16 June, 2013

1940 Cromwell

Bradman is lost in Norway

Bradman was attacked by German dive bombers in the shallow grey waters at the island of Molde off Aandalsnes in Norway on Anzac Day 1940.[1]

HMT Hammond (sister ship of the Bradman)

HMT Hammond (sister ship of the Bradman)

His Majesty’s Trawler Bradman was one of four Cricket-class trawlers of the 22nd Anti-Submarine Group that arrived at Aandalsnes on 21 April 1940, as the action-packed naval campaign opened around Norway, shattering the comparative quiet of the Western Front late 1939 and early 1940. The Cricket-class trawlers, named after famed cricketers of the day – HMT Bradman, Larwood, Hammond and Jardine – were all sunk in a week. The first three were lost in an air raid on Anzac Day 1940, and were later refloated and ignominiously pressed into service with the enemy.  Jardine – as England’s Bodyline captain, never a fan of Antipodeans – was the only one to escape destruction with the others, but was scuttled five days later. All were modern 452-ton trawlers built at the ancient fishing town of Grimsby in Lincolnshire by trawlerman and cricket buff Harry Crampin,[2] and commissioned into Royal Navy service in August 1940 for anti-submarine and minesweeping work.[3]

This was another example of the unfortunate history of the ‘Don Bradman’ name in arenas outside cricket. In England, the horse Don Bradman was an early pick for the 97th Grand National at Aintree in March 1938, though damned with faint praise as having ‘no great speed’ but a ‘reliable jumper’.[4] In fact, the race was won by the US-bred Battleship (‘plucky little winner of the American Grand National’) by a head at 40/1 – the first time a US horse had won the race. Don Bradman had run seventh in 1937 when it was dismounted at the first fence.[5]

All hell breaks loose

General Ironsides’ Poor Prediction

General Ironside and fellow commanders

General Ironside and fellow commanders

The Sydney Sun of Thursday 4 April 1940 carried (well-founded) rumours of a Scandinavian invasion by the Germans, according to sources in Stockholm and a ‘gigantic bid to smash the Maginot Line’ according to sources in Holland. Two days later, under the unfortunate headline “War Chief Says Hitler ‘Missed Bus’ – Allies Now Eager for Nazi’s Attack”[6] – British General Ironside noted that the British Army was ‘now ready for anything’ and ‘would welcome a go at the enemy’. He noted that Germany’s army on the other hand was ‘deteriorating from lack of employment and its morale must weaken’.

Spring of 1940

After the comparative calm of the winter of 1939/40 – though the extraordinary performance of the Finns against the unjustified aggression of the Soviet Union in the Winter War was just coming to an end – the advent of spring in the northern hemisphere saw an immediate outbreak of action. After digesting the western half of Poland, the Germans cast their eyes on the West, and fell first on Denmark and Norway in a lightning campaign in April and early May then unleashed an offensive in the West on France, Belgium and The Netherlands in early May. In mid-May British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resigned in favour of the pugnacious Winston Churchill. By early June, the British Expeditionary Force and the Belgian and Dutch forces had been smashed, and the remnants of the BEF were withdrawn to England from Dunkirk. A second wave of offensive in France in early June saw French resistance broken by 13 June, as Paris was declared an open city, and the French surrender and partition followed soon after. The Fall of France was a profound, almost unbelievable outcome, and the impact on the mood and outlook in Australia was immediate and electrifying. In just ten weeks, the Germans had knocked France out of the war, destroyed the British Expeditionary Force, and accomplished in the West what four years of combat and millions of casualties had not achieved during the Great War.

The Italians also joined the war in alliance with Germany in mid-June 1940 – with the major fighting in the West all over. This immediately extended the theatres of war to North Africa, where Italy had colonies flanking Egypt on both sides – in Libya and Italian East Africa (in parts of Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia) – as well as a strong navy, with bases in the Dodecanese Islands of Rhodes and Kos. At last, the Sixth Division, encamped in Palestine and Egypt, had a clear and proximate enemy.

In April 1940, the Seventh Division of the AIF was raised in Australia, and 17 Brigade left Victoria for the Middle East in mid-April. The 18 Brigade sailed for the Middle East in May, but was diverted to England early in the month. It was sent to provide some much-needed fresh manpower for the defence of England, against what seemed an imminent invasion. With the collapse of the line in Belgium and the Netherlands, recruitment for the Eighth Division of the AIF was accelerated, and began late in May 1940. The 19 Brigade was raised from Australian troops who were already in Palestine from late in May, and the Ninth Division – the fourth and final AIF infantry division of the war – was raised between May and October 1940. With some rearrangement and reorganisation of units on a new pattern, by early in 1941, three divisions – 6, 7 and 9 – were to be deployed to the Middle East, and 8 Division was deployed, as we shall see, to bolster the defences of the British territories in Malaya, to Australia’s tropical north.

Patriotism and the continuation of sport

The 1939/40 cricket season in Australia ended at Easter 1940 with relative quiet on the Western Front, and Prime Minister Menzies’ conservative ‘business as usual’ posture expressing a determination to preserve cricket in its usual position in Australian life, despite the exigencies of the war situation.

As the official war historian (Sir) Paul Hasluck put it:

“The oddity of the situation was that while a section of the people at least were convinced that the Government needed to be stirred up, the common judgment made in political circles was that the people were still mentally unprepared for war and that exceptional care would have to be taken to make certain that they would accept new burdens. … Nearly everything the Government did or tried to do was resisted by someone because it pinched him. … The life of the community, so far as it could be observed in the spending, recreation and entertainment of the people, was going on much the same as if there were no war. For example, in the daily newspapers the war provided the sensations for the front pages but the sporting, financial and social sections were much the same as in peacetime, or, if anything, a little more animated, while the display advertising of the department stores was just as prodigal”.[7]

War in the West, the fall of France and the entry of Italy on the side of Germans in 1940 completely shattered the complacency. A fierce debate arose again about the place of sport in Australian life, and the priority to be given to the war effort. Doubts again arose in the cricket world as enlistments reduced the ranks of available sportsmen, and there was a brief crisis of confidence following the fall of France. But after the forthright rejection of Bradman’s sentiments urging a suspension of the sport in July, and no visible case for suspension being put by Government, cricket continued on its way, mostly unchanged, in 1940/41.

Resolve to Continue

Percy Spender, the acting Treasurer, was one of the most senior figures in the Federal Government. He noted in mid-April 1940 to a meeting of cricketers in Manly that ‘the Empire and cricket had interacted remarkably to assist one another. ‘So much so’, he added, that ‘it is very doubtful to what extent either would survive the other’ … He ‘said that because cricket was in the blood of all Britishers, cricketers would not be slow in responding to the call of Empire’.[8] Despite these Empire sentiments, Spender was a modern and clear-eyed advocate of closer engagement with the Americans (pre- and post-war), and a highly concerned advocate for closer attention by Britain and Australia to the threat of Japan during 1940.

As the Australian winter began, the King’s Cup interstate rowing competition that was due to take place in April-May 1940 was suspended, and was to be resumed only in April 1946. But most other sports continued with their 1940 winter season. Late in May, despite the outbreak of war in the West, sporting officials across all codes ‘almost unanimously’ rejected any notion of the abandonment of sport for the duration of the war, as sport was deemed ‘valuable mentally and physically in war time’.[9] In other words, they continued to hew to what we labelled the continuationist position, in Chapter 3. In fact, with some notable exceptions – notably the position of Donald Bradman expressed after the fall of France – this remained the orthodoxy through the crisis of mid-1940.

Australia’s largest sporting organisation, outside the racing industry – the Victorian Football League – was forthright in its intentions. Early in June, in the midst of the crisis in Dunkirk, the VFL announced it intended to carry on the full season’s program with all twelve clubs, ‘unless the Federal Government expresses the wish that sport should be curtailed or stopped’. They made no changes to players’ pay, as they felt it was ‘not a deterrent to enlistment’, but all profits for the season (£6,000-7,000) were to be donated to war funds.[10] The NSW Rugby League soon followed suit.

The assumption early in 1940 was that the Sheffield Shield season would continue during 1940/41, and preparations for the fixtures by the State associations were generally well advanced. Through an exchange of letters, by early May, the associations had settled on a season very similar to that of 1939/40.[11]

Wobble in Wollongong

Wollongong cricket wobbled for an instant in June 1940 (Illawarra Mercury Fri 7 Jun 1940) when the leadership of the lllawarra District Cricket Association “decided to circularise all clubs within the association to ascertain the number of enlistments and probable enlistments of players. From the replies received the association will be able to decide future action at the annual meeting to be held next month. Mr. Mills stated this morning that during the last war there were no cricket competitions after the 1915-16 season until 1918, when cricket was resumed immediately following the armistice”. However play in the IDCA continued for the 1940/41 season, and continued with little interruption there throughout the war, as the wartime surge in industrial production of steel and coal led to a large increase in population of Wollongong and Port Kembla.

