Home > News >

Remembering Percy Jeeves and Britain’s other War heroes

Remembering Percy Jeeves and Great Britain's other War heroes
Percy Jeeves. Photo Courtesy – The Cricketer International.

By Julian Guyer

 

London: June 20, 2014

It promised to be another glorious summer for one of England‘s most celebrated poets, the ‘real’ Jeeves and a cricket-playing curate.

Yet 1914 saw all three plunged into the maelstrom of World War I, far removed from the comforting sounds of leather on willow, polite applause for a well-struck shot and a break in play for tea.

Along with millions of other men they would never return to the pitches of home.

But their contribution to the war and the game has been painstakingly recalled in a new book, “Wisden on the Great War — The Lives of Cricket’s Fallen 1914-1918″.

The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once wrote that the English “are not a very spiritual people, so they invented cricket to give them some idea of eternity”.

If that’s the case, then Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, the sport’s annual of record published every year since 1864 — even throughout both World Wars — fulfils the role of the ‘Bible’.

A hundred years after the start of World War I, journalist Andrew Renshaw has delved into the Wisden archives and beyond to record the heroism of hundreds of cricketers killed in the conflict.

One was Percy Jeeves, a promising all-rounder who gave his name to the valet who served buffoonish Bertie Wooster’s gentleman in the books by English comic novelist P.G. Wodehouse.

Wodehouse was “impressed by his demeanour when he saw Percy Jeeves playing in a county match at Cheltenham in 1913″, Renshaw told AFP in an interview.

Jeeves died serving with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in 1916. Recording his death, Wisden said England had lost a cricketer “of whom very high hopes had been entertained”.

If cricket is often regarded as quintessentially English, so too is understatement and Wisden’s obituary notice for the poet Rupert Brooke, who died in 1915, is a fine example.

“In 1906 he was in the Rugby (School) Eleven, and although he was unsuccessful in the Marlborough match he headed the School’s bowling averages with a record of 19 wickets for 14.05 runs each. He had gainedconsiderable reputation as a poet,” the notice read.

War meant attendance meagre

The advent of war soon saw all first-class matches in England suspended, although some matches in progress were allowed to be played to a finish.

Not that Wisden got too carried away. Its account of a match between Kent and Northamptonshire on August 4, 1914, concluded: “Owing to the outbreak of the war, the attendance was extremely meagre.”

Rather than a record of cricket as such, the Wisdens of 1914-1918 were a prolonged series of obituaries for a generation cut down in their prime.

But the tone, in keeping with the standards of the time, remained of the ‘stiff upper lip’ variety.

Its record of Lieutenant Arthur Collins of the Royal Engineers, killed in the slaughter of Ypres, recalls how he “came suddenly into note by scoring 628 not out in a junior house match at Clifton College in June 1899, when he was only 13 years old”.

It remains, Renshaw says, the highest score ever recorded.

One of the new stories unearthed in the research is that of Reverend Rupert Inglis, a forces chaplain whose original Wisden obituary was a brief entry focused on his career as a schoolboy cricketer.

A rector in the Kent village of Frittenden, Inglis wrote regularly to his parishioners from the front at Ypres and the Somme where, in breaks from the fighting, he helped organise games for the soldiers.

In one letter he described how MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club), the owners of London’s Lord’s Cricket Ground and still to this day responsible for the sport’s ‘Laws’ or rules, “have sent me some splendid cricket things”.

“I can’t imagine what you’d want with bats or pads in a trench, but it just goes to show the impact the game had,” Renshaw told AFP in an interview.

Inglis died on September 18, 1916, when, searching for wounded soldiers in ‘No Man’s Land’, he was hit by a shell and killed instantly.

Plenty of cricket

Cricket, being a sport played mainly in the countries of what was the British Empire, has no equivalent of the celebrated football match said to have taken place between Allied and German troops on the Western Front during the Christmas truce of 1914.

But Allied soldiers continued to play cricket amongst themselves, sometimes in unlikely venues.

In 1914, Jack MacBryan scored 61 for Somerset against Gloucestershire, but in August that year was wounded at the Battle of Le Cateau, in France.

