Diljit Singh (Dil) Bahra

We are happy to present the SEVENTH and the LAST of the DIL BAHRA’s signature column on early Indian hockey history. The author has won our hearts for pioneering such a painstaking effort, sparing it for wider audience and choosing the site as the platform. The London based researcher has thus rendered a great service to the game of hockey, which we all love deeply. The columns were thoroughly embellished with hitherto unseen but unforgettable vintage pictures. Readers would gladly concur to the fact that his content and images provided much needed and intellectually satisfying moments that helped us overcome the difficult COVID-19 times. All his articles are archived in our ‘COLUMN’ section. The column is one of our highlights: India’s oldest hockey website, kicking and alive in its 21st year – K. Arumugam, Editor

BACKGROUND: Hockey was first played at the London 1908 Olympic Games where six teams participated – England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Germany and France. It was not included again until Antwerp 1920 where four countries, England (Great Britain), Belgium, Denmark and France entered. Four years later, in Paris, hockey was omitted from the Olympics because of limited support. It was clear that an international body was necessary to unite the sport and be responsible for the organisation of tournaments at the Games. On the initiative of a Frenchman, Paul Leautey, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) was founded in Paris on the 7th January 1924. France, Belgium, Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Spain and Switzerland were the founder members.

A lighter moment before the bully-off of the 1928 Olympic Games final in a packed stadium. (l-r) Dhyan Chand , George Martins and Holland goalkeeper Adriaan Katte. Photo: Nick Leeftink collection

INDIA READY: India was taking a lively interest in the Olympic movement. Charles Newham, the president of Punjab Hockey Association, Guru Datt Sondhi, the vice-president an others had attended the Paris 1924 Olympic Games and became convinced that India must play a part in future Olympiads. Newham and Sondhi played a key role in the formation of the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) in 1925 where the possibility of India taking part in Olympic hockey was first mentioned. The IHF confirmed at their meeting in Delhi on 15 December 1927 that India would compete at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics and decided to accept the invitation of the English Hockey Association (EHA) to tour Great Britain for a month before proceeding to Amsterdam.

The IHF applied to join the FIH and were provisionally admitted at the meeting on 6th May 1928. This membership was essential for India to take part in the 1928 Olympics. The conditions for representing a country at the Amsterdam 1928 Olympic Games were “Only those who are Nationals or naturalised subjects of a country or of a state which is part of that country are able to represent that country” pursuant to Rule 2 of the General Regulations of the IX Olympiad – Amsterdam 1928.

SELECTION TRIALS: In order to select the team for the Olympic Games, it was decided to hold trials in Calcutta (now Kolkata) in February 1928 and all provinces were invited to send players for selection.

The Army Sports Control Board informed the IHF that it would not be entering a team and that soldiers were available for selection by their provinces and that leave would be granted for them to play. This selection tournament was played in Calcutta, from 13-16 February 1928.

Five teams, United Province; Rajputana; Punjab; Bengal and Central Province participated in this tournament. Enormous crowds attended to see the matches. This then became the first National Championship which was won by United Province. Following two more trial matches on 16th and 17th February, 13 players were selected, by Major Ian Burn-Murdoch (32nd Sikh Pioneers), Colonel Hill and Albert Barmes Rosser (Bengal). Major Ian Burn-Murdoch, who was also the president of the IHF, announced the team on 19th February 1928.

Author Dil Bahra


GK: Richard James Allen (Port Commission, Calcutta and Bengal)

RB: Michael E Rocque (Govt. Telegraph, Jubbulpore and Central Province)

LB: Leslie C Hammond (N I Railways and United Province)

RH: Kehar Singh Gill (Government College, Lahore and Punjab)

CH: Broome Eric Pinniger (N W Railways and Punjab)

LH: William James Goodsir-Cullen (Telegraph Club, Agra and United Province)

RW: Maurice A Gateley (Delhi Rangers and Punjab)

RI: Feroze Khan (Forman Christian College, Lahore and Punjab)

CF: Dhyan Chand (Army and United Province)

LI: George E Marthins (Telegraph Recreation Club, Agra and United Province)

LW: Frederick S Seaman (The Mills, Cawnpore and United Province)

Back/Half-back: Rex A O Norris (G I P Railways, Jubbulpore and Central Province)

Forward/Utility: Shaukat Ali (Calcutta Customs and Bengal)

Four players who were then in England would join the team there. They were: Jaipal Singh (St John’s College, Oxford University and Wimbledon Hockey Club), Nawab of Pataudi (Balliol College, Oxford University), Shahzada Mohammad Yusuf (Fitzwilliam House, Cambridge University) & C V Carberry (London).