Claude the Continuationist

The continuationist camp led public opinion through the doubts that were engendered by the events of 1940. Its key supporters were senior politicians and sports administrators, and influential sporting editors. They stressed the positive role of organised sport in providing wholesome entertainment and fitness, and showing fortitude in the face of adversity. The ‘stiff upper lip’ preservation of normality, especially in a sport as central to the image of Empire as cricket, was also seen as a means of showing continued solidarity with England in its peril. The continuationists in the largely amateur sports like cricket and tennis were somewhat uneasy allies of the major football codes and the racing industry – which were thoroughly professional – in maintaining pressure for continuity in sport. An illusion of amateurism was created by the donation of vast quantities of money from the professional sports, and by the concept of ‘unofficial’ premierships during wartime, and various austerity measures.

Sports journalist Claude Corbett of the Sydney Sun (sporting editor since 1923) was a strident and steady voice for continuation of sport throughout the war. He noted at the beginning of June 1940 that “Rugby Union’s determination to continue with its competitions is to be applauded, and is in keeping with the decisions in all other branches of sport. Neither the Federal Government nor the military authorities desire a cessation of organised sport and it will be time enough to put up the shutters if and when the request is made”.[12] Though he fell silent as the dramatic events of June and July threatened the continuation of cricket, Corbett recovered his poise as the 1940/41 season opened in September. He opined that ‘sport is an absolute essential’,[13] and later, of ‘Sport for the youth, entertainment for the old’, that ‘without it, there would be chaos’, and it was ‘essential to well-being’.[14]

A Tennis Abolitionist

At the end of August 1940, Percy Wald, long-serving South Australian delegate to the Lawn Tennis Association of Australian, made the sensational and sweeping claim that none of the nation’s leading tennis players had enlisted, in his opposition to tennis-as-usual.[15] He had moved a motion to cancel the all-Australian tennis championship at the LTAA’s meeting at the beginning of June 1940 as France was falling.[16] Wald was an impassioned letter-writer to the newspapers and an ex-Digger. While his statement about tennis players in the services was far from accurate, and gave considerable offence,[17] he was far from the typical red-faced jingoistic stay-at-home, and his passion for the abolitionist cause was clearly genuine and heartfelt. He had won the Military Cross during the Great War as an infantry company commander at Messines Ridge in 1917.[18] In September 1940, he resigned his position as SA delegate to the LTAA after fourteen years, in disgust at the Association’s plans to continue some fixtures: ‘he strongly disapproved of able-bodied men over 21 being  encouraged to play championship tennis while women and children were being killed in air raids in England’.[19]

Fall of France

Hitler in Paris 1940

Hitler in Paris 1940

The remarkable withdrawal of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk took place in late May and early June, the final German attack on France (Fall Rot) began on 5 June, and Paris fell just a week later, leading to an armistice between France and Germany on 22 June 1940. German victory over France – its unsuccessful objective in four years of the Great War – had taken only ten months. The effect on Britain, and on Australia and the Empire, was electric.

From the complacent ‘business as usual’ sentiments of April and May, June saw an urgent reassessment of the position of sport and cricket, and the preparations for the 1940/41 cricket season were thrown into uncertainty. In mid-June, at the NSW Cricket Association’s Annual General Meeting, there was a clear view that the Sheffield Shield competition might be impossible – ‘Should the situation be as tense as it is now then there would be no justification for men to be tripping around this country playing cricket’. As usual, the Great War was immediately taken as a precedent, and the NSWCA noted a similar position might be taken as in 1914-15, with the suspension of the competition, limiting activities to Saturday games ‘and perhaps one or two for War Funds’.[20]

Doug ‘Dinah’ Green, banker, Tasmanian State cricket captain and star batsman for the North West Hobart club for almost twenty years, and now a Captain in the Pay Corps, barely made it out of the French capital before its fall, while he was in transit overland from the Middle East to London. He landed in England with the Dunkirk evacuees.[21]

The revision of domestic arrangements for 1940/41

Sydney Smith of the NSWCA spoke at the Mosman Cricket Club annual meeting in early July. He summed up his Association’s firm view that ‘cricket would be continued during the war’, though it was unlikely that interstate matches would be played. He also floated the rather nonsensical fig-leaf of a ‘non-competitive’ competition. [*BOX*Sydney Smith]

“I feel sure,” he added, “that cricketers and supporters agree that no premiership should be awarded while their mates are fighting on the other side of the world. No team would want to take advantage of any club which might happen to have a greater number of its members at the front. We have to remember that cricketers in England are fighting for their lives and for ours. I appeal to all cricketers who are fit to get into khaki, and help them.”[22]

His sentiments were echoed by the club’s patron, Sir Archdale ‘Spats’ Parkhill who noted ‘he did not see any advantage in discontinuing reasonable sport.

Parkhill was a prominent right-wing politician who had acted briefly as Prime Minister in the mid-thirties, and had been ejected from his Sydney seat in 1937 while Defence Minister by the young technocrat, and now Treasurer, Sir Percy Spender.

Sir Archdale Parkhill

Sir Archdale Parkhill

As Postmaster-General, visiting London in 1934, Parkhill lobbied Cable & Wireless for ‘the best possible broadcast of the cricket test matches’.[23] Formerly an excellent cricketer and boxer, fencer and horse-rider, by 1940 Parkhill cut a rather Edwardian figure. Short, at 5’ 4”, and increasingly rotund, he was a dandy – reportedly sporting cravats and spats at a surf carnival – with an affected Oxbridge accent, said to have been adopted after his knighthood. He carried an array of slightly disparaging but affectionate nicknames, as ‘Archie’, ‘Sir Spats’, ‘Sir Kewpie’, ‘Archduke’, and ‘Perky’.[24] He was Patron of the Mosman and North Sydney cricket clubs, and of the Northern Suburbs Cricket Association, and was a prominent and consistent continuationist voice through 1940, using the various annual meetings to hammer his point.

The Chairman of the Australian Cricket Board of Control, Aubrey Oxlade, summed up with another continuationist trope: it was up to the older men to keep the game going so that the clubs would be available to the young men when these came back from the war, and also to the schoolboys coming on.[25]

The South Australian Cricket Association cricket committee, meeting a week later, indicated it would be ‘inadvisable’ to carry out the 1940-41 Sheffield Shield competition, but suggested that South Australia stood ready to arrange a limited number of first-class matches ‘in the interests of patriotic funds’. At the same time, the VCA delegates in Melbourne came to similar conclusions, dispensing with the first grade premiership though continuing the matches as ‘unofficial’, and abolishing the VCA Colts team in the first grade competition. VCA Chairman Dr Morton moved a motion that Sheffield Shield matches should be abandoned, though the proviso was added that it was subject to review at any time.[26]

The State bodies were feeling their way towards a face-saving compromise. The solution appeared to lie in the abandonment of the Shield and premiership competitions, but continued first-class and first-grade competition, dressed up in patriotic garb.

Bradman’s bombshell

At the VCA meeting, Canon Hughes closed with a quote from a letter from Don Bradman. His apparently private and probably off-hand remark sparked a storm of controversy: the great Bradman appeared to have joined the abolitionists!

“Canon Hughes read a letter from Bradman, who said that he did not expect to be called up for service in the R.A.A.F. for three months, but he added that all sport should be forgotten in such times”.[27]

This perhaps formulaic remark ignited a storm of reaction from the continuationists. The next day, Dr Morton of the VCA was scathing in his assessment that ‘Bradman was a great cricketer but his opinion in this matter could not be supported’. “We are definitely of opinion that sport should continue until such time as the Government decides otherwise,” said Dr Morton. “It would be ridiculous to cancel it. If players wished to enlist the fact that sport is being played will not keep them from doing so and the public generally needs something of the kind to keep their thoughts for an hour or two off the war”.[28] The Minister for Supply and Social Services, Sir Frederick Stewart said that he believed that ‘some forms of sport, far from impeding the national war effort, served a useful purpose by improving physique and morale’. The unspoken, perhaps snobbish, assessment was that cricket was one of those ‘forms of sport’, though other forms – perhaps racing, and even professional football – were not.

The letter’s repercussions were felt beyond cricket. The President of the Victorian Football Association, J J Liston solicited the views of the Minister for the Army, the cricketing fanatic Brigadier Geoff Street, who advised ‘that he could see no good could be done by interfering with football fixtures at present’. In tennis, Sir Norman Brookes of the LTAA opined that ‘where it did not interfere with recruiting healthy sport should continue. Big interstate matches should not be played, but exhibition games should be held to benefit war funds’.[29]

Even in far-off London, preoccupied with the devastating German air raids (the ‘Blitz’) and the threat of invasion, English sporting writers picked up on the theme, and strong disagreed with Bradman’s sentiment. They pointed out that “the British authorities consider it important to carry on the people’s sport within reasonable limits. They emphasise that the Marylebone Cricket Club on the outbreak of war asked the Government’s advice and was urged to keep Lords open for the service of cricket”. [30]

Strangely, given the usual level of idolatry directed at the great cricketer, he was entirely friendless in this debate. His views clearly were at odds with those of the sporting community, Government and the mass of public opinion, as very few voices spoke up in defence of his (apparent) position. The man himself provided no further comment. Club Patron ‘Spats’ Parkhill, speaking at the North Sydney cricket club’s annual meeting noted ‘many players were being called to take part in a much bigger game, but it was essential to maintain the clubs for the training of the cricketers of the future’.  The meeting’s sentiment was ‘definitely in favour of continuing the game during the war, though the opinion was equally definite that there should be no interstate matches and no pot-hunting’.

