The signature of the WRU secretary always used to be emblazoned on the bottom of every international match ticket and Bill’s was on the bottom of all tickets from 1956 to 1981 – 119 full internationals and many other touring and exhibition games.
He remains the second longest serving Secretary of the WRU, after Walter Rees, who did 52 years, and was in charge during the re-building of the Arms Park and the Centenary Season. When he died in February, 2007, he was 91 and had been the oldest surviving Welsh rugby international.
WHO WAS BILL CLEMENT
William Harries Clement was born at Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, on 9 April, 1915, and was educated at Llanelli County School. He made his debut for Llanelli RFC in a ‘missionary’ game at Penclawdd on 20 September, 1934, at the age of 19 and scored on his debut at Stradey Park against arch-rivals Swansea in a 15-3 win on 11 October that same season.
He played for Llanelli for four seasons before a knee injury, sustained on the 1938 British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa, brought his career to a premature end. He was in the side that faced the 1935 All Blacks at Stradey Park and was named as club captain in the 1938-39 season. The injury he picked up in South Africa restricted his playing time that season and finally forced to resign in February and eventually hang up his boots at the age of 24.He ended up scoring 83 tries for Llanelli in his all-too-brief career and won six caps for Wales in the 1937 and 1938 Home Nations Championships. He played in six games on the Lions tour, scoring four tries, two of which came in the win over Orange Free State.
As a player he was known as a deadly defender and a quick and elusive side-stepper. He scored one try for Wales in his six appearances, in the win over Ireland in his final game in Swansea.
HIS LIFE AFTER RUGBY
He was commissioned into the 4th Battalion, the Welch Regiment (4 WR), in 1939 and took part in the Normandy landings in June, 1944. On the night of 23 July, 1944, two companies of 4 WR raided an enemy position in the area of Le Bon Repos, near Caen.
Clement, then a Major, was in command of one of the companies which had to advance down 900 yards of a forward slope before reaching the objective. They came under heavy fire and Clement was wounded in the leg; all but four of the men in his leading platoon were killed or wounded.
Despite his injuries he rallied his company, pressed on to the objective and inflicted considerable casualties on the enemy, more than 30 of whom were killed in close-quarter fighting. When he was ordered to withdraw, Clement personally supervised the removal of the wounded and refused any treatment until he had returned to battalion HQ. He was awarded an immediate MC.
After he had recovered he rejoined 4 WR in Holland in January 1945 and resumed command of his company. He was wounded again in action in April that year.
Demobbed in 1946, he qualified as an accountant and became district auditor to Brecon County Council. He settled at Llanishen, Cardiff, where he was an accomplished golfer.
AS WRU SECRETARY
A few days after he took over from Eric Evans in 1956, shortly before the Wales v Scotland match, the ground at Cardiff Arms Park was frost-bound. There was no time to put down straw and he arranged for braziers to be brought in. These thawed the ground sufficiently for the game to go ahead.
He got off to a winning start as Secretary as Wales won the game 9-3. He went on to serve as Secretary for 25 years and will forever be remembered as an outstanding administrator.
In tandem with the honorary treasurer, Ken Harris, he helped to oversee the rebuilding of the old Cardiff Arms Park. During his time in office, the WRU led the world in a coaching revolution and won the Championship outright nine times, the Grand Slam three times and the Triple Crown seven times. He retired in 1981 at the end of the WRU centenary season and was appointed OBE.