St John’s College Hockey Team 1923–24. Captain Jaipal Singh is seated middle row second from left.

Photo: By permission of St John’s College, Oxford

THE JAIPAL SINGH PHENOMENON: Jaipal Singh (St John’s College at Oxford, 1922 to 1926 and captaining the college team on many occasions. His hockey talent was spotted when he played for Isis Hockey Club in Oxford and he was selected for the annual Inter-Varsity match against Cambridge on 20 February 1924 at Beckenham. Oxford won 3-0, having lost the previous three encounters. His outstanding performance in that match, playing at left full-back, earned him a lot of publicity in hockey circles and the English press. He was awarded an Oxford Blue. He followed this performance the following year in the Inter-Varsity match when Oxford beat Cambridge 3-2 on 18 February 1925, again at Beckenham. Later that year he led the All India Hockey Club on a tour of the continent, this being the first hockey team from England playing on the Continent. He played for the Oxford University again in the 1926 match and was regarded as an outstanding full-back, probably the best in England during that period. Jaipal played many matches for the Oxford University Hockey team, even captaining the team on few occasions. He also played for Wimbledon Hockey Club. He had played at the famous Folkestone Festival and played in Europe during the All India Hockey Club tours to the continent.

The Indian team selectors, led by Major Ian Burn-Murdoch (32nd Sikh Pioneers), president of Indian Hockey Federation, were aware of Jaipal’s performance in England. And so were the two IHF officials in England at the time, Colonel Bruce Turnbull, the past president of IHF and Major Ricketts, the international umpire. To help matters, Charles Newham who was president of Punjab Hockey Association and vice-president of IHF was kept informed of Jaipal’s performance by Conrad Corfield, his college friend, who had captained Cambridge in the Inter-Varsity match in 1920 and who was also an English international. Jaipal played some matches in England and two of the five matches at the Olympic Games.

Balliol College Oxford hockey team 1927-28. Nawab of Pataudi is standing 1st right. Photo: By permission of Balliol College, Oxford

Mohamed Iftikhar Ali Khan (Nawab of Pataudi) was at Balliol College, Oxford (1927 to 1931). He had represented the college XI at cricket and hockey and had represented Oxford University at hockey, cricket and billiards. He was a forward in the University hockey team. He also played cricket for Worcester Cricket XI and England XI. He was a member of the All India Hockey Club. In all, he was an all-rounder sportsman. He played some matches for the Indian team in Merton Abbey and Folkestone in England but did not travel to Amsterdam for the Olympics. He was a keen cricketer and therefore he was more interested in playing cricket than hockey during the cricket season in England (he played in the Inter-varsity matches in 1930 and 1931 and was a double Oxford Blue, hockey and cricket in 1931).

Fitzwilliam House hockey team 1926 – 27. Captain S M Yusuf is at the centre of middle row.

Photo: By permission of Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge

Shahzada Mohammad Yusuf: He was a Non-Collegiate student at Cambridge University (and so a member of Fitzwilliam House, the institution of which Non-Collegiate students were members). He became a member of Cambridge University in January 1923 and was a member until June 1927. He was a member of the All India Hockey Club which toured the continent in 1925. He played hockey for Fitzwilliam House and captained the team in 1926-27 season. He studied Agriculture and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Ordinary Degree in June 1927. In October and November 1927 he played for Cambridge University in their trial matches. On 23 November 1927 he represented Cambridge University against Wimbledon Hockey Club, which included Jaipal Singh. He did travel with the team to Amsterdam and played in four of the five matches at the Olympics. Jaipal Singh, Shahzada Mohammad Yusuf and Nawab of Pataudi knew each other socially and had played together with the All India Club team. They had also played against each other with their college and University teams.

The whereabouts of C V Carberry, who had played for St Xavier College, Calcutta, who had gone to London, could not be ascertained and he did not join the team either in England or the Olympics.

Albert Barmes Rosser, Hon Secretary of Bengal Hockey Association, was appointed as team manager. It was decided at the meeting in Delhi in December 1927 to approach Colonel Bruce Turnbull, who was in England at the time, to be the coach as he had a good deal of experience of hockey both in India and England.