Grand Compromise

Another grand compromise between the abolitionist and continuationist positions was reached in order to drive preparations for the 1940/41 season: there would be no Sheffield Shield competition, but a series of ‘patriotic’ matches of first-class standard, with any profits to flow to war funds, and the possible encouragement of services cricket, non-premiership cricket in first-grade competition, with austerity measures to reduce expenses, including the closure of schools and colts programs, and of country touring, and the reduction or suspension of Country Week competitions. All such measures were respectfully noted as subject to direction from the Federal and State Governments, though no such official guidance was provided during 1940, and these arrangements became the model across the nation.

The continuationists continued to present the patriotic arguments in favour of this position. In mid-July, another senior politician and cricket fanatic, the High Court Justice Dr H V (Bert) Evatt, spoke as Patron at the annual meeting of the Balmain District Cricket Club. ‘Doc’ Evatt was about to resign his judicial office to re-enter politics as the ALP’s Federal member for Barton. He eloquently summed up the continuationist position with the appeal to solidarity with England:

“The game should be carried on not only for its character-building qualities but also as an outlet for the players’ physical activities and the maintenance of the people’s morale. Though England is facing the threat of invasion … the spirit of cricket has enabled, and will enable, the people of England to face the hardships and terrors which are now threatening them. They are the people who founded this game and the people with whom we are indissolubly linked”.[31]

Evatt’s position was much reported in subsequent weeks, and he reiterated his views at the NSWCA annual meeting –

“Cricket is not merely a game, it is one of the institutions of the British Empire. It is not for us to consider problems of defence. That is the task of military authorities. We are the trustees of the game”.[32]

By mid-August the State Associations had all aligned with the amended continuationist position, and planning for the 1940/41 Patriotic Series was well under way.

Recruitment from sports clubs

Enlistment into the new Seventh Division, then the Eighth and Ninth Divisions was given urgency in May 1940 by the outbreak of war in the West, and the level of recruitment leapt suddenly upward.

A recurring theme of the day was the enlistment of men in groups – occupational groups, militia units, and especially sporting teams. It attracted attention to their cohesion and team spirit, and was inevitably an example to be cited by military leaders, copywriters and politicians.

One much-cited early example occurred in Wellington, New Zealand, where in mid-May 1940, just after the invasion of France and the Low Countries, ‘a whole football team walked to the recruiting booth and enlisted to overseas’.[34]

As new came in of the fall of Belgium and the Netherlands, the collapse of the front lines in France, and the withdrawal of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk, the tempo of recruitment redoubled. At the West Newcastle depot, with the ‘grave situation overseas’, 1 Brigade recruitment officer Major Reid and the Mayor of Newcastle arranged a Wednesday night town hall rally for 29 May 1940, noting “A feature of the new drive is the grouping of applicants. Men from any given area, or people from a business house or club who enlist in a body may be able to serve in the same unit”.[35] A batch of twenty-one tramways employees from the Manly Depot in Sydney enlisted in the RAAF as a body at the end of May.[36] The Nestanglo Nine – all the members of a Sydney baseball team – also enlisted en masse at that time. We will discuss then in more detail below.

Under the headline ‘Team Enlists in a Body’ the Argus reported at the beginning of June that “Imperial Rovers, a Carlton junior football team enlisted in a body yesterday together with some of the officers. After the game on Saturday the players decided to enlist”.[37] The accompanying photograph showed at least twenty men of the team and ‘some of its supporters’ had enlisted.

That night, in a broadcast by Lieutenant-General Blamey to encourage recruitment, he pressed that “Every young man should now consider whether the time had arrived for him to begin his training for war” … “Let the young man at home be honest with himself and consider what his part should be in this struggle this struggle to survive against the Hunnish hordes.” He noted that ‘the announcement that the Imperial Rovers football team of Carlton had enlisted to a man had gladdened his heart. They would make a grand platoon’. [38]  The commander of the Second AIF’s Seventh Division, Major-General Lavarack noted in an interview soon after that ‘shortly before I left Melbourne last week … I was told that a whole football team had decided to enlist’.[39]

In early June, the Dunkirk withdrawal was coming to a close, and the final stage of the attack on France began. In just three days 3 – 5 June, and just in Melbourne, a remarkable array of sportsmen enlisted:

  • David Cup tennis player Adrian Quist, Jack Higgins, the Victorian State baseball pitcher, Robert Bird, a Collingwood cricketer and baseballer, Len Thomas, captain-coach of North Melbourne football team and the legendary Fitzroy footballer ‘Chicken’ Smallhorn, (2 June)

    Wilfred "Chicken" Smallhorn

    Wilfred “Chicken” Smallhorn

  • Six members of the eight-man Richmond Amateur Swimming Club dual premiership team, and four members of the Melbourne Cricket Club staff (3 June)
  • Max Carpenter and Stan Bisset, members of the Wallabies Rugby Union team to England of 1939, Bob Black the Coburg and Fitzroy cricketer, and thirteen VFL players (4 June).[40]

By mid-June 1940, Past Christian Brothers Rugby League Football Club in Brisbane announced that they were unable to field their Reserve grade team, as fourteen members had enlisted. The Brisbane Rugby League fined the club £1 for the ‘no show’ in a particularly poor example of thoughtless bureaucracy. The Southern Suburbs club also explained that twenty club members had enlisted,[41] and twelve members of the Tugun Lifesaving Club enlisted as a body in mid-July.[42]

The Nestanglo Nine

Baseball in Australia was a winter sport until the nineteen-seventies, and often served as cricketers’ winter sport. The ranks of State and national baseball teams were often studded with well-known cricketers. The game was also played as a curtain-raiser at VFL football matches. During the 1940 Sydney Major League Baseball season, eight teams competed, with suburban sides such as Marrickville, Mosman, Petersham-Leichhardt, University and Waverley, joined by the Nomads club, led by State cricketer Vic Jackson, as well as two teams backed by large factories – Goodyear (tyres), Lustre Hosiery and Nestanglo (chocolate), which had transferred in from the City Houses Baseball Association.

Nestanglo sports fields

Nestanglo sports fields

The Nestanglo team drew on the staff of 650 employed in the largest chocolate factory in the Southern Hemisphere, operated by Nestlé – known then as the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company. It was set on a peninsula in the Parramatta River in Sydney’s inner suburb of Abbotsford. Established in 1917, the factory was situated on the former estate of one of the founders of retailer Grace Brothers, who had set it up as a recreational centre for the firm’s staff before the Great War. As such, the factory boasted a cricket field and pavilion, tennis courts, bowling greens and a small golf course. Nestanglo in 1940 boasted a famous women’s callisthenics team, lawn bowling teams, a cricket team in the Balmain & District Cricket Association A grade competition (part of the NSWJCU), and the Major League baseball side.

The legend has it that the nine members of the Nestanglo team enlisted together mid-season, and in a fairy-tale finish, won the premiership, in military uniform, having been undefeated all season. The actual events were not quite as Hollywood as that – but they were not too far from the truth.

In fact, by late-May 1940, the team was undefeated and at the head of the table, one point clear. The Sydney Morning Herald noted that ‘Nestanglo has been relying on its batting power and team cohesion to keep its unbeaten record intact. It is a young side, capable of aggressiveness and stamina’,[43] and was ‘playing with fine combination and its victories have been marked by polished play and aggressiveness’. The team was led by little baseball veteran Joe Morgan, who had played as an outfielder for Leichhardt and New South Wales during the twenties. A lion-hearted competitor, during the Great War he was awarded the Military Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal, and was Mentioned in Dispatches, all for his work as a teenaged battalion runner, carrying dispatches and guiding troops to positions in the front lines, often under heavy fire.

The key team members under Morgan (now forty years old) were Billy White (pitcher), Jack Pettit (catcher and NSW second baseman), Jimmy Minter (first base), Jack’s brother Warren Pettit (second base), Jack Burton (shortstop), Eric ‘Ekka’ Wright (third base), and Jim Hazlett in the outfield and Frank Collins as outfielder and substitute pitcher, as well as utility players Jimmy Walker and Ted Lutz. Four members of the side – Jim Minter, Jack Pettit, Jack Burton and Frank Collins – were first-grade cricketers for Balmain. Minter played Sheffield Shield cricket for New South Wales as an aggressive batsman, and Collins came very close to State selection as a fast bowler.

At the end of May, seven members of the team – White, the Pettits, Minter, Wright, Collins and Hazlett – enlisted in the AIF on the same day. Lutz and Walker, on the periphery of the team, also enlisted at the same time.

“It was disclosed on Saturday that seven members of the Nestanglo major league baseball team had enlisted in a body with the A.I.F. during the week. … The club will need to choose almost an entire new team … The club officials state they have a wealth of younger talent to draw upon to fill the vacancies and will rely on the lead the team now has of securing the minor premiership at least”.[44]

They were called up soon after, in mid-June, into the 2/19 and 2/30 infantry battalions. Joe Morgan, almost forty years old, enlisted in the RAAF a couple of weeks later. Only short stop Jack Burton did not enlist, and he went on to be the batting backbone of the Balmain cricket team throughout the war, scoring over 3,000 first-grade runs in six seasons.

