Sunday, 9 November 2014

Matt Killingbeck

In economic terms, the 1930’s were a particularly difficult time for Featherstone Rovers. As soon as any up-and-coming player emerged, the club was forced to sell him just to make ends meet. This policy applied to wingers just as much as any other position.

The retirement of record-holder Jim Denton in 1934 paved the way for the next generation of Rovers wingmen to come through, and although a lot of promising talent passed through the club, none had the lasting impact of Denton. One local lad who did make his mark was Ralph Asquith. He was a fixture on the Rovers wing from 1933 to 1939 and was our top try scorer three times in the thirties as the club struggled at the bottom of the league. After he retired Ralph ran a Butcher’s shop in Station Lane for many years. He joined the Rovers committee in 1944, and later became vice-chairman.

Many players who rightly deserve to be remembered for their actions on the field. Sometimes though, the life of a Featherstone Rovers player goes way beyond that. On the opening day of the season in 1931 a fresh faced teenager by the name of Matt Killingbeck made his professional debut. He had a very successful first year with eight tries and 20 goals. He also played a bit at centre and was a classy footballer with a good brain. After a promising start to the following year, he was sold to raise funds. When World War Two broke out in 1939 he signed for Dewsbury, whose charismatic manager Eddie Waring was building a formidable team despite the war. Killingbeck was made Dewsbury’s captain. He actually came back to Featherstone for one last match and guested for Rovers against Huddersfield on 9th December 1939, making a career total of 59 games, 13 tries and 31 goals.

Matt joined the RAF and served with 10 Squadron, the “Halifax Bombers”. As a rear-gunner he knew his position in the fighter planes of that time was one of the most dangerous. His tour of duty was to fly 28 missions before receiving six months off. In April 1942 he was granted leave to attend his sister’s wedding with just one mission left to fly. When he came back, his regular crew were all on leave so Matt flew his last mission with another crew to complete his tour. On 9th May 1942 his plane was shot down over Berlin with the loss of all men on board. He was 30 years old. He left a widow Audrey and a young daughter. The name of Sergeant Matthew George Killingbeck is included on the memorial roll of honour in Heerstrasse War Cemetery where he is buried.

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