The 13 players and manager sailed to England from Bombay (now Mumbai) on 10th March 1928. They had gathered in Bombay two days earlier and played an exhibition match a day before they sailed. This was the first time that they had met and played together as a team.

Colonel Bruce Turnbull was appointed Business Manager of the IHF in England and he was responsible for arranging all fixtures in England and the continent before the Olympic Games. He did manage to get top class fixtures in London after the Easter break – a period when the cricket season had just begun. And he did manage to arrange five fixtures at the famous Folkestone festival during Easter.

When the Indian team arrived in Tilbury, England, on Friday 30th March 1928, they were given a hearty welcome to England by a number of officials and visitors, including Major Edward Ricketts who was acting on behalf of Colonel Bruce Turnbull, Business Manager.

The day after their arrival, on Saturday, 31st March 1928, they played a powerful Combined Services team at the Officers Club, Aldershot. The Services team, which included seven internationals, one English probable and two divisional representatives, were:

1. Commander J D Campbell (Royal Navy)

2.Commander C H L Woodhouse (Royal Navy)

3.Lieut Commander T N D’Arcy (Royal Navy and Ireland)

4.Lieut H A Hinds (Royal Navy)

5.Schoolmaster I D Lawrence (Royal Navy and England)

6.Lieut T H Ely (Army and Ireland)

7.Lieut R F Leitch (Army and Ireland)

8.Lieut J D Cairnes (Army and Ireland)

9. Captain F M Eagar (Army and Ireland)

10. Lieut P G Rogers (Army and England)

11. Flight Lieut Hampton (Royal Air Force)

The match, bully-off at 3 PM was played on a wet muddy ground and therefore it was found possible to play only 25 minutes each way. The Indian team lost 1-2, Dhyan Chand scoring India’s only goal. Major Edward Ricketts (India) and Flight Lieut E B C Betts umpired the match.

The Indian team played two matches at Merton Abbey in London before the Folkestone Easter tournament. They defeated a London XI that included six internationals, 5-2. They defeated an Anglo Scottish team, which also included six internationals, 7-2.

An overview of the playing fields at Folkestone Festival

Photo:Dil Bahra collection

The hockey season in England ended at Easter. There were many Easter Festivals, both in England and the continent to mark the end of playing season. In England the popular festivals were at Folkestone, Bournemouth, Lowestoft, Scarborough, Bridlington, Porthcawl, Llandudno and Tynemouth.

The Indian team entered the Folkestone Festival which drew 18 teams, some from the Continent. The Folkestone festival normally attracted at least two international sides, and in 1928 these were France and Belgium. Four sessions were played daily and hockey was of a high standard there.

The team made a great start at Folkestone. On Good Friday, in the first match of the Festival, they defeated Old Rossalians 17-0. The next day they defeated Mystics, a Club from Frankfurt (Germany) 7- 0. The team drew 3-3 against a Festival X1, a fixture which was not part of the Folkestone Festival and played on a rest day. Easter Monday saw them defeat another German Club, Frankfurt SC, 2-0.

On Tuesday 10th April, the last match of the Festival, at 03.15pm, was a much awaited match against a very strong Hockey Association X1 that included nine England internationals. Seven of these players had played for England against France in an international match at Folkestone on Saturday 7th April and all seven had featured against Ireland (26th March 1928); Wales (27th March 1928) and Scotland (31st March 1928). India won the match 4-0 in front of a big (paying) crowd.

The Hockey Association X1’s entire forward line was the same one which defeated France 12-0 at the same venue three days earlier. India played three more matches at Merton Abbey before departing to Holland on 23rd April. They defeated a Combined London Universities and Hospitals XI 7-3; an Anglo-Irish X1 12-4 and London University XI 7-1.

On the English leg of their tour, India played 11 matches, winning nine, drawing one and losing one.

1928 Olympic hockey final.

Dhyan Chand is sandwiched at the centre of action

Photo: Nick Leeftink collection

THE AMSTERDAM FIELD: Only 10 countries had entered the hockey tournament by April 5th 1928 (Hungary did not enter as was expected). Great Britain did not enter a team, nor were they expected to enter. The British officials, who were responsible for founding the International Hockey Board to administer the rules of the game, did not recognise the FIH, which Britain had to join to compete in the Olympics. On 22nd April 1928, the FIH ranked India No. 1 for the draw in two divisions (pools) for the hockey tournament. The FIH rankings were:

1. India

2. Germany

3. Denmark

4. Holland

5. Belgium

6. France

7. Austria

8. Spain

9. Switzerland

10. Czechoslovakia.

THE FORMAT: Czechoslovakia withdrew before the start of the hockey tournament. India was drawn in Division A with Denmark, Belgium, Austria and Switzerland.Germany, Holland, France and Spain were drawn in Division B. The winning teams in these divisions were to play the final; the runners-up the 3rd place.