The Nestanglo team’s form predictably suffered, and they were defeated thrice during June and July, as the lead changed hands several times. Most of the team were fortunately able to ‘seek leave to play each week’ as their training camp was at nearby Haberfield, and they turned up to the match in their military uniforms, though they changed into baseball kit to play.[45] No fewer than five sides were in premiership contention with two rounds to go, and Nestanglo were equal third. Nestanglo defeated the leaders Petersham-Leichhardt inthe second-last round, to draw even with Waverley in the final round. Both won their last matches, so the minor premiership was shared, and the two teams played off for the premiership.[46] In the final, Nestanglo defeated Waverley by five runs to one to win their first premiership.[47]

Both 2/19 and 2/30 Battalions were deployed to Malaysia with 8 Division, and as we shall see, a number of the Nestanglo men distinguished themselves in cricket and baseball in Singapore and Malaya during 1941. Though they fought well, both formations were mauled by the Japanese in early 1942, and many of the men went into captivity. Six of the Nestanglo men spent the war as prisoners of war. Sadly, Nestanglo infielder Warren Pettit of the pioneer platoon, 2/19 Battalion died on the Burma Railway in mid-1943, though his brother Jack and the other Nestanglo men survived the ordeal.

The Gunners

The 2/7 Field Regiment was a medium artillery unit raised as part of the Seventh Division in April 1940, though it served with the Ninth Division following the general reorganisation of AIF units in 1941. It mainly drew its artillerymen from South Australia and Western Australia, and they served actively in Palestine, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Queensland and later Tarakan in the Pacific.

Drawing on a unit of around 600 men in all, the regiment produced an outstanding sports team, popularly known as ‘the Gunners’. Included in their number were a number of senior tennis, baseball and cricket players, but they effortlessly turned their hands to football, basketball, athletics and other sports. A remarkably stable group, its members changed little from mid-1940 to late 1944 through their service in the Middle East and in Queensland. Their exploits were well-documented thanks to continuous letter-writing to the Adelaide newspapers, mostly from the comic pen of tennis player Ron Brock, who was consistently self-deprecating as to his own considerable sporting talents.

The Gunners first came to attention in Army tennis in Adelaide while training during 1940, and then in various sports in the Middle East through 1941 and 1942, and on their return to Australia in 1943 and 1944. These men were well-connected in the sports world, and in some cases rather upper-crust, belying their reputation as just ordinary soldiers.

Key members were:

  • Jack Parham (Port Adelaide cricketer) captain of the team, and batsman
  • Ken Webb (SACA Colts and Sturt cricketer, who played for South Australia after the war) fast bowler. Ken’s father R D Webb was a SA Cricket Assocation committeeman and secretary of both the Adelaide and Suburban Cricket Association and the SA Junior Cricket Union.
  • Johnny Novak (Port Adelaide cricketer)
  • Ron Brock (district tennis player) left-arm bowler
  • Tom Warhurst (State tennis and football representative) wicketkeeper
  • Gordon Smith (East Torrens A grade baseball pitcher)
  • Rob Meyer (Prospect cricketer, and Country Week player for Southern Districts) batsman. His father was a pastoralist at Guildholme, just outside Adelaide.[48]
  • Don ‘Rocky’ Fryar (State table tennis player and schools, country and Adelaide Turf cricketer, and later first grade cricketer)[49] His father Albert E (“Alb”) Fryar was president of the Adelaide and Suburban Cricket Association during the war, and a noted philatelist and sportsman.
  • Ross Lock (district tennis player)
  • Bruce Lecher (interstate hockey player)
  • Ken Bruce (tennis player and schools cricketer) all-rounder. His father Sir Wallace Bruce was an insurance broker and former Lord Mayor of Adelaide (1925-27), who held an astonishing array of Federal and State appointments, and company directorships, including the industrial powerhouses General Motors-Holdens, Adelaide Rope and Nail, Adelaide Brighton Cement Company and SA Gas Company.

    Sir Wallace Bruce

    Sir Wallace Bruce

‘Moral Conscription’ Opposed

The controversy about the enlistment of champion tennis players engendered by Mr Percy Wald’s remarks of August 1940 (above) were labelled as ‘moral conscription’ by Queensland’s top tennis player Viv McGrath in his response to the allegations.[50] This referred to the widespread social practice of querying the non-combatant status of young civilian men, and possibly disparaging them or shunning their company if they had not volunteered for service. A prominent early example occurred in New Zealand during the formation of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in late 1939, when a proposal ‘that women and girls should not dance or play tennis with young men who did not enlist’, was made by officers and members of the Canterbury Territorial Association.[51] A related suggestion was to issue armbands to volunteers, returned men and those ruled unfit – thereby leaving the ‘shirker’ visible, with no moral protection. The proposal was virulently opposed by returned servicemen of the Great War, and sensible people of all stripes, but the concept tended to recur whenever recruitment dropped or the situation in wartime became challenging.

Such ‘moral conscription’ as a practice to be opposed came more naturally to the Left of politics, with Labor’s historic opposition to conscription during the Great War, and its reflexive dislike of the compulsion of working men by their social ‘betters’. The Right was more divided, between its liberal and paternalist wings.

Opposition Leader Mr Curtin, speaking during the Corio by-election in February 1940 reiterated Labor’s view that:

“I believe that the right of an individual to elect to serve in the armed forces is a right resident in his civil liberties. There must be no economic or moral conscription — let along legal conscription — over his service. … We say that compulsion and conscription is alien to everything that constitutes that splendid heritage which we understand by Australian freedom. …  If we lose our liberty before the war is over there will be nothing else for us to have when the war has ceased.”[52]

Ironically, while in Government later in the war, Curtin’s ALP wrestled daily with the challenge of filling the ranks of the services and compelling Labor-voting coal miners and waterside workers to work in the national interest.

Miss Dorothy Tangney,[53] addressing Labor women in Victoria in a nationally broadcast speech also opposed the concept: ‘While it is recognised that legal conscription would not be tolerated In Australia, there are already signs of economic and moral conscription. I know of many cases where young men in search of employment have been told that there is no excuse for them to be on the look-out for a job because they should be in the army— at 5/- a day.’

Prominent sportsmen as well as the unemployed were obvious and easy targets for such disparagement. The pressure on young, fit men of physical prowess without family entanglements, and a tendency to be led by their captains, coaches and officials was already substantial. The prominence given to enlisting sportsmen in the news also raised obvious questions in the public mind as to the status of their other teammates. The practice of enlistment of teams en masse can only have increased the pressure – it would be overwhelmingly hard to stand out when the whole team made a commitment. For men like Donald Bradman and other star cricketers, footballers, boxers or tennis players, the pressures of moral conscription must have been overwhelming.

Bradman joins the RAAF

Don Bradman enlisted in the RAAF Reserve ‘with flying colours’ on 28 June 1940, and was passed fit for air crew duty and waited for call-up, while taking evening preparatory classes. Adelaide’s Lord Mayor Mr Barrett, who was chairman of the RAAF recruiting committee, said that Bradman’s action ‘should be an inspiration to every sportsman in Australia’.[54] Within days, he was followed into the RAAF Reserve by Test men Charlie Walker and Sidney Barnes and NSW State wicketkeeper Stan Sismey, and by Victorian Test men Lindsay Hassett and State captain Ben Barnett, who joined the AIF.

The RAAF was clearly perceived as an elite force relative to the other two services, and had substantially higher educational requirements, so it tended to attract white collar men – better educated and better connected. The RAAF was utterly unable to deal with the deluge of enlistees in the early days of the war, given the complexities of training unprepared men as aircrew, and massive bottlenecks owing to shortages of equipment and facilities. So it was not uncommon for enthusiastic recruits to languish for months before being called up. In Bradman’s case, the wait extended to four months without being called up. Like a long-awaited pregnancy, it was mentioned every time his name appeared in the newspapers of the time.

Within days of his enlistment, fantasies of wartime service cricket ‘Tests’ in England were floated by L V Manning of the Daily Sketch, who foreshadowed the ‘intriguing possibility of an Australian Eleven led by [Bradman] against an all-star R.A.F. side, captained by Hammond, the English Test captain. It could represent England at Lord’s in August’.[55]

Another fantasy that gained some currency in late August 1940 – though it was immediately denied –was that he had arrived at RAAF No 1 Air Observers’ School at Cootamundra to begin his RAAF training. In what seems a rather elaborate hoax, it was reported that the “general impression was that Don would arrive in a golden aeroplane with the highest grade cricket bats for propellors. But Don turned up in just the same way as the most inconspicuous student at the school arrived. … Don was friendly with everyone, and quickly broke down the conception that he was not as other men by rolling up his sleeves, and doing what everyone else did.”[56]

While waiting for call-up, he continued to work as a stockbroker in the office of Mr Harry Hodgetts, and campaigned for war savings certificates on the radio.[57]

Eventually, as we shall see, late in October 1940, news emerged that he had relinquished his RAAF enlistment after four months’ fruitless wait for a call-up, and had joined the Army.

Second AIF arrives in Palestine

Leading elements of the Sixth Division and headquarters units of the AIF arrived in Palestine along with elements of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in mid-February 1940. Just as in the Great War, the Dominion forces were initially concentrated in Palestine and Egypt along with forces from India, in order to train, to secure the vital sea-lanes extending from the Mediterranean through the Suez to India and beyond to Asia and the Pacific, and to prepare to meet the enemies of the Empire.

