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    County cricketers and the 1914-18 War

    ECB remembers the most poignant stories of service and sacrifice from the world of cricket during the First World War.

    County cricketers and the 1914-18 War
    Cricket Remembers

    Cricketers were at the forefront of the effort during the First World War

    As part of Cricket Remembers, a campaign to commemorate the cricketers who so bravely fought in the Great War, cricket historian David Frith recalls the service and sacrifice from the world of cricket in the First World War and remembers some of the most poignant stories of cricketers involved in the war.

    The cataclysmic conflict of 1914 to 1918 was referred to as the Great War, and subsequently as the First World War after something just as horrendous was inflicted on mankind between 1939 and 1945. 

    The ’14-18 war was defined by the seemingly interminable, blood-soaked stalemate on the killing-fields of France and Belgium as patriotic fervour and optimism gave way to impatience, exhaustion and despair as the months dragged on. The human cost was beyond realistic description.

    Grief touched most households across the United Kingdom and in the homelands of her allies. Countless wives and mothers waited in dread for the telegram boy knocking on the door and conveying the worst possible news. 

    Cricket and the war effort 

    Cricketers, of course, were at the forefront of the war effort, their huge contribution encouraged by the illustrious Dr W.G. Grace’s call to arms. 

    Had he been younger, cricket’s mighty figurehead would surely have been among the first to don uniform. As it was, he shook his fist at the sinister clouds above south London which hid a lethal, groaning Zeppelin airship.

    “Now then, old boy,” said his friend Archie MacLaren, also a former captain of England, “you mustn’t get upset. Why, didn’t you face Ernie Jones [the bouncer-happy Australian fast bowler of the 1890s]?”  

    “That’s as may be,” groaned WG, “but I could see him!”  

    Days later, W.G. was dead following a stroke.

    “Those who returned home had been changed irreparably, mentally if not physically. And if they resumed playing the game with greater freedom, it was because of their intense relief at having a peaceful normal life restored.”

    Lives forever changed  

    Numerous county cricketers served in the ’14-18 war. Some were killed, Test cricketers among them.

    Those who returned home had been changed irreparably, mentally if not physically. And if they resumed playing the game with greater freedom, it was because of their intense relief at having a peaceful normal life restored.

    Few cricketers of the modern era fortunately have ever experienced real warfare, with all its brutality, horror, hopelessness, and despair.

    In the 8 August 1914 edition of the now-rare magazine The World of Cricketeditor Archie MacLaren opened his editorial with the same sort of patriotic words employed by most publications at the time: “Armageddon may well be at hand. As one writes the talk is all of War-War-War!

    “Cricket is naturally pushed into the background – naturally and rightly – big a part as the greatest of games plays in our national life. Yet when the thrilling call – ‘Who is on our side?’ – goes forth, the debt the nation owes to cricket ought not to be forgotten.

    “In spite of occasional squabbles – Sydney barracking, Bloemfontein incidents, and the like – cricket has perhaps done more than anything else to weld together.

    “Those who kneel beside us/ At altars not Thine own – as Kipling has it in his noble Hymn Before Action. And among the bonds that bind them will be the bond of cricket.” 

    Stirring stuff typical of MacLaren, who had scored 424 for Lancashire against Somerset 20 years previously, as well as five Test hundreds against Australia. 

    Village greens to county clubs 

    This and much similar editorial material was consumed around the nation at that fearful time.

    Cricketers from village greens to county clubs, some only just out of school, volunteered to go to war during that tense autumn of 1914. The cricket season had only just been somehow completed midst the disruption. 

    The Oval was requisitioned by the Army, so Surrey’s match against Kent (Jack Hobbs’s benefit match), followed by one against Yorkshire, were both played at Lord’s. The Surrey committee then decided to cancel the last two fixtures of the season, against Sussex at Hove and Leicestershire at The Oval.

    In the final edition of The World of Cricket, Archie MacLaren featured Percy Jeeves of Warwickshire on the front cover. He seemed to be a certainty to be capped by England in the near future: but he was one of those destined not to survive the war.

    There was a pointed reference to remarks uttered by Lord Roberts in a recruiting speech regarding “people who went on playing cricket at such a time”. 

    Ominously, gloomily, understandably, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey stated that “the lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime”.

    In the following (and final) edition of his magazine, MacLaren featured two Men of the Season on the front cover. One was Percy Jeeves of Warwickshire. He seemed to be a certainty to be capped by England in the near future: but he was one of those destined not to survive the war.

