8th November 2018, 10:19 | englandrl

Northern Union Heroes of WW1: Bill Jarman

Northern Union Heroes of WW1: Bill Jarman

Billy Jarman was a star for Leeds and Great Britain, touring with the Northern Union side, playing at both full-back and loose forward in his two test appearances – one of five players to appear for Great Britain as both a back and a forward.  

He served as a professional soldier with the Scots Guards from 1905-08, showing athletic prowess, featuring in the Army Association Football sides and winning the Scots Guards Heavyweight Boxing Championship in 1908.

He signed for Leeds in 1908 and made an immediate impact, scoring on his debut against Wakefield Trinity, going on to make 148 appearances, scoring 35 tries and kicking 4 goals over the course of his career.

Jarman won Leeds’s maiden Challenge Cup in 1910, playing at hooker in the first 7-7 draw with Hull, then moving to the Second Row for the 26-12 win in the replay two days later. He was then selected for the Lions tour in 1914.


He suffered an injury in the 1914 tour that led to him joining the front line relatively late, finally joining up in 1916. Before he left to join the front, Jarman showed his desire to return to Rugby upon his return.

“I am hoping to gain as good honours there [on the battlefield] as we have done in Australia and my prayer is that I come back safely to my wife and children and to take part again in the sport I love” 

He unfortunately would not live to return to the Rugby field and died between the 14thand 15thAugust 1916. He has no known grave and is remembered at the Thiepval Memorial. After his death, the Wigan and District Observer commented about his career.

“He strength and energy, his swarthy complexion, caused him always to be noticed. 

“He had figured at full-back, in all three-quarter back positions and, of course, forward and he had hoped that some day he might have the chance to complete the process of variation by playing at half-back, not as a makeshift but as a chosen performer.”

Jarman was truly a utility player and could compete in just about any position with ease and he was remembered as a true great of the game. His club, Leeds, lost the most of any in the Battle of the Somme, and Jarman’s loss was one of the most heavily felt. 

This article has been adapted from The Greatest Sacrifice by Jane and Chris Roberts, which is available through Scratching Shed Publishing, with signed copies available from pasttopresentgenealogy.wordpress.com