Club History

For the club’s 50th anniversary in 1997/8 Geoff Hardy (President) and Brian Didlick (Secretary) compiled a club history, from which much of the following summary is taken, beginning with the opening paragraph.

Cheltenham Civil Service RFC - First ever 1st XV 1948 - Club History
Cheltenham Civil Service RFC - First ever 1st XV 1948

The club was formed, as the Foreign Office Rugby Football Club, in 1947 when Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) was based at Eastcote on the outskirts of London as part of the Foreign Office. The idea to form the club was the brainchild of Geoff Hardy and Hooky Walker while sitting in the bar overlooking the grounds of Swakeley’s House in Ickenham, the home of the Foreign Office Sports Association. Swakeley’s was a large mansion set in some 20 acres which also had space for about 10 residents. Both Geoff and Hooky were among those residents and although Geoff was playing for Wasps and Hooky for Pinner they decided that life would be much easier if a club could be formed to play rugby in their own backyard.

The club colours became navy blue because a set of shirts was acquired from London Scottish RFC – in those day the club had to apply to the Board of Trade for a supply of clothing coupons to buy kit, which was then re-sold to the players.

Not surprisingly the first match, in October 1947, was against a London Scottish XV. The club had no difficulty getting fixtures principally because their facilities were so good, but they suffered from a shortage of players. In 1950 they seriously considered giving up but fortunately numbers improved. 1952-3 was the best season yet, but the last at Swakeley’s, since GCHQ then moved to Cheltenham.

In Cheltenham, the club had players and enthusiasm but no ground or facilities. They persevered, using Naunton Park School pitch and learning the differences between London and Gloucestershire rugby the hard way. There was also a change of name at this time, initially to GCHQ RFC (1953), but finally to Cheltenham Civil Service RFC (1956). The RFU endorsed these name changes as still representing the same club.

By 1954-5 the Cheltenham Area Civil Service Sports Association (CACSSA) had negotiated with Cheltenham Borough Council for a lease on the present ground at Tewkesbury Road. Changing facilities had still to be built, but the club now had a firm base and prospered. They began to run a second XV, and in 1963 started a 3rd XV. All three teams have continued regularly since then. A 4th XV appeared in 1966-7 on an ad hoc basis, but became more permanent from1974-5. In the mid-90s a 5th XV appeared fairly regularly and on a handful of heady occasions even a 6th XV. Nowadays we are back to running an occasional 2nd XV

In the early days all matches were so-called friendlies until the Cheltenham & District Combination started a Senior Cup competition in 1965, and a Junior Cup for second teams in 1975. We won the Senior Cup in 1972/3, 1975/6, and 1981/2, and the Junior Cup in 1977/8, 1991/2, and 1992/3.

With the advent of national leagues in 1987, we were placed in Gloucester 2. 2001-2 saw us blunder into Gloucester 3 by having 2 points deducted and coming third from bottom, but we bounced straight back again , winning all our league matches. In 2004-5 we came second with promotion to Gloucester 1. This did not go well. We would have been relegated but for a re-organisation of the leagues, and we did get relegated in 2006-7. Our response was to win the League and move back into Gloucester 1, where we are now working hard towards further promotion.

In the 2010/2011 season Cheltenham Civil Service RFC added a women’s section to the club, during which friendly matches were played. At the end of a very successful season the women also reached the criteria required by the RFU to enter the official RFU leagues in the 2011/12 season.

As part of the club’s growth a junior section was founded in the 2017/2018 season known as “The Sharks”. Starting with just 3 players, the numbers are swelling season on season and the aim is that these young players will one day play for our senior sides.