WARM UP MATCHES: Two days after arriving Amsterdam, the Indian team played a game in the Olympic Stadium — three weeks before it opened. An Amsterdam selection team was the opponent during this extremely unofficial opening of the Olympic Stadium. It was part of a rehearsal in the run-up to the Games. The visiting team won 15-2. The Indian team played three more matches in Holland. They beat Arnhem Hockey Club 8-0 on 28th April; Holland Olympic A team 8- 0 in Amsterdam on 2nd May; Holland X1 8-1 in The Hague on 5th May. After the matches in Holland, the team played two matches in Germany. They beat Hanover 10-0 on 6th May and Berlin X1 5-1 on 7th May. The team played one match in Brussels, against a Brussels XI, winning 10-2 on 13th May before returning to Amsterdam on the 14th May for a friendly match against an Amsterdam XI.

HISTORIC 17.O5.1928: India played its maiden Olympic match on this day, against Austria at the Old Stadium at 1700 hrs.The Indian team in their first Olympic Games match was:

GK: Richard James Allen (Bengal)

RB: Michael E Rocque (Central Province)

LB: Leslie C Hammond (United Province)

RH: Rex Norris (Central Province)

CH: Broome Eric Pinniger (Punjab) captain

LH: William James Goodsir-Cullen (United Province)

RW: Maurice A Gateley (Punjab)

RI: Shaukat Ali (Bengal)

CF: Dhyan Chand (United Province)

LI: George E Marthins (United Province)

LW: Frederick S Seaman (United Province)

Centre forward Dhyan Chand gave India the lead in the 6th minute by scoring India’s first goal at Olympic Games. He added two more to give India a 3-0 lead at half time. George Marthins scored two goals and Shaukat Ali one goal to give India a comfortable 6-0 win. (Some Indian sources state Dhyan Chand scored 4 goals, Gateley and Ali one each).

Indians dominate a goalmouth action, Amsterdam Olympics.

Photo: Courtesy of Nick Leeftink

18.05.1928: On this day in their second match which was against Belgium, played at the Old Stadium at 1630 hrs, India made three changes – Jaipal Singh playing at left-back and captaining the team; Shahzada Yusuf playing at left half; and Feroze Khan at inside-right. India defeated Belgium 9-0 with Feroze Khan scoring five goals. Frederic Seaman scored two and Dhyan Chand and George Marthins one each.

20.05.1928: At 1600 hrs on this day against Denmark India retained the same team as the previous match against Belgium. Dhyan Chand gave India an early lead in the 4th minute and added another in the 26th minute to give India a 2-0 lead at half-time. Feroze Khan broke his left collar bone in the 17th minute and the team played with only 10 players for the rest of the match (no substitutes were allowed then). Two more goals by Dhyan Chand and one by Frederic Seaman earned India a 5-0 win.

22.05.1928: At 1500 hrs at the Olympic Stadium, India played their last Pool A match against Switzerland. Jaipal Singh had not returned from England where he had gone after last Sunday’s match against Denmark and Leslie Hammond returned to his position as left-back. William Goodsir-Cullen returned as left-half, Maurice Gateley as right-winger in place of Shaukar Ali who was ill, with Frederick Seaman playing as left-inside and Shahzada Yusuf playing as left-winger. India defeated Switzerland 6-0 after leading 2-0 at half-time. George Marthins opened the scoring for India in the 6th minute and Maurice Gateley added another in the 26th minute to give India a 2-0 lead at half-time. Dhyan Chand scored two goals in quick succession in the 53rd and 55th minute to increase India’s lead to 4-0. Shahzada Yusuf added one and Maurice Gateley scored the last goal in the 65th minute. As winners of Division A, India qualified to play in the final of the Olympic Games against the winners of Division B*.

*(Some Indian sources have the scorers as Dhyan Chand 4, Maurice Gateley 1 and George Marthins 1)

Dutch Newspaper cuttings covering the 1928 Olympics.