    MacLaren’s “Pavilion Gossip” was confident, but a little more serious than ever before: “The days of waiting are past. Great Britain is at war, and the people are glad thereof – glad with no riotous gladness, with no cocksure assurance, but soberly, sternly glad. 

    “It is not that we wanted war; but we could not brook dishonour. 

    “We had to stand by our friends, and to bear England’s old, great part – that of the nation towards which the little peoples looked as a shield and buckler against the arrogant tyranny of the continental despots.” 

    Incalculable loss 

    Beyond county cricket, it is sobering to reflect that for every first-class cricketer who lost his life in the “Great War”, the roll-call of “ordinary” cricketers killed while fighting for their country remains incalculable. 

    Club cricketers, apprentices and college boys innumerable died for the cause, some of them still in their teens. 

    Their symbol might be Arthur Collins, who as a 13-year-old Clifton College schoolboy had scored 628 not out in a house match in 1899, for over a century the highest score made in a properly organised cricket match.

    Club cricketers, apprentices and college boys innumerable died for the cause, some of them still in their teens.

    He became a career soldier, a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers, and was killed during the first Battle of Ypres.

    The date was 11 November 1914, and had the world but known it, this dreadful war had still to drag on for precisely four more years. The young cricket record-holder’s name is to be found on the Menin Gate Memorial in Belgium, as are the names of a multitude of other servicemen whose remains were not recovered.  

    Ultimate sacrifice and the Greater Game  

    Young British men, and some not so young, crossed the Channel on their way to war, patriotic, indignant and angry at German aggression and barbaric cruelty; and a little frightened too, for they were only human, and very young, many of them, with vivid imaginations.

    And some were cricketers, good players, some of them county players, and a handful of them had played for their country.

    Of those who came home, some like Harry Lee carried injuries for life, though they resumed playing the game they loved. Some, like Andy Sandham (who in 1929-30 became the first to score a Test triple-century), were removed from the firing line by injury. 

    One – Percy Jeeves, who was killed in France – was even immortalised beyond the pages of Wisden, when P.G. Wodehouse adopted the surname for his classic manservant of fiction.  

    The cricket that they played is barely recognisable today. Their white/cream attire had no commercial logos; their bats were lightweight; batting gloves were flimsy; caps, sun hats and sometimes trilby hats were worn, though many preferred to be bare-headed, whether the bowling was fast or slow.

    Spectators sat on the grass by the boundary, and some grounds had dangerous spiked railings around the perimeter. The scores were available only in the evening or next morning’s penny or tupp’ny newspapers.

    As we commemorate the centenary of the end of that most horrifying conflict, it is also time to acknowledge the incalculable contribution of cricketers from the length and breadth of the British Isles and beyond.

    It was indeed The Greater Game.

    Cricket Remembers

    ECB Chief Executive Officer Tom Harrison on how the cricket family is honouring the efforts and sacrifices of those cricketers who fought and died during the First World War

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Privacy Policy

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We may supplement the information that you provide with other information that we obtain from our dealings with you (such as tickets you have purchased, newsletters you have subscribed to, events you or someone you book for have attended, achievements in cricket and details from other ECB services you have signed up for, use or have used such as Play-Cricket and We Are England Supporters) or which we receive from other organisations, such as other cricket organisations, sponsors or commercial partners.

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In order to understand how users use ECB Websites and our services and the things they are interested in, we may collect your Internet Protocol addresses (also known as IP addresses).  Your IP address is a unique address that computer devices (such as PCs, tablets and smartphones) use to identify themselves and in order to communicate with other devices in the network.

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In order to provide our products and services, we may, occasionally, appoint other organisations to carry out some of the processing activities on our behalf. These may include, for example, technology hosts, printing companies and mailing houses. In these circumstances, we will ensure that personal information is properly protected and that it is only used in accordance with this Privacy Policy.

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As the national governing body for cricket, the ECB has relationships with other cricket related organisations such as First Class Cricket Counties, County Cricket Boards, cricket clubs and cricket leagues (each a Cricket Organisation) and some of the goods and services available on or through ECB Websites are provided by those Cricket Organisations. Each Cricket Organisation has its own privacy practices and you should check that you are satisfied with them before you provide any personal information to them. 

