Dr John Clement (Clem) Windsor
Born 3 February 1923 – died 26 January 2007
Gregory Terrace (1929-1939)
Australia (1 Test 1947)
Dr John Clement (Clem) Windsor was a doyen of the Brisbane and Queensland community. A member of one of the most important and famous families of the St Josepeh’s College Gregory Terrace community, representing his state and nation in Rugby was only one of Clem’s life achievements. Windsor was also a prominent Brisbane doctor and noted philanthropist. None the less it was his play as a “spindly fullback” that saw him reach the height of Rugby achievement in Australia.
Dr John Clement (Clem) Windsor was the fourth son of Henry J. Windsor. The Windsor family was an integral part of the life of St Joseph’s Gregory Terrace. Henry Windsor’s four sons, Harry, Morgan, Gerard and Clem were all educated at Terrace and have since sent their sons to the school. In 1991, the House System introduced at Terrace named Windsor House in honour of Henry and his four sons. At the time of the inauguration of Windsor House, sixteen sons, grandsons and great grandsons of Henry had been, or were being, educated at the College. Clem remembers his school days at Terrace as happy times. Lunchtimes involved running home for a hot meal and then racing back to Terrace so as not to miss out on lunch time sporting activities . Clem remembers just scraping through his senior year, matriculating to do medicine. He believed he had played too much sport in his senior year, however, this love of sport would reap rewards in later years with selection for both the Australian and Queensland sides for Rugby Union.
As part of an active sporting family, Clem’s rugby career began with games of football in the back yard every morning in winter months. The family was encouraged in sporting endeavours and the morning football game consisted of Rafferty's rules with Dad the captain of both sides. Mary (Clem’s sister) had to partake as well, but Henry protected her from the overly physical aspects that often surfaced among the boys. Clem remembers disliking the morning's activity as he was too small to tackle his older brothers Harry and Morgan . In summer the family swam at the Valley Baths each morning. This consisted of a 7am start with a mandatory eight laps each or eight laps running round the pool for those who didn't complete their quota. Saturday mornings was the highlight of the week as this was free time consisting of diving and horse play. With the family’s affinity for the water Henry, in an act of generosity, paid for the installation of a 20 metre pool at Terrace and after that, the family used this pool instead of travelling to the Valley baths. In addition to this contribution to St Joseph’s the Windsor’s house, ‘Knock Brid’ (Biddy’s Hill), on Gregory Terrace was always open to priests, nuns, lay friends and particularly the Brothers from Terrace.
After his Terrace days, Clem played for Queensland University Club. Although nominally a centre or winger for Terrace, when he joined University he switched to the fullback position. Training was held at the Domain until it was taken over as army barracks in 1941and then the University club moved to Victoria Park. However, in accordance with war time exigencies sessions were limited by the amount of light available and the ability of players to get to Victoria Park at the end of the working day. In his University days, rugby finals were played on the Exhibition Oval. During show week the oval was churned up by horses, cattle, trucks and so forth and would be like playing on dirty concrete. The loss of skin to knee and elbow was quite a hazard. Always a strong club, University dominated Brisbane rugby during the War years, fielding two A-Grade sides, and also after the Second World War with players like Windsor, Winning, O’Neill, Hatherall, Sheil, Wilson, Donald and Guerassimof . Windsor refined his skills at University and played full back for ten years at Club, State and International level.
In 1945, the rugby season opened with the world still at war as the QRU were determined not to let the game lapse as it had after the First World War . Clem as University Captain, took the first post-war Varsity side to New South Wales to play Sydney University. Despite the narrow 21-20 loss, it was a fine effort by the team with Clem playing well and kicking a field goal from half way. The first interstate game was played several weeks later, in front of five thousand people on the dirty, hard Exhibition Oval. Due to the war the Queensland team was a mix of former schoolboys, POW’s and a spindly fullback (Windsor). A strong Queensland side defeated New South Wales 24-15 as it was felt the surface and heat took its toll on the New South Welshmen. Sadly, for the game, many great players were either lost to the Second World War or returned home unable to regain the fitness they once had after years in Prisoner of War camps.
