Ted Elford in white shorts 2nd from left

In 1948 the lads were still playing and many had left the army, they felt a need to make things more official and with RFU approval became The Battersea Ironsides, this was announced in the local news (SW Star). The CO, Lt. Col. EH St Maur Toope, MM, agreed to become the founding President. Ted was club member number 3! Club Treasurer for 21 years from 1948-69, a Life Member and Vice President. Ted’s wife did secretarial duties for the CO in the drill hall.

The Ironsides had no home, a wandering side, they also had NO wins in the first two years but became firm favourites of the clubs they visited. Noted for an excellent performance in the club house both with refreshments and singing. He remembers a club call of “Sing them out – Drink them out”. Ted recalls an occasional game against the Quins, but suspects it was their 82nd XV or similar. The team practiced at Emanuel School.

A notable member was the champion boxer Don Cockell. The club was very proud of two MBE holders amongst the players – Stan Leopard, Fleet Air Arm and Reg Jenkins who got his MBE for bravery and became a mortorcycle copper. Ted remembers Bert (AET) Bigmore fondly, he was Club Captain for many years, he like Bob Ockendon, became a referee, sadly he died this year (2019) another team mate Frank Partridge also died this year. Leaving only two founder Ironsides alive.

Ted remembers the tough times when everyone had to invest in the club to keep it going, and some brave souls stood as guarantors. Ted has sent his remaining club memorabilia to Bob Ockenden for safe keeping, we look forward to letting you see some pictures soon.

We have invited Ted to the RTR Memorial Match, we do hope he can come, please say a fond hello to one of our founders.

Ted lives in Banstead if you are down that way, he would always love a chat.

Ironsides 2,3..


The Drill Hall is now the Army Reserve Centre at 27 St Johns Hill.


Don Cockell – Champion Boxer. British &European light-heavyweight Champion.

British and Commonwealth Heavyweight Champion.

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