Nov 07, 2018
Remembrance Day: Bill Beacom's Story
Following the sad passing early this year of one of the club’s oldest surviving first-team players of the Second World War era, we unexpectedly stumbled upon an early exponent of the Women’s game together with some memories of a devoted Saracens player who supported the club through the amateur game, the advent of professionalism and to its current prominence as Premiership and back-to-back European champions.
Bill ‘Cecil’ Beacom was born on 2nd October 1922, his rugby career began as a schoolboy scrum-half in Northern Ireland aged nine-years-old and went on to develop a lifelong passion for the game. With the oval-shaped ball never far from his hands and influenced by the discipline and teamwork that it evoked, he was inspired to venture across the Irish Sea and enlist in the British Army. As a local ‘ham’ in the Royal Signals’ Radio Security Service, Bill played a major role in the secret wireless intelligence war providing Bletchley Park with vital Morse messages that enabled the codebreakers to read German signals.
Here he met Tony Turner who played for Saracens and later captained the side in 1946 and 1947. Combining forces for the war effort at work and on the pitch proved a successful formula not just for the country but also for the club that quickly became an enduring part of his life. Stationed in Barnet he met his wife to be Margaret, who lived in Totteridge, in 1943. They delayed their marriage until a month after VJ day, finally tying the knot 13th September, 1945 and happily celebrated 70 years of marriage in 2015.
As scrum-half for Saracens, Bill was mentioned in many newspaper reports including: “In 1945 W.J.Beacom is turning out to play regularly for Saracens during the war era, despite being recalled to his Army regiment in 1944”, “Beacom cut through in dazzling fashion” and “Beacom and Turner of the backs were outstanding…superb kicking”. He was involved in the Saracens trial matches at the start of the 1946/47 season, being named as one of the ‘residue of last season’s first XV’ whose numbers would be strengthened by both new players and those returning from military service.
Having bolstered the team and displayed true commitment throughout the war years, his playing career sadly came to an end in 1950 following consecutive shoulder dislocations. His interest in the club however never waned; he continued to support Saracens, attending dinners at Bramley Road, enjoying VIP treatment in the players room at Vicarage Road, attending matches whenever possible despite moving to Norwich in 1954.
It was no surprise to hear that Bill’s enthusiasm for the game led to him becoming involved at his new home club in Norwich attracting newspaper coverage for his dedication to building a women’s team in the early 1990s. With only one female player turning up for the first training session Bill’s attitude was to ‘press on…I knew if I persevered women would start coming forward and sure enough the numbers gradually started to build up’. Within three months Norwich had their first women’s rugby team.
Bill passed away early this year with a shirt signed by Saracens, European Champions of 2016, a gift from Nigel Wray, by his side. His name was frequently misspelt ‘Beacon’ in newspaper articles, the irony is he was a ‘beacon’ of hope during the war years, one that led the way to a brighter future for the club and ultimately for the women’s game. He leaves behind a legacy of devotion, commitment and pioneering spirit and lived a life that embodied the values of the game and the club. He was and always will be a valued member of the Saracens family.
Our thanks to his daughter Susan for sharing his story, for his fortitude, unwavering loyalty and for his vision in leading the charge towards equality in this great game. As the women’s team gains momentum and reaches new heights at Saracens, we are sure Bill would be proud of the club, the women and the men who represent us and continue to uphold the values of the game that he cherished.