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The Robley Browne Diaries, Part 4: The Sporting Diaries c.1900

Posted by Jack Tannett, on December 8th, 2017


On May 24th 1900, the Royal Navy was mere days away from a major confrontation with the Chinese, and an attack on the Taku Forts.  But this didn’t stop them celebrating Queen Victoria’s Birthday in proper style by holding a Full Dress function on board ship, followed by a “gymkhana” competition between the many ships of the China Station fleet, anchored at Wei-Hai-Wei in Northern China.  Just three weeks later Robley was risking his life on the field of battle (see an earlier article), so who would begrudge the officers and men of the Royal Navy some fun when they could grab it?

The range of sports which were engaged in is quite remarkable.  There was cricket, rugby, football (soccer), and golf; going to the horse races was popular, and regattas were regular features.  Robley also played tennis, croquet, billiards, attended boxing matches, and went on shooting parties.  He attended a baseball game put on by the US Navy, and even tried “surf-bathing” once.  There was time for fishing; and it was amazing how far Robley would ride by bicycle to explore the places his ship visited.

All these activities Robley recorded in his diary, along with reports from local newspapers, programs, and some photographs.

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