Alf was one of many Rugby League players who served in the Armed Forces during the Second World War. He joined the Navy in 1942, and spent four hard years in the Submarine service. Living conditions undersea were particularly harsh. Whilst on patrol the crew had no fresh air to breath, ate mostly rations of canned food and did not see sunlight for days on end. Alf was a crewman on HMS Spiteful, which spent the latter part of the war stationed in Freemantle, Western Australia, and during this time made the 3 longest wartime patrols by any ‘S’ class submarine – 34, 38 and 37 days. But surviving the rigours of life undersea was a minor concern in comparison to the threat from enemy attacks. Out of around 270 British Submarines that were deployed during the war years, 72 were lost along with their crews, which amounted to over 2000 men.
On returning to civilian life after the war, Alf resumed his Rugby League career with great enthusiasm and no little success. Although just missing out on domestic honours with Hunslet, he represented Great Britain in two test matches against New Zealand in 1951, and three years later toured Australia with the Lions party, led by Dickie Williams. Alf feels that the time he spent in the Navy played an important role in his subsequent success as a player. Surviving the hardships of life undersea gave him a mental strength which suited his combative style as a halfback and he was able to take on the big, uncompromising forwards of the post-war era without trepidation.