The USMC Challenge Trophy (The Tunney Cup)

Capt JJ Tunney & General LST Halliday VC, CB, RM Adjutant General Royal Marines

Capt J.J. Tunney USMC  & General L. S. T. Halliday V.C., C.B., R.M., Adjutant General Royal Marines at the presentation of the Trophy on the 15th December 1928 on the parade ground of Portsmouth Division Royal Marines at Eastney Barracks Portsmouth.

The History of the Tunney Cup

When the Royal Marines gave the USMC a British Bulldog by the name of Private Pagett in 1927 (see Private Pagett page for more details), Major General Commandant John A. Lejeune USMC wrote the following letter to General L. S. T. Halliday V.C., C.B., R.M., Adjutant General Royal Marines on 24th March 1928.

My Dear General Halliday, The recent visit of the Royal Marines in HMS Cairo & HMS Calcutta to our eastern ports; also the joint service of the two bodies of Marines in China, which occasion has afforded an opportunity to renew their acquaintance , has caused a desire among the officers & men of the United States Marine Corps to perpetuate this bond of friendship by offering to the Royal Marines an Association Football Trophy to be contested by athletic teams of the Royal Marines only. Accordingly, I am happy to submit this inquiry with the hope that a favourable reply will be forthcoming. At this time I wish to take the opportunity to report that Private Pagett is in the best of health & has already won many friends in America. At present he is with the Marine Corps Baseball Team at their training camp.

General L. S. T. Halliday V.C., C.B., R.M., Adjutant General Royal Marines replied on 18th April 1928. My Dear General Lejeune, On behalf of the Royal Marines permit me to thank you & the officers & men of your distinguished Corps for the kind thought which prompted the offer of an Association Football Trophy for competition among ourselves, which offer we are most happy to accept. I feel sure that generous action of the US Marine Corps will have lasting effect in further cementing the bonds of comradship already existing between the two Marine Corps. Your report on Private Pagett has been promilgated, and all ranks are pleased to learn that he is well & developing into a good & efficient Marine.

Sergeant Major Charles R. Francis USMC

(Retired at the time) Was chosen to accompany the Trophy from America to England onboard the S.S Leviathan.

Sergeant Major Charles R Francis USMC

Charles R. Francis, retired Sergeant Major, USMC, who was selected by the Major General Commandant to accompany the Royal Marines Association Football Trophy to England, on the S.S. Leviathan, was born in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, on May 19th 1875. Enlisted in the Marine Corps on April 21st 1898 at Philadelphia Pa. He served continuously until April 30th 1923 when he was retired as a Sergeant Major. During World War 1 he was commissioned a second Lieutenant (Temporary) & served with the Fifth Regiment in France. Sergeant Major Francis has served at practically every home & foreign station in the Corps, as well as on many battleships including the Maine, Vermont, Kentucky, Dixie, Buffalo, Prairie & Tacoma.

In addition to receiving a good conduct medal & one bar, he has also been awarded the Navy Congressional Medal of Honor for extraordinary heroism at Tientsin, China on June 21st 1900. Here he served side by side with the British Marines during the Boxer rising & was badly wounded. The Navy Congressional Medal is the equivalent to our V.C. He is the holder also of the West Indian campaign medal (the cable cutting at Santago de Cuba on May 18th 1898), and the Philippine campaign badge, China Relief Medal, Samoa Expedition, Nicagurua Expedition, World War 1 (with 5 stars), Sampson Medal (Jamaica Expedition). He also wears the badge of an "Expert Marksman," having shot for the US against Australia in an International contest. Sergeant Major Francis arrived at Southampton in S.S. Leviathan on Tuesday 11th December. He was met by the Brigade Major & Supt. Clerk (W.O) Halliwell and taken via customs to the Officers Mess at Eastney Barracks Portsmouth were the journey took just under an hour and Sergeant Major Francis commented "Some driver that Major of yours, he takes the corners on two wheels!"

The Cup was at once unpacked & the Sergt-Major introduced to the Commandant. As a Matinee Musical was in progress, opportunity was afforded to show the cup to the C.-in-C., Admiral Sir O. de B. Brock, to whom Sergt-Major Francis was also presented. Sergt-Major Francis, who was accommodated in the W.O.'s Mess, dined that night with his british confreres in their mess, and a very pleasant evening was spent. The very first thing that struck everybody about Sergt-Major Francis was his remarkable, likeable personality, as the more one knew of him, the more one liked him; & our only regret was that he could not stay longer than he did - if only he could have stayed until after the presentation of the magnificent trophy, which he had brought over, it wouldn't have been so bad, but arriving at 4 p.m. on the 11th Dec & having to be aboard again by 8 a.m. on Friday 14th Dec was some hustle.

