As cricket fever threatens to sweep the country with The Ashes. This is a time to sit back and enjoy the familiar chat from the commentators as they eagerly dissect the game. What’s there not to love, especially with a cold beer and a bag of peanuts to hand?
For cricket lovers, here are 14 unusual facts you might not know about the England Cricket team during the World Wars…
World War I (1914-18)
- Test cricket was suspended at the outbreak of war. Around the world 210 first class cricketers joined their respective armies. 34 of them were killed in action.
- Old Trafford was used as a Red Cross Hospital. It treated over 1800 patients with beds squeezed into every available space.
- Geese were turned out to graze on the pitch at Lords during the war.
- ANZAC soldiers played a game of cricket under shellfire in Gallipoli during 1915. The Australians used the game to distract the Turks, while conducting a covert evacuation.
- In 1915 it was reported that officers and sergeants at Vermelles, France played cricket using a birdcage with a dead parrot as a wicket.
- John Smyth was a first class cricketer in WW1 to be awarded both the Victoria Cross for conspicuous gallantry and the Military Cross.
- British soldiers were taught how to throw a grenade, known as a Mills bomb, in a similar way to bowling a cricket ball, as captured in Geoffrey Stobie’s spoof cartoon of 1918.
World War II (1939-45)
- Once again, first class cricket in England was cancelled upon the outset of war with Germany. Elsewhere, it became very limited. Only India continued to play throughout the war. Servicemen stationed there were often able to join in with their domestic games.
- The Six County Championship games finished on the 1st September 1939, the day Germany invaded Poland. Sussex v Yorkshire at Hove proved to be the last match for first-class cricket in England until May 1945 when the Victory Tests began.
- Upon the outbreak of war, the Oval was earmarked as a prisoner of war camp, although in the end, no actual prisoners were held there.
- Lord’s was retained as a cricket ground throughout the war. It staged inter-service games in order to raise money for charity.
- The most renowned wartime cricket teams were the London Counties XI and the British Empire XI. They were established in 1940, the former by Desmond Donnelly, a politician in the RAF. Mainly county players, they played to strengthen morale.
- During July 1944, when a match between the Army and RAF was underway at Lords, a V-1 flying bomb landed close by, causing play to temporarily halt. After the explosion and once the dust settled, they got up and carried on.
- From the 19th May to the 22nd August 1945, Australia played England in a series of cricket matches known as the Victory Tests. They began just two weeks after the end of the war in Europe. They served as a morale boost for the general public, offering a snap shot of their life before the war. The love of cricket was rekindled, with the Ashes resuming play in 1920.
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