Courtesy of Nick Leeftink

There are no primary sources available for the goal scorers either from the IOC, the then FIH or the Nederlandsche Hockey en Bandy Bond. My information for the goal scorers is based from four Dutch Newspapers: AlgemeenHandelsblad; De Telegraaf; Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant; De Maasbode which reported on the Games. All these papers covered the hockey matches and had full page coverage of the final (courtesy of Nick Leeftink (

THE FINAL: The final was played on Saturday 26th May 1928 at 15.45 hrs at the Olympic Stadium. The Indian squad of 15 had been reduced to 11. Jaipal Singh did not return, Kehar Singh Gill nursed a knee injury, Feroze Khan had broken his left collar bone as already noted and Shaukat Ali was in bed with flu.

The final was played in a very sporty manner. A capacity crowd of 40,000 in the Olympic Stadium saw India defeat the home side 3-0. Dhyan Chand scored the opening goal in the 15th minute to give his team a 1-0 lead at half-time. He scored his second goal within two minutes of the start of the second half and six minutes later George Marthins made it 3-0. The Statesman newspaper reported that “at the end of this memorable final, Penniger, the captain of India team, was carried shoulder high by the Dutch team and so was the captain of the Dutch team by the Indian player”. This is also echoed in The Anglo-Indian Review, June 1928.

Medal Ceremony 1928 Olympic Games. Photo: Courtesy of Nick Leeftink

1928 Olympic Gold Medal. (Rex Norris family collection in London)

Germany defeated Belgium 3-0 on 26th May 1928 to finish third (Indian Umpires, Edward Ricketts and Bruce Turnbull umpired this match). Thus the final three positions were: 1st India (gold medal); 2nd Holland (silver); 3rd Germany (bronze).

Indian and Holland Teams after the 1928 Olympic Final

Photo: Nick Leeftink collection

Near the end of the Olympic hockey tournament the journal Revue der Sporten would write about the British Indians: “They have loosened up here, these people most of whom are of a different race, of different customs, of different notions. They have experienced a friendly welcome here and were given a sincere handshake. They came from England, where they hardly received any attention, where they were treated very coolly, and where the appreciation for their game and gentlemanly conduct was not rewarded with a warm handshake. Here they found hockey players who received them as friends, here they were regarded as sportsmen. Small wonder, therefore, that they feel at home in our country! Watch them sit around in the Hotel Zomerzorg, which has been almost exclusively reserved for them. They are having a good time in wonderful surroundings, with forests, dunes and the seaside. They are happy and contented.”

The fact that the Dutch eleven had reached the hockey final created such enthusiasm that the Olympic Stadium was sold out for the first time, in no time.

PRAISE FROM THE PRESS: As per De Corinthian, a journal for the sports elite observed the build up thus: “Towards one o’clock the trams in the direction of the Stadium were crammed. Taxis were nowhere to be had and the occasional one which became available was stormed immediately. There was only one traffic flow in our great capital, going in the direction of the Olympic Stadium in the South of Amsterdam. In the Van Tuyllplein thousands of cars from all parts of the continent were parked. All this for a hockey match: hockey, which was virtually unknown to the masses a fortnight ago.”

The British-Indian superiority in the Olympic tournament clearly manifested itself in their goal difference: 29 scored and nil conceded, which meant that goalkeeper Richard Allen had kept his goal clean in all five matches. Although the second half was a formality the spectators remained enthusiastic till the end.

1928 Indian Olympic hockey team.

K. Arumugam collection

“The Dutch and the Asians, who were delighted with their warm welcome in Amsterdam, hit it off. Earlier they had not felt at ease in England, where they had experienced arrogance and chill. In the Netherlands they were welcome and the meetings on the hockey pitch took place in a very friendly spirit from the beginning”.

Out of gratitude for the Dutch hospitality the British Indians proved themselves patient teachers who helped the Dutch hockey players where they could. According to De Waal the Netherlands owed their excellent performance in the Games and the fact that they even defeated Germany, the number one in Europe, to the Asian lessons. This feat was greeted with great enthusiasm by the British Indians. To their great amazement the Dutch hockey players were carried around on the shoulders of their friends from the Far East after their victory over Germany.

TAIL PIECE: Three days before the final, the FIH formally approved India’s membership, Colonel Bruce Turnbull was appointed to the FIH Council. Provisional admission was granted on 6th May. Thus, India became the first non-European country to become an FIH member. Edward Wallace Claud Ricketts, Bruce Turnbull and Albert Barmes Roser were the three officials from India at the Amsterdam 1928 Olympic Games.