Cricket’s Tryst with World War II
World War II was one of the deadliest disputes in history, disturbing mankind across the world. People faced hardships with 50 million casualties spread over the course of six bloody years. Sporting events were suspended across the world.
In the middle of all the despair and negativity, the iconic Lord’s Cricket Stadium arranged to host a match between the Army and the Royal Air Force on 29th July 1944. Battles were raging across the face of Europe and the South-East of England was repeatedly being attacked with V-1 flying bombs. World War II was raging fiercely. The Oval was to be utilized as a containment zone for the captives from the war.
In the middle of this, a cricket match, to lift the spirit of the people.
The Marylebone Cricket Club took on the role of a guardian angel for the sport, actively hosting cricket matches, with Sir Pelham Warner the catalyst behind organizing them. The Royal Navy, the Army, RAF (Royal Air Force), and the Buccaneers had already played a bunch of games at Lord’s. Following this, in 1944, the Army took on the RAF wherein they wouldn’t have expected what they were heading into —- A scene of cricketers scattered across the ground courtesy of a V-1 flying bomb.
The game had an attendance of crowds in decent numbers with up to 3100 slottings in the one-match innings. Bob Wyatt, Charlie Palmer and Godfrey Evans were some well-recognized players who were playing that game. Wally Hammond was the day’s crowd magnet, making a return to England after serving as the Squadron Leader in the RAF in Egypt.
The match began around 2 pm after rains played spoilsport and delayed the start of play. The Army won the toss and chose to bat. They started well and kept the scoreboard ticking. The match went on without a fuss and a tight battle between both teams was on the cards.
However, an hour into play, a German aircraft intruded British airspace and was hovering over the ground behind overcast clouds. The V-1 bomb was set to drop somewhere around Lord’s stadium. At that moment, Bob Wyatt who was midway into his run-up to bowl fell flat on the ground. The crowd went into a ruckus and ran for shelter wherever they could find one. The view of Jack Robertson gripping his bat, Andy Wilson, Edrich and Austin Mathews all splayed on the ground became a striking memory in the cricketing fraternity for years to come.
As luck would have it, the bomb landed 200 yards away in Albert Road and notably, the players displayed fearless grit to continue the proceedings. After the resumption of play, Robertson hit the first ball off Wyatt for a six with a hook shot, bringing the crowd back onto its feet and easing the tension. With this resumption of play, the usual hustle bustle resumed in the stands.
The Army put up 211 for 8, with David Townsend accumulating 52 and Robertson notching up a well-put 42. Nevertheless, they couldn’t emerge victorious due to the RAF hanging in there to produce a draw finishing with 129 for 9. The players would go on to remember the events long after they had left the dressing rooms.
Cricket’s tryst with World War II is seared across sporting history.
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Well written ???
Thank you ?