The RUC war hero who played first-class cricket and international rugby

The Ireland Squad that lost to England in 1938. Mr Alexander is at the end of the middle row on the right.
The Ireland Squad that lost to England in 1938. Mr Alexander is at the end of the middle row on the right.
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The extraordinary story of Belfast man Robert Alexander is told in a new book about cricketers who lost their lives during the Second World War.

Mr Alexander was a captain with the 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and before the outbreak of war he was a member of the RUC who played first-class cricket and international rugby for Ireland.

The Coming Storm by Nigel McCrery

The Coming Storm by Nigel McCrery

The book entitled. The Coming Storm, is written by Nigel McCrery from Nottingham who has penned a number of books on the subject of sportsmen and their association with world wars.

The outbreak of World War Two came towards the closing stages of the 1939 cricket season and during the ensuing conflict 12 Test cricketers perished together with 130 first-class players.

The book by Mr McCrery – a policeman whose father was in the RAF – reveals each of those men’s career details, including cricketing statistics and the circumstances of their deaths.

His account of the life and death of Captain Robert Alexander reveals that he was born on September 24, 1910 in Belfast and went on to have a distinguished sporting career before his life was cut short in Sicily at the age of just 32.

Robert Alexander who played first class cricket and international rugby for Ireland

Robert Alexander who played first class cricket and international rugby for Ireland

Although better known as an international rugby player he made one first-class cricket appearance for Ireland against Scotland at Glenpark, Greenock, on June 18, 1932.

Mr Alexander, batting last, made seven in the first innings and 22 in the second. He also bowled 22 overs, taking no wickets in the game which Ireland won by 58 runs.

As a rugby player he turned out for Royal Belfast Academical Institution, Queen’s University, North of Ireland Football Club, Police Union, the British Lions and the Barbarians.

Between 1936 and 1939 he made 11 appearances in the green of Ireland.

His debut came against England at Lansdowne Road on February 8, 1936 – a game which Ireland won 6-3.

He went on to win further caps against Scotland, Wales and England – competing in a four-team competition which was then known as the Home Nations.

His only try came against Scotland in 1937.

He also played three times for the British Lions against South Africa in 1938 in Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town.

Mr Alexander scored a try against South Africa during the Cape Town match which the tourists won 21-6.

Before World War Two began, Mr Alexander was a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and at the outbreak of war he took a commission into the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Still keen on playing rugby in 1942 while on home leave he captained Ireland in a friendly game against the British Army. It was to be his last game for his country.

Rising to the rank of captain, Alexander was killed in action near Catania, Sicily, on July 19, 1943 while leading his troops in an attack on the Simento River.

A fellow officer, David Cole, who saw Alexander shortly before he was killed, said, “Bob passed me on the way. I wished him luck. He paused for a second and whispered to me with a smile, ‘It’s suicide’, and then went on.”

Captain Robert Alexander is buried at the Catania War Cemetery in Sicily.