The History of Sport Played in China's Treaty Ports

Slater's funeral

The stairs down which the robbers fled only to meet Slater coming up. Photo of the stairs as they look today

The lobby area where Slater died as it looks today

The disappointment of the loss to Meiji was almost immediately forgotten when the tragic news reached members of the Shanghai rugby community on New Year’s Day 1937. Sergeant Slater, Mike to his rugby mates, was murdered while on duty on New Year’s Eve. Just before midday, he and two Chinese constables had been called out to an armed robbery in the vicinity of Peking Road. He arrived at the scene and entered 378 Peking Road, near Shantung Road.  As he entered the building, the robbers were running down the stairs clutching $4,500 that they had grabbed from the safe of the property renting agency on the fifth floor. The newspaper report continued; 'He started up the stairs with pistol drawn… Slater encountered the robbers on the first-floor landing and they opened fire on him. He was forced to retreat to the vestibule, where he took up position outside the lift door, covering the bottom of the stairway with his pistol. As the men reached the vestibule, Slater exchanged shots with them, was mortally wounded in the forehead, retreated a few steps back into the wider part of the vestibule and then slumped to the granite floor dead.'  An unarmed watchman also died when he tried to apprehend the criminals and several bystanders were hit in the hail of bullets as the robbers tried to make their getaway. They were chased by the Chinese constables who (according to the inquest) shot dead the Mauser pistol wielding robber that had murdered Slater. 

 The twenty-three year old was laid to rest in Bubbling Well Cemetery, his funeral attended by thousands of mourners including 1,000 uniformed men and senior police officers from the International Settlement and French Concession. 

A policeman on guard outside the scene of the shooting and below as it looks today

The team selected to play Meiji University during Christmas 1936. From left to right: W D Pearson, E M Slater, Gordon Brown, D H Stewart, J Bowerman, P Blix, J F Burford, R A O Mayne, A M Kennedy, A D Tarr, I M Macrae, J R Cole, W H T Pilcher, A G White, E C Blackwood

Bill Rig

A pag

A table at

The safe left open by the robbers

Slater impresses in the trial game played on 6 December 1936

 Eric Murray Slater was born in Burma on 19 March 1913, the son of an Indian Army Officer who later became a senior policeman. His father retired to Canada in 1931 where his son attended school in Victoria Island, Vancouver. 

  He arrived in Shanghai in 1934 and quickly made his mark in the Shanghai Municipal Police rugby team. 

By the 1937 – 37 season he was pushing for a place in the Shanghai Rugby interport team to be selected to play against the visiting Meiji University from Japan. He impressed in the trial games and was selected to play on the wing. The 2,500 spectators who watched the first game on Christmas Day 1936 were well entertained. The North China Daily News reported that the match was ‘one of the most thrilling matches seen in Shanghai for many a long day.’ Meiji scored two tries in the first half and led 6:0. In the second half Slater scored an opportunist try and E C Blackwood had a brilliant run on the other wing. The return fixture two days later was just as close, albeit with the same result when M Wada broke Shanghai hearts scoring a last minute try to snatch victory from the home team 11:8. In his last ever game of rugby, Slater, playing the game of his life, once again proved the selectors right to select him when he cut in from the wing and set up R H Roe to score one of Shanghai’s two tries and repeated the trick to set up R A O Mayne with the other. The following evening, Meiji was entertained at the Metropole Hotel before their return to Japan the next morning. 
Eric Murray Slater

Eric Murray Slater (1913 - 1936)