Alexander Obolensky

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Alexander Sergeevich Obolensky
Prince Alexander S. Obolensky.jpg
Obolensky scored on his England debut in their win over New Zealand in January 1936
Born (1916-02-17)17 February 1916
Petrograd, Russian Empire
Died 29 March 1940(1940-03-29) (aged 24)
Martlesham Heath Airfield
Education Brasenose College, Oxford
Title Prince
Parents Serge Obolensky
Lubov' Naryshkina

Prince Alexander Sergeevich Obolensky (Russian: Александр Серге́евич Оболенский; 17 February 1916 — 29 March 1940) was a Rurikid prince of Russian origin who became a naturalised Briton, having spent most of his life in England, and who went on to represent England in International Rugby Union. He was, and is, popularly known as "The Flying Prince", "The Flying Slav", or simply as "Obo" by many sports fans.

Biography[edit]

A member of the Rurik Dynasty,[1] he was born in Petrograd (now Saint Petersburg) on 17 February 1916 and was the son of Prince Serge Obolensky, an officer in the Tsar's Imperial Horse Guards, and his wife Princess Lubov' (née Naryshkina). Their name derived from the Russian town of Obolensk. They fled Russia after the Russian Revolution of 1917, settling in Muswell Hill, London, England.

Obolensky was educated at The Ashe boys' preparatory school, Etwall, and Trent College, Long Eaton, both in Derbyshire, before going to Brasenose College, Oxford in Michaelmas 1934, where he held a College Exhibition and studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics. He gained a Fourth Class degree in 1938. At Oxford he earned two rugby blues representing Oxford University RFC as a wing/three-quarter. Having previously played for Chesterfield RUFC whilst still at school, he played for Leicester Football Club between 1934 and 1939, as well as Rosslyn Park F.C.. His selection for England caused a stir because he was not a British citizen, but he gained British Citizenship in 1936.

On 4 January 1936 he scored two tries on his England debut in a 13-0 victory over the All Blacks, the first time England had beaten New Zealand. Aided by Pathé News footage of the game, his name has entered into legend, since the first try, beating several All Blacks in a run of three-quarters of the length of the field, was widely regarded as the greatest try of the time, and one of the greatest tries ever scored by England.[2]

Prince Obolensky won three caps for England later that year (against Wales on 18 January, Ireland on 8 February and Scotland on 21 March), and scored no further tries. He was selected as a member of the touring party for the 1936 British Lions tour to Argentina. He also played seven games for the "invitation only" Barbarian F.C. between 1937 and 1939, scoring 3 tries.

By August 1939, Obolensky was already serving as an A/P/O with 615 Squadron, Auxiliary Air Force, stationed at Kenley; and, on the outbreak of World War II in 1939, he joined the Royal Air Force's 504 Squadron. On 29 March 1940, a day after being recalled to the England squad to play Wales,[1] Pilot Officer Obolensky was killed during training when his Hawker Hurricane Mark 1 crashed on Martlesham Heath, Suffolk. His aircraft, reference number L1946, dropped into a ravine at the end of the runway during landing, breaking his neck. He was 24.[3] He is buried in Ipswich's New Cemetery.

Legacy[edit]

  • An annual lecture on rugby, the Obolensky Lecture, is held in his honour, whilst Twickenham Stadium has a suite named Obolensky's.[1]
  • In February 2008 a project was launched in Ipswich to erect a permanent memorial, resulting in a £50,000 statue being unveiled on 18 February 2009[1] by his niece, Princess Alexandra Obolensky.[4] The statue by Harry Gray stands in Cromwell Square in Ipswich.[5]
  • A building named after him at his former school, Trent College
  • An annual award, the Prince Obolensky Award, presented by the Prince Obolensky Association at Rosslyn Park F.C.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Statue for rugby's Russian prince BBC News, 8 January 2009
  2. ^ Green Umbrella Productions: 101 Greatest English Tries. DVD, Release Date: 8 Nov 2004.
  3. ^ To, Wireless (30 March 1940). "Prince Obolensky, 24, Killed in Air Crash. British Flier Was Also an Outstanding Rugby Back.". New York Times. Retrieved 16 August 2008. "Prince Alexander Obolensky, known as "the flying Prince," was killed today in a flying accident at an East Anglian airport. ..." 
  4. ^ Rugby hero pilot statue unveiled BBC News, 18 February 2009
  5. ^ Obolensky Memorial Project

External links[edit]