In retrospect, it seems clear that these enemies were Germany and Italy. At the time this was far from evident. Germany had no access to, and little interest in, the Mediterranean at this time. Though its colonies in Libya, Rhodes and Kos, and in the Horn of Africa were contending for control of the eastern Mediterranean with the British and French, Italy had not yet entered the war. [58]

The attitude of Turkey and Greece were equivocal, but leaning to the Allies, and the

Hitler and Mussolini, 1936

Hitler and Mussolini, 1936

USSR had attacked Poland and Finland, had signed a non-aggression pact with Germany, and was seen in February 1940 as an imminent threat to Turkey.  At the time the AIF arrived in Palestine, it was seen as possible that the Sixth Division might assist Britain, France and Turkey in resisting Russian aggression around the Black Sea.[59] The internal security of India was also seen as teetering on the brink, as local Muslim and Hindu politicians contended for power while Britain was distracted by global war with Germany.[60]

Mussolini’s ‘stab in the back’ in declaring war in June 1940 firmly resolved the uncertainty. The AIF was to be committed to war in the desert against the Italians.

Stop-over in Ceylon

The Sixth Division travelled to Palestine by convoy along the Empire route from Fremantle via Colombo in Ceylon (today Sri Lanka) through the Suez Canal to Egypt. The first convoy ships – with the troops carried in eleven passenger liners – changed their convoy escorts and took on supplies in a short sojourn in Colombo at the end of January 1940. During the two days in port, a complex system of leave ashore was instituted for the AIF men.

Colombo, 1942

Colombo, 1942

The War Diary of the 2/2 Battalion records the glamour and reality of leave ashore for the men of Sixth Division. At 6 am on 31 January 1940, the men were mustered, excited as they ‘would first come into contact with the glamorous East’, and released at 7.20 am when they were ‘marched to E deck where they were given a cut lunch and an apple each’. After a very pleasant day of sight-seeing and ‘irreproachable’ behaviour ashore, there was a gastro-enteritis outbreak that night – for 2/2 Battalion, over 280 men were treated, and extra fatigues had to work all night cleaning the lavatories and decks.[61]

16 Brigade AIF vs Colombo Cricket Club at Colombo on 31 Jan 1940

For a select few men, the time ashore on 31 January 1940[62] involved ‘runs’ in far a more pleasant fashion. A stalwart friend of the game, and three-time visitor to Australia, S P (‘Bamboo’) Foenander,[63]  who was sports editor of the Ceylon Observer newspaper, organised a match between a Ceylon XI and an AIF XI at the Colombo Cricket Ground. The AIF team was drawn from men of the 16 Brigade, mainly from 2/4 Battalion (three men) and the Cavalry Regiment (four). A number of these men were also participants in the SCG match detailed earlier in early January 1940 between the ‘Old AIF’ and the Second AIF, led by Arthur Millard.

‘Doc’ Millard again led the AIF side, for which we have the names of seven participants, in somewhat sketchy and one-sided coverage in the Australian newspapers, in which only two of the local side were mentioned. The local team was a ‘combined eleven of European and Ceylonese cricketers’ [64] drawn from the Colombo Cricket Club (five men) and Wesley College (two) under the captaincy of S J Campbell. Included in the Australian team were Test cricketer Ray Robinson, ‘Doc’ Millard from Canberra, John Black and Tom Mort from the Orange district of western NSW, fast bowler Keith Beattie and two officers of the Cavalry Regiment – Lindsay de Lisle Miell from Crystal Brook in South Australia and C H ‘Basil’ Finlay – who both rose to considerable heights as soldiers, if not perhaps as cricketers.[65]

The detailed coverage of the match by Foenander in the Ceylon Observer of Sat 10 Feb 1940 is unfortunately unavailable at present. Cricket writer Johnny Moyes, who was sent a copy of the newspaper by Foenander, briefly covered the match in Sydney’s Sun, noting only that “The A.I.F. scored 136 for six, J B Black getting 72 not out … Ray Robinson, of Gordon, was brilliantly caught before he had scored, much to the disgust of the crowd. The locals lost five for 164, Beatty and Robinson each getting two wickets and Black one”. [66]

The acting Official War Correspondent, journalist Ian Fitchett, covered the match briefly in a report published in some regional newspapers some months later.[67] He noted that “A cricket match was arranged against a strong local XI. A scratch A.I.F. team scored 6 for 126 (declared). The locals replied with 5 for 165. The Test batsman Ray Robinson was dismissed early by a splendid catch in slips. Ray claimed that the beautiful clubhouse was too inviting to stay away from for long, especially after a couple of months soldiering”. Robinson’s duck was the main topic of the very brief notice in The Cricketer in May.

John Black’s fine innings got better coverage in his local newspapers in western NSW, which quoted directly from the Ceylon Observer – “On the Colombo cricket ground yesterday a combined eleven of European and Ceylonese cricketers met an Army eleven in a game that provided very interesting cricket. … A feature of the match was the solid, stylish innings played by John D. Black for the Army team. He opened with R. Robinson (the Test cricketer) and scored 72 not out. In style he is very much like the Test cricketer, Badcock; Robinson was out to a good catch by Murray before he had scored. After an exciting finish the home team beat the Army”. [68]

First matches in Egypt and Palestine

The first convoy of the Second AIF, made up of the infantry battalions of 16 Brigade and a number of 6 Division headquarters units at last arrived in Egypt in mid-February 1940. By 21 February, now encamped at Julis in Palestine, the infantry battalions were asked to compile lists of men wishing to play cricket and other sports, and plans were already afoot for inter-unit competition,[69] despite the fact that the local cricket season had not yet begun. By May, the Australian Comforts Fund had provided cricket sets and matting to all units,[70] and the Australian Army Canteens’ Institutes were paying for the laying of innumerable concrete pitches.[71]

Test batsman Ray Robinson, serving with 2/4 Battalion, met English Test cricket greats Maurice Tate and Walter Robins within days of arrival,[72] and got widespread coverage of his pilgrimage with other cricketers to the grave of Test fast bowler ‘Tibby’ Cotter, who was killed in action near Beersheba with the Light Horse in 1917.[73]

Tibby Cotter in action

Tibby Cotter in action

Robinson was the inevitable ‘first pick’ for the AIF side in any newspaper coverage. In fact, his form with the bat was, and remained, scratchy and he did better as a bowler than batsman. His time in service was extremely unhappy, with several illnesses requiring hospitalisation, an injury and multiple disciplinary offences, culminating in a medical discharge in 1943 and extended time in rehabilitation. By 1940, he was jaded with cricket as well as the military life. In mid-1940 he confided: “I like the game but having played continuously since I was a kid, was sick to death of it. I was on the verge of retiring about two years ago but continued in it against my grain”.[74] Perhaps, like Bradman, the expectations of him were just too high.

The Challenge

At the beginning of March 1940, a challenge from the Gezira Cricket Club – the senior club in Egyptian cricket – was delivered by club committee member Mr Kenneth Anderson, proposing a tour of Egypt by AIF men in May 1940. It was immediately and eagerly accepted by Brigadier Allen.[75] The proposed itinerary included matches with an All Egypt side ‘equivalent to a first class English county team’ and matches with ‘sides from the New Zealanders who are training in Egypt, the Royal Air Force, British Rgts. and the Gezira Club’.[76]

2/1 Battalion vs 2/2 Battalion at Julis on Sunday 31 March 1940

An inter-unit competition was immediately instituted to begin the process of selection.[77] The construction of concrete pitches was pushed ahead,[78] and matches on improvised pitches began.[79] These were soon followed by a formal inter-battalion competition, which was fittingly inaugurated a match between 2/1 and 2/2 Battalion on Sunday 31 March. The match was won by 2/1 Battalion by a margin of only six runs.[80] Ted Stretton, an all-rounder with Sydney’s Central Cumberland side, was the early star, taking 5/14 for 2/2 Battalion.

Preparation for the Tour of Egypt

The AIF senior command took the tour very seriously. The 6 Division General Staff noted in its official War Diary: “On May 8th, a team representing the Units of the A.I.F. now in Palestine will go to Egypt to meet selected teams from Cairo and British and New Zealand Armies. This gives us approx. five weeks in which to prepare a team that will uphold the standard set by the First A.I.F. when in Egypt”.[81]

To support the effort, Lieutenant Roy Eva of Sydney was appointed as divisional sports and amenities officer, and Melbourne journalist Roly Hoffman began to publish the soldiers’ newspaper AIF News with considerable and enthusiastic local cricket coverage [*BOX*AIF News].

