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All Black was bodyguard for Lawrence Of Arabia

February 20, 2014

He was given the name Beethoven but his career wasn’t in classical music.

Instead Beethoven Algar could produce a symphony of sidesteps as a versatile All Black in the 1920s.

However he had an even more heroic career as a courageous member of the Imperial Camel Corps in the First World War and as bodyguard and escort for Colonel .T. E. Lawrence, later known as Lawrence of Arabia.

Beet Algar, who died in Levin at the age of 95, is included in the New Zealand Rugby Museum’s 15 All Blacks or provincial rugby players who were killed in or survived the First World War.

The 15 identities will be featured in a Balls, Bullets and Boots inter-active exhibition which the Palmerston North based museum plans to display in May next year and then tour through New Zealand on the way to the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Beet Algar was chosen for the exhibition not just for representing Wellington in 1914 and then, from 1919 to 1922, but for his impressive war record and determination to return from serious injury on the battlefield at Gaza.

Beet was involved in three battles to secure Gaza and was wounded in the final battle which resulted in a four month recovery in a Cairo Hospital.

The Director of the New Zealand Rugby Museum, Stephen Berg, says Beet Algar appealed to him because of his courage and determination to put the war behind him and start a new life.

“Beet returned home and, as well as playing rugby at the top level where he represented the All Blacks in Australia and New Zealand, he became a builder,” he says.

“There’s something very special about the man who returned from the destruction of war and chose a profession where he could create and build something worthwhile.”

“Another milestone was his age. At the time of his death Beet Algar had been the oldest living All Black. ”

Stephen Berg says Beet is one of 15 enduring characters including the 1905 All Black captain, Dave Gallaher, who was killed in the Battle of the Somme, Bill Hardham VC and Philip “Dad” Bennett who enlisted at the age of 16 and then, after the war, returned to Nelson College to complete his education.

“These guys are inspiring, both the ones who died for their country and those who returned with a mission to start life afresh,” Stephen says.

Balls, Bullets and Boots is a $629,000 exhibition. The museum recently received $30,000 from the Eastern and Central Community Trust and has made application to the Lottery World War One Commemorations Environment and Heritage Committee for $434,000.

Stephen Berg expects to hear whether the submission has been successful by April.


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