After looking around the Sgt's Mess & meeting the Sgt's who had turned out in force to greet him he was then taken to the W.O.'s Mess, where a good meal had been prepared, & 14 members sat down to partake of it, with our guest. An impromptu concert was held in the Billiard Room, with great success. A first class jazz band from the R.N. School of Music had much to do with the success of the evening, and concerted items on piano & violin by B.M. (W.O.'s) Green & Kenward were rendered in an exceptional manner. R.M. G. Layzell sprung the surprise of the night when he jumped up and sung the "Star Spangled Banner" which fitted in most appropriately. On the following day, Sergt-Major Francis was placed in the care of Sergt-Major Attwood, who took around the Barracks to see the various Departments working at "full preasure?" He was taken to the Commandant who presented him with something which he was not to open until he was aboard the S.S. Leviathan (what this was I dont know). He was then taken to the Dockyard & shown over H.M.S. Victory (the Sergt-Major of the Victory, Clr.-Sergt. Thomas acted as guide) & made the visit most interesting. He was greatly impressed when standing in the cock-pit where Lord Nelson died. It so happened that the original piece of oak known as the "Knee" (where Nelson's head rested when he died) which had recently been returned to H.M.S. Victory, was being replaced, & a small piece of this was given to Sergt-Major Francis. This precious piece of oak will be greatly treasured by him.

From the Victory he was taken aboard H.M.S. Nelson to lunch with the W.O.'s. He left the ship with several souvenirs given by the W.O.'s including a large photo of the ship, a portrait of Lord Nelson, autographed by all the W.O.'s aboard, and a Ships Badge (Nelson's Head). On Wednesday night he was the guest at the Sergeants Mess on the occasion of a smoking concert specially arranged. Q.M.S.I  B.P. Foster presided, & proposed the toast of the "United States Marines & Sergeant Major Francis"  He welcomed their guest & said it was the first occasion they had had a member of the American Corps in the Mess, but he hoped it would be remembered every time the trophy was played for. Members of the two Corps of Marines had met all over the world, hence they both wore the globe, and they had always been good comrades. He hoped the good feeling would continue throughout the ages. The toast was received with musical honours. Sergt-Major Francis in response, said the first thing he wanted to say was "I hope your King will recover" (Cheers). He could not express his admiration for the great gentleman they had at the head of their Empire. As to the Royal Marine Corps, it was marvellous. He was one of them by blood, for his mother was English & his Father was Scottish. They all had a small duty: to breed "honest to goodness" men & to live up to the blood that was in them. He had to serve his President & they to serve their King, & if they did that who was going to drop in & seperate them ?  The Marines were the finest branch of fighting forces of the United States, and the Royal Marines occupied a similar position with regard to the Imperial forces. He honoured them. When either Corps was ordered to do thing they did it.

The next morning accompanied by Mr. Halliwell, he proceeded to London & called on the U.S. Embassy, Capt J.J. Tunney, & the Adjutant-General, RM at the R.M.O., where he was presented with some souveniers & a warm welcome. Together with Mr. Halliwell, Sergeant Major Francis proceeded to Southampton on Friday morning & went on board the S.S. Leviathan.

 

The Presentation of the Trophy 15th December 1928

There was an impressive ceremony on the parade ground of the Portsmouth Division Royal Marines at Eastney on Saturday, 15th December 1928, when Capt J.J. Tunney, better known as Gene Tunney, the world's heavy weight boxing champion, attended on behalf of the United States Marine Corps to present the very fine trophy to the Royal Marines for Inter-Divisional competition at football. The trophy stands 26 inches high & weighs in all 86lbs. It has a marble plinth, with bronze base, and two bronze figures, representing footballers, supporting a massive silver cup. Captain Tunney - who was in mufti - travelled down from London, accompanied by the American Assistant Naval Attache (Lieut-Comdr H. F. Kingman, US Navy), & the Second Secretary at the American Embassy (Mr Raymond E Cox). They were met at the Officers Mess by the Commandant of Portsmouth Division (Brigadier A. G. Little, C.M.G) & his staff & were afterwards joined by the Adjutant Gerneral of the the Royal Marines, General L. S. T. Halliday, V.C., C.B., who inspected the guard drawn up in front of the Officers Mess.

On the parade ground there was a representative party of officers, N.C.O.'s & Marines from all divisions formed in a hollow square to witness the presentation of the trophy. The Commandant introduced Captain Tunney, not he said, that any introduction was necessary, because they all knew of his distinction in the boxing ring. But he had another distinction, which perhaps, everyone did not know. Captain Tunney was a US Marine, and had fought in France. That meant a lot to them. He had come all the way from Italy to present to them the magnificient cup on behalf of the USMC. He was sure that all would join with him in thanking Captain Tunney for putting himself to so much inconvenience to be there.

Captain Tunney said it was quite a privilege for him to be there on behalf of the United States Marine Corps to present the football trophy. The Brigadier mentioned something about inconvenience caused him in coming from Italy. He could assure them that it was no inconvenience, but on the contrary a great pleasure, and he appreciated the privilege of that assembly. The Trophy was presented to the British Marines by the American Marines as a token of friendship, the seed of which was sown 28 years earlier in China during the Boxer rebellion, where the two Corps of Marines fought side by side to suppress the trouble there. A friendship which had as a foundation the mutual admiration & respect of two bodies of fighting men was bound to endure anything. It was as a further token of their friendship that he was making that presentation. The officers & men of the United States Marine Corps joined him when he said he hoped the Cup would bring lots of good cheer, of goodwill, & merriment to the British Marine Corps. Capt Tunney ended by saying, At this time I should like to ask of you the privilege to bow my head in prayer for the speedy recovery of your King. The famous boxer then stood reverentlly with bowed head for several moments in silent prayer.

The Adjutant General replied , On behalf of the Royal Marines I thank the officers & men of the United States Marine Corps for sending us this splendid trophy, and I thank you, Captain Tunney, for having been so very kind as to come here to present it.