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ECB partner programme

The ECB, CRICKET ORGANISATIONS and ECB SPONSORS & PARTNERS would like to contact you and/or any person whose information you provide to us to invite you to enjoy other products and services (where you have agreed to us sending an invitation), to provide newsletters and to tell you and/or them about offers and opportunities that are available and about a range of other initiatives in a number of ways, including by post, text message, email or, for relevant services, push notification, personalised on-screen messages and social media.   Details of how to opt-in to or opt-out of receiving newsletters and details of offers are on relevant pages of the ECB Websites, in relevant forms you complete and/or in the electronic message you receive.  

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Security

We take the security of personal information seriously.  We employ security technology, including firewalls, and Secure Socket Layers to safeguard information and have procedures in place to ensure that our paper and computer systems and databases are protected against unauthorised disclosure, use, loss and damage.

We only use third party service providers where we are satisfied that they provide adequate security for your personal data.

Monitoring

We may monitor or record telephone calls for security purposes and to improve the quality of the services we provide to you.

Data retention

We will normally keep your personal data for two years unless we say otherwise in the privacy notice you are given. If, after this point, you have not taken up any further services, we will keep only minimal personal data about goods or services you have had from us, an outline of any incidents and details of any preferences or consents.

Use of your information outside of Europe

Unless we say otherwise in the privacy notice you are given, we do not transfer personal data outside of the United Kingdom or the European Economic Area other than, potentially, to a few of our service providers based in the United States. Wherever we transfer your personal data outside of the European Economic Area, we will take proper steps to ensure that it is protected in accordance with this Privacy Policy and applicable privacy laws.

If you provide any information to us in relation to tickets or other services for the Cricket World Cup 2019, we may provide details to the International Cricket Council (ICC), which is based in Dubai.  We will, of course, ensure that your information is transferred securely and in accordance with applicable privacy laws.

Changes to this privacy policy

Privacy laws and practice are constantly developing and we aim to meet high standards.  Our policies and procedures are, therefore, under continual review. We may, from time to time, update our security and privacy policies.  If we want to make any significant changes in how we will use your personal data we will contact you directly and, if required, seek your consent.

 We will ensure ECB Websites have our most up to date policy and suggest that you visit our privacy pages periodically to review our latest version.

Updating and correcting information

You may update or correct your personal information online in relevant membership areas or by contacting us in writing or by email (see the section ‘How to contact us’ below). Please include your name, address and/or email address when you contact us as this helps us to ensure that we accept amendments only from the correct person. We encourage you to promptly update your personal information if it changes.  

If you are providing updates or corrections about another person, we may require you to provide us with proof that you are authorised to provide that information to us.

Your rights

You have a number of legal rights in respect of your personal data.  These include: 

  • The right to receive a copy of the personal data that we hold about you. The same right applies to any other person whose personal data you provide to us.  We will require proof of identity and proof of authority if the request comes from someone other than the person whose data we are asked to provide.  This will ensure we only provide information to the correct person.  We normally expect to respond to requests within 28 days of receiving them.
  • withdraw consent to direct marketing. You can exercise this right at any time and can update your preferences yourself or ask us to do it for you.  See section ‘Updating and correcting your personal data’ above for details.
  • withdraw consent to other processing. Where the only legal basis for our processing your personal data is that we have your consent to do so, you may withdraw your consent to that processing at any time and we will have to stop processing your personal data.  Please note, this will only affect a new activity and does not mean that processing carried out before you withdrew your consent is unlawful.
  • If you consider any of your personal data is inaccurate, you can correct it yourself or ask us to do it for you (see section ‘Updating and correcting your personal data’ above for details).
  • In limited circumstances you may be able to require us to restrict our processing of your personal data.  For example, if you consider what we hold is inaccurate and we disagree, the processing may be restricted until the accuracy has been verified
  • In some circumstances, for example, where we have no legal basis for retaining your personal data, you may be entitled to require us to delete your personal data
  • Where our processing is based on it being in our legitimate interests, your rights and freedoms, based of your particular situation, may enable you to object to our processing
  • Where you have provided personal data to us electronically, you may be entitled to require us to provide that data to you electronically or to transmit it to another organisation.

How to contact us

Mail

Privacy Officer

England and Wales Cricket Board Limited

Lord’s Cricket Ground

London

NW8 8QZ

Phone 

0207 432 1200

Privacy officer

privacy@ecb.co.uk

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