He “spent the rest of the war as a prisoner, latterly in Holland, where he was able to play plenty of cricket,” according to his Wisden obituary.

Jack’s brother Edward, who played for Oundle, Jesus College Cambridge and the county of Wiltshire, was killed aged 22 in 1916.

After the war, Jack was selected to play for England in the fourth Test against South Africa at Old Trafford, “but the match was ruined by rain and he did not bat”.

It was to be the only England appearance of “a neat and polished batsman” who, at the time of his death aged 90 in 1983, was England’s oldest-living Test player.

South Africa in Zimbabwe, 2014

Aug 21, 2014 (13:00 IST)   at Bulawayo

Bangladesh Tour of West Indies, 2014

Aug 22, 2014 (19:00 IST)   at St George's, Grenada

Pakistan tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Aug 23, 2014 (10:00 IST)   at Hambantota

India tour of England 2014

Aug 25, 2014 (15:00 IST)   at Bristol

Bangladesh Tour of West Indies, 2014

Aug 25, 2014 (00:00 IST)   at Basseterre, St Kitts

More

Bangladesh Tour of West Indies, 2014

Aug 20, 2014  at St George's, Grenada

West Indies won by 3 wkts

South Africa in Zimbabwe, 2014

Aug 19, 2014  at Bulawayo

South Africa won by 61 runs

South Africa in Zimbabwe, 2014

Aug 17, 2014  at Bulawayo

South Africa won by 93 runs

India tour of England 2014

Aug 15, 2014  at London

England won by an innings and 244 runs

Pakistan tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Aug 14, 2014  at Colombo

Sri Lanka won by 105 runs

Photos

Highlights of Mahela Jayawardene’s Test career

Videos

Hughes explains technique behind cut shot

West Indies vs Bangladesh Live Cricket Score, 1st ODI at St George’s: West Indies win by 3 wickets

Len Pascoe: There was a hospital ward named after Jeff Thomson and me

India tour of Australia 2014-15: 5 ways India can avoid another overseas embarrassment

MS Dhoni can benefit from borrowing the ‘Sourav Ganguly School of leadership’

Ravi Shastri inspired confidence as player and captain: Will he do it in a coaching capacity?

England England vs India England vs India 2014 India India tour of England 2014 India vs England India vs England 2014 Pakistan Pakistan tour of Sri Lanka 2014 Pakistan vs Sri Lanka Pakistan vs Sri Lanka 2014 Sri Lanka Sri Lanka vs Pakistan Sri Lanka vs Pakistan 2014

Stuart Broad to undergo knee surgery on September 4

West Indies vs Bangladesh 2014: Why West Indies’ victory is statistically significant

West Indies beat Bangladesh by 3 wickets in 1st ODI at Grenada

India vs England 2014: Duncan Fletcher, Joe Daws conduct practice at Lord’s ahead of ODI series

HPCA saga: High Court gives government 10 days to reply to writ petition

India Women vs England Women ODI series: Test victory should motivate them to improve their ODI record in England

Science of slip fielding: What might be wrong with Team India’s slip cordon

A statistical review of Mahela Jayawardene’s Test career

India tour of England 2014: Is IPL really the cause of India’s woes abroad?

West Indies vs Bangladesh 2014: Why West Indies’ victory is statistically significant

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

659 Posts | 6 Fans

India tour of England 2014: Sunil Gavaskar says Indian batsmen did not learn anything

George W Bush takes ice bucket challenge, dares Bill Clinton

Science of slip fielding: What might be wrong with Team India’s slip cordon

Vidya Balan gets caught while watching Salman Khan’s Kick in disguise!

Ebola in Liberia: Ebola quarantine zone turns violent as soldiers open fire

Hrithik Roshan will not romance Jacqueline Fernandez

A statistical review of Mahela Jayawardene’s Test career

Militants attack major air base in eastern Syria

How much money has the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge raised till now?

OnePlus starts hiring in India ahead of launch

America, Are you ready to cheer for MOMS?

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here