Captain Hedberg

Captain Hedberg

A senior medical officer, with family connections to former Prime Minister Sir Earle Page, Captain Eric Hedberg was appointed as tour manager ‘in charge of the team’. Hedberg had come into local prominence two weeks before his appointment, on Anzac Day 25 April 1940, when he was lowered 60 feet into a refuse pit to attend to a British soldier who was badly injured by the fall.[82] Tall and imposing, with a brilliant medical career developing, he was later wounded and decorated,[83] and had a distinguished medical career after the war as a Vaucluse surgeon, and Liberal Party stalwart – and perhaps, as a double murderer.[84]

Late in April, a representative from each major camp forwarded a list of hopefuls for the A.I.F. Team.  From an initial list of around one hundred, forty men were chosen for the squad. Over two days on 1-2 May 1940, playoffs were arranged for these forty men at the AIF camp at Qastina in Palestine. The list was culled to 22 on the last day, in order to select the final fifteen, which was announced, amidst great anticipation, on 5 May. Dubbo cricketer John Nunan wrote wryly to his father:

“I started in with about 100 others. On the final day only 22 were left, and I was one. Fifteen were to be chosen, and 15th place was a fast bowler. It was between a cove named Holmes and me. As usual, my luck stuck to me — I was 16th”.[85]

Test man Ray Robinson was naturally selected, but big Jika Travers was unavailable, as he was attending a training course. The squad of fifteen trained at Julis camp for a couple of days before their departure on Tuesday 7 May.

We have met five of the selected players already. The first four of these had played for Second AIF against First AIF in Sydney before embarkation: they were Arthur Millard, who was selected to lead the touring team, John Black, of Orange, and brothers Dick Holmes, of Newcastle and Bill Holmes, of the Upper Hunter. Former Test batsman Ray Robinson, of Sydney was also naturally selected.

The team was announced in a press release by the AIF on 5 May 1940 at Gaza in Palestine. It was published in slightly garbled form in most major Australian newspapers. The clearest and least error-prone version – a little longer than the others – was published by the Newcastle Morning Herald on Mon 6 May 1940. Unfortunately, the errors are sufficiently substantial that the identity of some of the players cannot be established with certainty.

The other ten members of the team were:

Cecil Bourne, of Goomeri, Queensland, was a left-hand batsman and off-break bowler at medium pace. He and his brother Gordon Bourne – who played for Queensland early in the thirties – were stars of the local competition in Goomeri, which is located between Gympie and Kingaroy, inland from what we now call the Sunshine Coast. Cec played for Brisbane Grammar School and the Queensland interstate schoolboys team in the early thirties, and in Country Week and Queensland Country fixtures through the early thirties. A number of newspapers confused him with his brother Gordon in their coverage of the AIF team.[86]

George Bevan, originally from Newcastle, lived in Gresford in the Hunter Valley, near Dungog. He was a fast bowler.

Colin Burrows, came from Auburn, in Sydney’s west, near Parramatta. He was a young fast bowler and batsman from the Auburn-Lidcombe juniors association, which he represented on several occasions in Daily Telegraph Shield inter-association competition. In 1938/39, he played third grade and Poidevin-Gray under-age cricket for Cumberland in Sydney’s grade competition. He and six of his school mates were early enlistments in the AIF, and Colin served throughout the war with 2/4 Battalion in the Middle East and the Pacific, rising to the rank of Warrant Officer. After the war, he returned to Auburn-Lidcombe cricket.

Victorian Syd (“Sammy”) Steen, was a left-arm slow spin bowler, who played first and lower grade cricket for St Kilda after the war. He had some connection to the club before the war, but not in senior cricket.

Harry Jacobs was selected as a batsman and reserve wicketkeeper. He hailed from Fitzroy in Melbourne’s inner north. He was an Australian Rules footballer, who played a few games for Fitzroy and Hawthorn before the war, and became one of the first VFL footballers to enlist, in October 1939.

Arnold (“Errol”) Flynn, hailed from Rose Bay in Sydney’s inner east. He was serving with the 2/2 Australian General Hospital. A batsman and medium-paced bowler, he played in Daily Telegraph Shield inter-association competition for the Balmain junior cricket association, though he never turned out for the Balmain grade club. He appears to have played for the NSW Schoolboys team in interstate competition in 1930/31, along with later State and Test cricketer Sidney Barnes, and State players Bill Morris and Vic Jackson. He was traumatised by his war experiences, and discharged in mid-1944, after which he settled in South Australia, where he played first grade cricket for East Torrens-Glenelg, Glenelg and Sturt late in the war. Bitten by the gambling bug, he was imprisoned for three years for fraud from 1948 while serving as accountant to a publican.[87]

Vincent (Vin) Smith, of Unley in South Australia was selected as the team’s wicket-keeper. Identifying him presents a considerable problem for the historian. The Sydney Morning Herald Mon 6 May 1940 noted he was “A. Vivian Smith, who has represented South Australian Colts”. The Newcastle Morning Herald of the same date calls him Vincent Smith of Lunley (sic). The War Diary of the 6 Division General Staff clearly identifies him as Pte A V Smith of its HQ Company.[88] The Sydney Morning Herald Fri 10 May 1940 slightly contradicts itself by noting that “The Australian wicketkeeper Vin Smith’s father Herbert played a few games with the original A.I.F. eleven in England after the war”.[89] There is also no good fit for A Vincent Smith in the AIF nominal rolls as an early enlistment.[90] The only certainty seems to be that he was a South Australian.

Warrant Officer Norm Harris was another South Australian, also from the HQ Company of 6 Division Headquarters, where he worked in intelligence.[91] He attended Prince Alfred College in the late twenties, and played for University’s B grade team in the early thirties, and for Prince Alfred Old Collegians in the mid-thirties. He was said to have scored the first century in an A.I.F. inter-unit match in Palestine in 1940.

John Reid,[92] from Sydney, had played minor grade cricket for St George in the early thirties.[93] He was also an active golfer at Cronulla throughout the thirties. He was wounded in action in the Middle East in early 1941, and died of illness at Atherton, Qld in early 1944.

Jack Whelan[94] from Sydney, and perhaps Paddington, was a swing bowler.

Other members of the squad of forty whom we know were not selected, included Lieutenants James A (“Tack”) Denniston (of Sydney Grammar and University) and Philip (‘Punchy’) Parbury (Armidale College and Wollongong), Warrant Officer Col Lutton (Randwick first grade captain in the twenties) and Private Bruce Kerdavid (country star batsman from Coalbaggie near Dubbo) and the disappointed John Nunan (Dubbo cricketer). We will meet a number of these men later.

First Tour of Egypt and Palestine 8 – 22 May 1940

The team flew to Cairo in two huge Royal Air Force aircraft[95] on Mon 7 May, along with a touring boxing team. An observer noted “They were as high spirited as

Vickers Valentia

Vickers Valentia

schoolboys on their way to a holiday match, for the flight was an exhilarating new experience to most of them”.[96]

Team manager Captain Hedberg and star batsman Ray Robinson were photographed with the wing of a large biplane in the background, suggesting the photograph was taken on the day of arrival or departure.[97] It was one of a series of photographs taken by legendary Australian cameraman Damien Parer [*BOX*Photographers in Harm’s Way] who accompanied the team throughout the tour – and recorded the matches and the personalities in film and photographs.

AIF vs Willcocks Sporting Club at Gezira on Wed 8 May 1940

The team started well in a one-day match at the Willcocks Club at Gezira in Cairo on Wed 8 May. It was a match of low scores, with the bowlers on both sides showing ‘accuracy and venom’.[98] The AIF scored 162 in two hours, thanks to an innings of 44 by Norm Harris, supported by Jack Whelan and wicketkeeper Vin Smith, who also did well behind the stumps. For Willcocks, Emmanuel Casdagli – a cricketer who had played for Harrow in England, from a prominent Greek-Egyptian textile family – scored 44 in the club’s disappointing total of 107. The Hunter Valley trio of bowlers for the AIF did well – Upper Hunter’s Dick Holmes (4/23), Ray Robinson (3/32) and George Bevan of Maitland (2/21).

AIF vs Gezira Sporting Club in Cairo on Fri 10 and Sat 11 May 1940

There is an informal portrait of the team reclining in elegant wicker chairs at the Gezira Sporting Club before the two-day match on 10-11 May. Distinguished guests included the Cavalry Regiment’s chaplain, cricket enthusiast Padre Francis Hulme-Moir – later a bishop, and the Chaplain-General of the Australian Army – and the Australian Trade Commissioner Mr James Payne.[99]

Egypt First Tour XI 1940

Egypt First Tour XI 1940

The challenge match against the Gezira Sporting Club was scheduled for two days, and was to be broadcast on local radio. The ground was a magnificent green oasis on an island in the middle of the Nile River in the very heart of Cairo. The match was played on a matting wicket prepared on top of turf.  The club team was strong, with all of the top order having played first class cricket. The AIF was solidly outplayed, and lost the match by an innings.

The Gezira team opened, and scored 4/282 before declaring, with an outstanding innings of 150 by their opener, Captain Cyril (‘Ham’) Hamilton of the Royal Artillery. Fellow gunner Captain W A R Sumner opened with Hamilton. Major Ronald Yeldham contributed a solid 43 at first drop, and the AIF bowlers struggled. Australian-born Hamilton excelled at hockey and squash, and was a prolific scorer in English and Egyptian military matches. He had scored a double century for the Gunners against the Sappers (engineers) at Lord’s in 1938, in their annual grudge match.[100]

After a solid start from Norm Harris and John Black – who were the only Australians to get into double figures – the AIF team collapsed to an ignominious 89 all out, to the bowling of Cripps (4/17), and the accurate swing medium pace of Kiwi ‘ring-in’ Denis Blundell.[101] Blundell had played cricket for Cambridge University and MCC in the late twenties, then did well for Wellington on his return to New Zealand, and played a couple of Tests against England in 1935/36. He was serving with the First Echelon of the NZEF in Egypt, and was probably unable to resist a match against the Australians.