With the return of many former representative players from war time service, the 1946 Queensland side was dramatically changed from the pervious year. However, Windsor retained his spot at fullback. Queensland lost both matches in Brisbane and were faced with a diliemma in filling Windsor’s place for the trip to Sydney for the return matches. Intent on his final year exam preparations, Windsor ruled himself out of this trip and effectively from selection for the 1946 Wallaby tour to New Zealand as these matches served as trial matches for the tour. In his autobiography Clem recalled his love for rugby, but after his poor senior high school results he also recognised the importance of concentrating on his studies.
After successfully graduating from Queensland University with a medical degree, Clem began his twelve month residency at the Mater Hospital and began to think seriously about his rugby career. To ensure he was available for matches every Saturday in the rugby season, he devised a plan. Clem would work eighteen consecutive summer weekends, swapping with fellow residents, who would then work his winter weekends. The workload was difficult and challenging, and to stay fit, Clem would run most nights and handling the football became a luxury reserved for match days only.
With the cessation of hostilities the Wallabies were invited to tour the British Isles and North America in 1947. It was at this time Clem set his mind to a place on that tour. It would be an exciting year for Rugby Union, with a visit from the All Blacks and the chance to tour as a Wallaby. The tour of the United Kingdom would follow the identical itinerary planned for the ill-fated 1939 tour that was suspended due to advent of World War II . However, before this tour could take place the Wallabies would face the All Blacks in a test series that would bring the first international side to Brisbane for over nine years.
Windsor was chosen for the 1947 Queensland team and in his personal reminisces revealed that he felt he was not really challenged for the position . The team went on to win against New South Wales at the Exhibition Ground 28-25, but would be defeated 32-6 and 25-11 in other matches against New South Wales . Despite Clem’s performance against New South Wales he was not chosen in the Wallabies side for the first Test at Brisbane’s Exhibition grounds on 14 June. The Australian side was beaten 13- 5 and selectors sought new faces to combat the New Zealanders dominance. Following their test wins, the All Black played the Queensland side and Windsor had an excellent match against the visitors ensuring his name was in the forefront of selected minds when they considered the fullback position for the second test. Despite missing the match again New Zealand in Toowoomba later that week, Frank Larkin, of the Telegraph reflected that in the tight match against the All Blacks for Queensland,
The Queensland Full Back, Clem Windsor, played the greatest games of his career. We have seen some excellent displays from this mercurial full back. His tackling was faultless. Called upon repeatedly, he never missed his man ...On his display today he should be the first choice for the full back position in the second Test [against New Zealand].
As expected major changes were made on the Australian team for the second test and the mild mannered, softly spoken Clem Windsor was presented with the opportunity to represent his county, replacing Brian Piper who was suffering a nagging leg problem . Fine conditions and a crowd of thirty thousand at the second test at the Sydney Cricket Ground did not help the Wallabies. Despite playing hard, as they knew the squad to tour the British Isles and North America would be announced that night, the Wallabies lost 27-14. Clem did not have a great game, dropping a ball that rebounded and resulted in an All Black try between the posts.
The Courier Mail saw the potential in Clem Windsor, reporting that, ‘although Clem Windsor, of Queensland, had a bad day on Saturday, he still has a chance of making the side, as on his day there is no one superior to him, except Piper’ The selectors agreed and Clem Windsor was chosen to represent his country on the tour. The Sydney Morning Herald, was not so kind, disagreeing with his selection in the Test side, claiming that the ‘inclusion of Dr. Clem Windsor after his inglorious display in the second Test, over B. Percival’ was a great surprise . Nonetheless, as the junior fullback on the touring team, Windsor would be understudy to Brian Piper in the fullback position. The team embarked on a ten month tour as the first Wallabies to tour England in almost forty years.
Ultimately, Windsor had had an extraordinary year, achieving all of his goals. He had graduated in medicine, completed his registration year at an accredited hospital, played his first test match, and was chosen to represent his country as a touring Wallaby. Clem believed the ultimate goal of any sportsman was to represent his country and perceived the Wallaby tour of the Northern Hemisphere to be the most prestigious of all tours. He was about to embark on a ten month odyssey that would lead him to work in Great Britain and to the love of his life, Patricia.
