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Saturday 21 August 1937 – John Douglas Pethard drowns in Austria

Category Badsey and Aldington
Evesham Standard & West Midland Observer
Transcription of article


News has been received of the death at Geneva of John Douglas Pethard (25) whose home is at Badsey.  Pethard was a student at Birmingham University, and it is understood that he was drowned while on holiday on the Continent with other students.

Pethard was well-known in the Evesham district as an amateur footballer of skill.  He had declined to sign a professional form for Aston Villa, but had several times played for Evesham Town and Cheltenham Town, and rendered great assistance to Badsey Rangers about three years ago when they advanced to the third round in the Amateur Cup.

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A more detailed article appeared in "The Evesham Standard & West Midland Observer" the following week, Saturday 28th  August 1937. 

BADSEY MAN’S BODY RECOVERED – Mr J D Pethard's death in Austria, Bathing Tragedy

The body of Mr John Douglas Pethard (23) of Badsey, Evesham, who was drowned while bathing in a lake, the Lauser Zee, at Iglis, near Innsbruck, Austria, on Thursday, was recovered the following day after an all-night search.

Mr Pethard was holiday-making with a friend, Mr Arthur Bower Codling, of Hawk’s Point, Carbis Bay, St Ives, Cornwall.  The two men went swimming in the lake soon after their arrival, when Mr Pethard disappeared in the water.  It is understood that his death was occasioned by heart failure.

Mr Pethard was a native of Badsey and was science master at a secondary school at Cowbridge, Glamorgan.  Mr Codling was a colleague of his.

Mr Pethard was the only son of Mr & Mrs J J Pethard, his father being a well-known market gardener in Badsey.  His mother collapsed when news of the tragedy reached her and had to be attended by a doctor and nurse.  Mr & Mrs Pethard were both at home when the telegram, “Regret Douglas drowned, phone instructions” came from Mr Codling at 8 o’clock.

Mr Pethard was educated at Prince Henry’s Grammar School, Evesham, and at Birmingham University, where he gained his BSc degree.

After leaving the university he was for a short time at a school in Walsall, but during the last 12 months had been teaching at Cowbridge.

Mr Pethard had been spending the last three weeks with his parents, and only left for Austria on Monday last week.

He was a keen student of geology, and his visit to Austria was partly of an educational nature.

Football Career

He was a well-known amateur, and on several occasions appeared in Aston Villa’s Central Leaqgue side.  He had played for Cheltenham Town, Evesham Town and frequently when on holiday, for Badsey Rangers.

Mr Pethard assisted Cheltenham Town in several matches up to the season before last.  He was an inside forward of exceptional ability, and played for Cheltenham in the Birmingham Combination with great success.

Last season he returned to Evesham to assist Evesham Town at centre-forward.  Under his leadership there was a marked improvement in the Town’s play.

He had a distinguished athletic career at Prince Henry’s Grammar School, and for two or three years was captain of his House.  He was also a school prefect and captain of the school soccer and cricket teams.

Buried on the Continent

The funeral took place at Lans, near Innsbruck, on Saturday, and was conducted by a Vicar from Norwich who was visiting there.

Sympathetic references to Mr Pethard were made by the Rev C H Vanderberg before his sermon at each service on Sunday in Badsey Parish Church.

On Wednesday afternoon a memorial service was also held in St James’ Church, and the hymns sung were the same used only the Sunday previous to the death of Mr Pethard, who on that occasion assisted the choir.  They were, “Mary, the Mother of Jesus”, “O Look Thou upon me and be merciful unto me”, and “Praise the Lord, O my soul”.  Mrs L Sharp at the organ also played Handel’s Dead March in “Saul”.  There was a full choir and the church was filled to capacity with friends and representatives of sporting organisations in the district.

In his address, Canon Allsebrook said that he felt it was unnecessary for him to try to express in words the sorrow which he knew full well was shared not only by everyone in the parish, but by all who were privileged to know Mr Pethard.  It was in his home, in the Sunday School, and in the choir of St James’ Church that he (Canon Allsebrook) was most connected with Mr Pethard and he had watched, as most had watched, his career at school, university, on the sports field, and in his life’s calling as a school master, which had opened so auspiciously.  And a career which had promised so much good was suddenly cut off by death.

As a boy and as a man he came as near to the ideal as it is given to mortals to attain, he said.

Those attending the service included:  Mr & Mrs J J Pethard (father and mother), Mr & Mrs W Ballard, Mr & Mrs W Hardiman, Mr & Mrs P Pethard (uncles and aunts); Mr R Hardiman, Miss J Hardiman, Miss E Ballard and Miss D Ballard (cousins).

Practically every sports organisation in the district was represented.  Mr W P Harper represented the Worcestershire FA, Mr H J Cave Badsey Rangers FC, and Mr G E Knight, a personal friend, who represented Evesham Town FC.

Later the ringers played an open quarter peal of Grand-sire Triples consisting of 1,020 changes.  The ringers were, Mr A J Taylor, Mr J Perkins Senior, Mr J Perkins Junior, Mr & Mrs Thomas (latter was Miss Amy Johnson of Hinton), Mr Moisey, Mr Sadler and Mr Heath.

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In the same newspaper, there was an account in the sporting section:


I am sure my readers will permit me in this column to refer briefly to the tragic death of Douglas Pethard – familiarly known to Evesham Town and Badsey Ranger supporters as “Dug”.

A true sportsman, a great athlete, and one of the most versatile footballers it has been my good fortune to know.  Pethard gave his services on the football field, not for the publicity he knew his wizardry would command, or for what he could get out of it, but because of his great love of the game, which no one tried to play more keenly and cleanly.

He could take a beating with a smile – he would be among the first to congratulate anyone who could do better than himself – and he detested praise for his efforts.  He was a team man throughout, and Clubs who will deplore the loss of his services under such tragic circumstances are Evesham, Badsey, Cheltenham, Aston Villa Colts, Worcester City, Hereford United and the Universities XI, with which he toured for the past three seasons.

There was something about which to be proud at Badsey and Evesham on Saturday, when players who knew “Dug” only by name, stood side by side with heads bowed for a minute’s silence to the memory of one I was glad, personally, to know.

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"The Gloucestershire Echo" of 20th August 1937 and "The Cheltenham Chronicle" of 28th August 1937 published an almost identical report, but omitted details of the funeral service in Austria and the memorial service in Badsey.  However, the extra information was added:

His mother is unconsolable.  She collapsed when news of the tragedy reached her and had to be attended by a doctor and nurse throughout the night…..  A telephone call was put through to Mr Codling at his hotel in Innsbruck last night…..

Mr C A Binyon, a leading resident in Badsey, who had taken a great personal interest in Pethard, told our reporter that his death had plunged the whole village in gloom.  “He was exceedingly popular and much liked by everyone who knew him,” said Mr Binyon.  “He was an exceedingly good scholar, and much sympathy is felt for the parents on the death of a son who was on the threshold of a promising career.”