The AIF was forced to follow on, and in the second innings, when Harris fell for a duck, Kiwi Denis Blundell (29) pulled on his pads to join opener John Black (41) in the most productive partnership of the AIF innings. Gezira’s J H Whitehead then tore the heart out of the AIF middle order on his way to 6/26, to remove all chance of the Australians saving the match. Their last wicket fell at 152, leaving them an innings and 43 runs short of Gezira, in a rather one-sided contest.

AIF vs British Army at Abbassiah on Mon 13 May 1940

After a day licking their wounds, the AIF team travelled to what was then the eastern outskirts of Cairo, to the large British Army depots at Abbassia (today el-Abaseya) and the aptly named Kitchener Oval. There they played a match against a team of British Army enlisted men, and won easily. John Black again opened for 43, and the AIF batted well down the order with contributions from Dick Holmes (58), Arnold (‘Errol’) Flynn (50) and Norm Harris 49x, on their way to the excellent total of 8/279 declared. For the Army team, pace bowler Ballard took 3/65.

Dick Holmes led the way with ball as well, taking 5/27 as the AIF bundled out the Army team for just 98. Arnold Flynn contributed 3/21 and Colin Burrows took 2/22 with his quicks. For the Army, their opener Warwick scored 26, and extras was next best contributor. AIF won by a convincing 158 runs. This was good preparation for what many in the AIF team may have thought of as the main game – a match against the Kiwis at the end of the week.

Photographs of a number of the AIF team members at the Egyptian Museum and the Pyramids at around this time suggest the AIF got in some sightseeing during their two rest days.[102]

AIF vs New Zealand at Maadi Sporting Club, Cairo on Fri 17 May 1940

The New Zealand Expeditionary Force was encamped at Maadi, on the south-eastern outskirts of Cairo, not far from the Nile and sitting on a very narrow strip of fertile land between the black alluvial soil of the Nile banks and the sandy wasteland. The Maadi Sporting Club was the centre of the social life of the camp, through which 26,000 Kiwi servicemen passed between 1940 and 1946.[103]

The Kiwis deployed a strong team led by (then) Lieutenant Denis Blundell  that included five first-class players, a posse of strong club cricketers, and a couple of unknowns.[104] Percy Allen opened the batting and Jack Jacobs was at first drop – both were right-handers who played for Canterbury in New Zealand’s top-level Plunket Shield competition, along with keeper Bob Webb. Webb was one of four wicketkeepers available to the selectors, and the other three all played as batsmen. Both Jacobs and Webb later spent time as prisoners of war, but both survived the ordeal. All-rounder Maurice Browne, born in South Africa, was a New Zealand hockey representative, and played for Canterbury, along with Denis Blundell, in the Plunket Shield. He was mentioned in dispatches for his war service, serving in the Middle East and Italy. Bill Higgins and Harry Adams were Auckland club cricketers, opener Eric Jeffery was prominent in Wellington’s Mercantile Shield competition, and David Lunn represented Victoria University in the Wellington club competition.

Bevan and beer

Bevan and beer

The match took place a hot and clear day at the green and leafy Maadi ground. The players all took their sociable tea break at a large and shaded table, and George Bevan shared a beer with a Kiwi.[105]

Before the match, the teams met New Zealand’s most eminent soldier, Major-General ‘Tiny’ Freyberg VC, commander of the NZEF. His nickname was ironic – Freyberg was a large and athletic man who was a champion swimmer and had fought prize-fights as a boxer. During the Great War, he swam ashore in the Dardanelles campaign to light fires on the beaches, in order to distract the Turkish defences, and was awarded the first of three DSOs. He earned a Victoria Cross at Beaucourt on the Western Front in 1916, and became a brigade commander at just twenty-eight years of age in 1917. With a Croix de Guerre appointment as a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) and being five times Mentioned in Dispatches, he finished the War as one of the most decorated British officers. Despite being retired in 1937 with a heart ailment, he was soon reinstated with the outbreak of war in 1939. He led the defence of Crete bravely but unimaginatively against the German paratroops in 1941. After the war, he served as the Governor-General of New Zealand (1946-1952), and was raised to the peerage as Baron Freyberg in 1951.

The match was a very close and exciting contest, won by the Kiwis by only four runs on the first innings, with a second innings then apparently played in a carnival spirit. As AIF News put it, from the Australian perspective the match was “a classic example of one thrown away. After the bowlers had done their job, and got rid of their opponents for 93, the Australians could only knock up 89. At one stage they had five down for 78. Incidentally, it was the first time that a representative N.Z. team had ever beaten a representative Australian XI”.[106]

The Kiwis won the toss and selected to bat. They started badly, slumping to 6/51 in less than an hour, as fast bowler Colin Burrows took four early wickets. Opener Percy Allen (13) and Bill Higgins (15) resisted for a time, but Webb, Browne and Vivian fell in a hurry. It was once more Denis Blundell who was the thorn in the side for the Australians – he hit up the top score of 28 not out in about three overs at number nine – and extras contributed 22 of the NZEF total of 92. For the AIF, Colin Burrows finished with 6/38 and Dick Holmes 2/32, and the Australians must have felt that they had the upper hand.

The Australians batted for twenty minutes before lunch, losing 2/15. They lost opener Norm Harris early to the bowling of Eric Jeffery, and the dependable John Black had been run out, but with Ray Robinson at the crease along with ‘Errol’ Flynn, and only 78 runs to get, they must have felt some confidence. Any such confidence was soon shattered as Jeffery took them both out soon after lunch. Queens­lander Cecil Bourne[107] from the pumpkin centre of Goomeri,[108] stopped the rot for a time with a fine innings of 30. But that man Denis Blundell then shattered the middle order, taking three wickets in four balls (Bourne, Whelan and Jacobs), and Jeffery chipped in with another wicket (captain Millard for one) to leave the AIF needing eight runs with the last two men in. Colin Burrows steadied the ship with 16 not out, hitting a four from Blundell to bring the total to 89, but St Kilda’s Syd ‘Sammy’ Steen was a bunny with the bat, and was out taking a lusty swing at Jeffery, to leave the AIF three runs short.

A further two one-hour innings were agreed upon at tea. The Kiwis showed their superiority with an easy 4/114 in an hour, with good hands from their openers Percy Allen (33) and Jack Jacobs (30), and a spectacular six into the trees by David Lunn. The twelve overs yielded 9.5 runs each, and all of the AIF bowlers suffered – Colin Burrows did best with 2/57 off his five overs. The Australians again batted a little limply, though they managed 101 all out in their hour, with Dick Holmes (28), Jack Whelan (27) and big VFL footballer Harry Jacobs (23) doing best – Jacobs took twenty off Maurie Brown’s first over with some lusty hitting of the slow leg-spinner. That man Blundell again did the damage – this time his yield was 7/48 – to take him to eleven wickets for the match (11/79m) with Jeffery taking 2/29.

Again the Australian batting was patchy, and the bowling at times lacked penetration. Blundell, with bat and ball, was clearly the most useful contributor in the match.

Australians vs United Services at Cairo on Sat and Sun 18 and 19 May 1940

Details of the major match against British United Services that took place on the final weekend of the tour are unfortunately sketchy. It was a two-day match, almost certainly on Saturday and Sunday.[109] United Services included three of the stars of the Gezira Sporting Club match in Major Yeldham, and Captains Hamilton and Sumner. The AIF opened with their best score of the tour, compiling 288: the biggest contributor being the reliable John Black, who scored 64. United Services fell to 8/160 at stumps in their first innings, and were dismissed for 182 early on the second day. Major Yeldham of the Foresters, a true servant of Empire – born in India and serving in India, Egypt and Nigeria through a long military career – had played for MCC in 1939, and in Indian first-class cricket in the mid-twenties. He contributed the top score of 53 for United Services. No AIF bowling analysis is available.

The AIF batted again in mid-morning, with a lead of 106 runs. Their dismissal for 124, thanks to the bowling of Corporal Ballard (5/42) still left them with a lead of 230 runs, which must have seemed sufficient to ensure at least a draw. However United Services rallied to force a thrilling win with a boundary off the second-last ball of the final over, with only three wickets in hand. The United Services’ total of 7/282 drew largely on the talents of Captain Cyril Hamilton with a ‘brilliant’ 110, and Captain Sumner with 49. Ray Robinson did well with the ball to take 4/64. Local journalists opined that it was ‘one of the most exciting cricket matches ever played here’.[110]

Australians vs Cairo XI at Cairo on Wed 22 May 1940

A final match against a ‘Cairo XI’ took place on the day the team departed Egypt. Details of the match are extremely few, and were distorted in some of the Australian press coverage. However, it appears to have been a single-day match, in which Ray Robinson at last showed his batting credentials, though apparently against weak opposition. Ray took eleven wickets in the two innings by the Cairo eleven,[111] and scored 44, while Cec Bourne contributed 40, and the AIF won by seven wickets.


All in all, while the men enjoyed the tour, and were well received wherever they went, the cricket was seen to have been disappointing.