After a thirty day voyage, the Wallabies arrived in Cornwall to begin their tour of the British Isles, and despite strict food rationing, the locals looked after them very well. The tour consisted of thirty matches, including four tests. The Wallabies won three of the Tests and were only forced to lower their colors to the strong Welsh side in a close match 6-0. Clem was pleased with how he played and received considerable press in Wales. The Times praised the great speed and superb physiques of the tourists and reported that they played ‘fast, enterprising and attractive Rugby’ . The tour of the ‘Third Wallabies’, as they would become known, was deemed a great success, as it was enjoyed by both ‘visitors and homesters alike’ .
After the British Isles the Wallabies headed to France and the French proved to be the only international team to cross the Wallabies goal line. The Wallabies were defeated by an enormous and mobile French XV, but won their four other matches against a variety of teams and the Australian tourists found the French to be very enthusiastic supporters, when they were stoned in Toulon after scoring a try . The Queen Mary then took the tourists to North America, where they capped off a very successful tour, playing and winning all six of their matches.
After the Wallaby tour, Clem returned to England to further his medical studies. In his spare time he would play for Middlesex Hospital, Leicester and London Irish . Post-war England was slow to recover and the transition from ‘Wallaby’, with the best food available in England, to impoverished student, in bomb damaged shared accommodation, was quite a contrast. Clem spent six and half days of his week studying and Saturday afternoon playing rugby. Food shortages lasted for many years in post-war England so the food parcels sent by Clem’s family were great morale boosters. Clem retired from rugby in 1951 playing for Leicester. A knee injury cut his final game short but Clem retired happily to pursue his surgical career.
While living in England Clem worked at the Leicester City General Hospital and in 1950 gained his FRCS both of Edinburgh and England. All three Windsor boys now held the highest surgical qualification in the world, a Fellowship of the College . In 1963 after Henry received his FRACS, the Windsor’s became a unique family with father and three sons all double Fellows of two Royal Colleges. Clem’s medical career saw him meet Patricia Lee at Leicester General Hospital and after a short courtship, he proposed to her on Australia Day in 1953. Pat accepted without hesitation and knew that with it came the decision to leave her family and move to Australia. They were married on 1 July 1953 and sailed for Australia aboard the ‘Tasmanian Star’ in August that year.
In 1954 Clem gained his FRACS and was appointed Gastric Surgeon to the Mater Hospital . In 1957 he moved to the newly opened Princess Alexandra Hospital where he was the Hospital’s Gastroscopist until 1970. Windsor was appointed Senior Surgeon at the Hospital in 1971, a position he would keep until 1983, when he was appointed Clinical Warden in the University Department of Surgery. Then, in 1986 he was appointed Co-ordinator of Postgraduate Surgical Studies until 1991.
In addition to his work in Brisbane, Windsor also spent time working overseas. He volunteered for a tour of duty to Vietnam and was stationed at Ben Hien from 1968-69 with the SEATO Aid Program. The surgical teams were required to provide general surgical services to the civilian population and in addition to medical services establish goodwill and a relationship of trust with them. Conditions were difficult and the work schedule hectic as Doctors, nurses, and other medical staff were on call 24 hours a day. At regular intervals commencing in 1976, Clem also paid working visits to the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, Vanupope, New Britain. The complex was occupied by the Japanese in 1942 and many of the missionaries died during the war, due to execution or malnutrition. Surgical work for Clem consisted of problems arising from poor hygiene, malnutrition and anaemia and also caesarian deliveries. In 1991 Clem was invited to work in the United Arab Emirates, a position he believed was a unique experience; one thoroughly enjoyed by himself and Pat.
Clem passed away on the 26 January 2007, and a requiem mass was held at Our Lady Help of Christians Catholic Church at Hendra on 29th January. Neville Davis a dear friend and work colleague delivered the eulogy and described Clem as a truly compassionate man. Davis said that Clem had four great loves in his life – the Catholic Church, family, surgery and rugby . All four loves were linked to his time as a student of Gregory Terrace. Clem achieved great success in both his sporting and academic lives and considered himself blessed to have nine children and nineteen grandchildren.