AIF News noted acidly:  “The cricket tour in Egypt produced some bright talent even if the cricket did not come up to expectations. Pte Ray Robinson proved himself a first class artist in one particular form of entertainment and it is understood that he received several offers to remain in Cairo throughout the tourist season.” … “The team was frankly a disappointment. They did alright against weak sides but once they struck good cricketers they went right to pieces. Undoubtedly the wickets, matting over turf, had something to do with it but this factor cannot be used as an excuse of the many batting failures. The bowlers stuck to their task well on many a long and tiring day and were perhaps not used with much imagination. Too often batsmen were allowed to play themselves in against an unvarying attack of up and down stuff” …“The team did better in the later games but all that can be said is that they should have done better all through”.[112]

The high command, which had devoted considerable resources to raising, training and transporting the team, were also less than satisfied:  “High officers of the A.I.F. have been disappointed by the indifferent performances of haphazardly chosen cricket teams which have represented the A.I.F. in Palestine and Egypt”.[113]

The solution was immediate and decisive action by the Second AIF commander, Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Blamey. It could be summed up in one word: “Fatty”.

Summer 1940 in Egypt and Palestine

The arrival of the second convoy from Australia, carrying 17 Brigade and other units at the time of the tour of Egypt in May 1940 doubled the AIF contingent in Palestine. They arrived just in time for the Northern summer season, and were generally regarded as far better equipped for cricket thanks to the efforts of the Australian Comforts Fund.

There was a frenetic round of inter-unit matches in Palestine in June and July 1940, avidly reported in the troops’ AIF News. There were 24 teams at the regimental level, competing in two geographic divisions. The Northern District was made up of teams from Qastina, Julis, Barbara and Deir Suneid camps – the Casualty Clearing Station, Cavalry Regiment, the (artillery) Field Companies, three infantry battalions 2/1, 2/2 and 2/3, the 2/1 Field Ambulance, two teams from the (transport) Australian Army Service Corps (AASC), 16 Brigade Headquarters, the Ordnance Park and 2/2 Field Regiment (artillery) – and the Southern District drew on teams from Beit Jirja, Kilo 89, Gaza Ridge and Gaza camps – six infantry battalions 2/4, 2/5, 2/6, 2/7, 2/8 and 2/11, the 17 Brigade Headquarters, 6 Division Signals, the Australian General Hospital, 6 Division Headquarters, the Overseas Base and 2/2 Field Ambulance.[114]

The Cavalry Regiment starred in the Northern Section. It was managed by Padre Hulme-Moir, and included the Holmes brothers, Arthur Millard, and Captain Lindsay de Miell. John Speed of Port Lincoln and Mount Hope, SA scored the only century evident at this time, with 101 opening against Royal Australian Engineers in July 1940.[115]

The Cavalry Regiment team notably won two matches in a day without losing a wicket. Ian Fitchett noted:

Our only Cavalry regiment put up what must be an all-time cricket record. Commencing a game against the Engineers, they bundled them out for 39. They then ran up to 40 without the loss of a wicket. At this juncture a bus load of cricketers from a Victorian unit drew up looking for a game. The cavalry men put them in and disposed of them for 57. Again their opening bats passed this score. Two victories in one afternoon without the loss of a wicket! After this they will not hear of defeat in the pennant competition”.[116]

‘Sammy’ Steen[117] played for AASC in the main competition, and for AASC Wanderers, and Ammunition Company and for Other Ranks against Officers in matches within the unit, and starred with the ball on multiple occasions. Lieutenant Eddie Selden of Australian Overseas Base in Jerusalem also stood out.

The 16 Brigade was deployed to Egypt to ‘harden up in the desert’ in September, and cricket was generally restricted.[118] However, Sydney cricketer Ted Stretton of Central Cumberland first grade team starred in a couple of matches for the 16 Brigade presentative team playing in Cairo at this time – taking 5/15 and 7/17 against Maadi Sporting Club and Willcocks Sports Club in two days late in September 1940.[119] Ted stayed on in the Army after the war, serving in the Korean War (and playing Army cricket) and beyond.

Second tour of Egypt Sept – Oct 1940

General Blamey was determined to improve the standard of his cricket team, and as a policeman and soldier, he naturally decided it was all about leadership. His choice as captain-coach for the second tour of Egypt was Harold (‘Fatty’) Austin. We met Austin – a huge grazier from central Victoria – when he played for Second AIF in Melbourne in summer 1939/40. He was in Palestine as a provost (military police) officer, and as a Melbourne Grammar Old Boy and Cambridge Blue, he was a perfect combination of establishment ‘man’s man’ respected both by the toffs and by the country boys – footballer, cricketer, athlete, and a stern yet affable disciplinarian.

Selection of the team took place at Deir Suneid camp in Gaza in mid-August. A squad to twenty-five was reduced to a final squad of sixteen tourists. They were encamped under ‘strict discipline’, as the men were ‘expected to train as hard in fitting themselves for the cricket field as they had previously trained for soldiering’.[120] The team undertook three warm-up matches in Palestine, before embarking for the second tour of four matches in Egypt. The players were issued with dark-green caps and blazers on which the rising sun is embroidered in gold.[121] These were worn with pride many years later in club matches by their recipients.

The Team

The members of the team included a nucleus of the players from the first tour – Ray Robinson, ‘Sammy’ Steen, Cec Bourne, Arnold Flynn, Colin Burrows, Jack Whelan, and one of the Holmes brothers, probably Dick – along with new men to the team –captain-coach Harold Austin, West Australians Norm Allnutt and Bill Sheldrake, Alister Taylor from western NSW, Sergeant Jenkinson from Australian Overseas Base, and Sydney wicketkeeper Les Phillips.

Norm Allnutt was a bespectacled middle order batsman from Cottesloe, with a reputation as a hitter – “Allnutt was, as always, in an aggressive frame of mind. Norm is one of the few hitters left in the game, and an innings from him is always a treat to watch”.[122] He came to prominence, with his older brother Lea, and younger brother David, at Perth’s Scotch College playing in the Darlot Cup schools competition. They played in lower grades for Claremont and Cottesloe in the early thirties, before Norm went to the bush. Norm played for the eventual B division premiers Nor’west & Murchison side in Perth Country Week in February 1938, scoring one blazing innings – said to be the best innings of the week – of 133 runs in just 61 minutes (2×6, 20×4) against Perenjori-Latham. He began in A grade cricket for Fremantle from late 1937/38, but returned to the country in 1939, and returned to play for Fremantle early in 1940. He was an early enlistment in the AIF, and served with 2/11 Battalion throughout the war, before returning to rural WA after the war. In 1946/47, he played cricket for Northam against the MCC tourists on their arrival in Australia in the tour opener match in early October 1946, and played for York in Country Week, before a season with Perth’s Nedlands team in the late forties.

Bill Sheldrake was a left-arm slow medium pace bowler with a ‘nice easy action’ and good flight,[123] and a brilliant fieldsman. He also hailed from the Fremantle club. He played baseball for Fremantle pre-war, and was a top player for the AIF baseball team in 1940. He worked as a customs agent at the port of Fremantle, where his father – also a cricketer, and a Great War digger – was a wharfie. Bill senior hit up 102 not out in just 23 minutes, with eighteen sixes for CBC Old Boys against the Naval Reserve in a Fremantle Mercantile Association match in early 1936.[124] Bill junior played three seasons of A grade cricket for Fremantle before the war, and returned there briefly after the war.

Alister (‘Bo’) Taylor was a batsman from Gilgandra, son of the local police sergeant, who represented the town at cricket in Mumford Cup matches and other representative cricket immediately upon his arrival there in 1932/33, when aged just 14 years old. He starred as a cricketer at Dubbo High School in 1934 and 1935, and he was a top local and representative batsman for Railways club and for Gilgandra until the outbreak of war.

Jenkinson is an enigma. We only know that he is not Queensland country cricketer Alan Jenkinson of Kilcoy on the Upper Brisbane River near Ipswich. Alan was playing cricket in Brisbane at the time – as we shall see – though he played in AIF teams in Palestine in 1941.

Les Phillips was a wicketkeeper, a former Randwick and Paddington grade player,[125] and captain of the Bondi Icebergs cricket team, who played first grade briefly for Petersham after the war.

In addition, we know of three men who were members of 2/6 Battalion cricket team,[126] who tried out, but were scrubbed, who all had distinguished service records  –  Lt. Hugh (‘Mick’) Stewart, an international Rugby Union full-back for Sydney’s University and Western Suburbs clubs, and for Melbourne, all-round G.P.S. athlete for Scots College in the twenties, and cricketer for Scots and Glebe in Sydney’s first grade competition, and later a Lieutenant-Colonel in charge of jungle training; Lt. Keith Carroll, a banker from Colac in Victoria’s Western District regarded as one of the local club’s ‘greatest cricketers’ – batsman, wicketkeeper and left-arm bowler – and a frequent district and Country Week representative, previously from Melbourne’s Hawthorn-East Melbourne team, and later an infantry Major; and Private Cyril Pearlman, a schoolteacher from Lake Condah near Hamilton in Victoria’s Western District, and originally from Ballarat and Melbourne, a Jewish all-round sportsman who played Country Week cricket for the Grampians in the mid-thirties, and various sports for the Maccabees and other Jewish sports clubs before and after the war, later promoted to a Captain in intelligence, and as we shall see, awarded a Military Medal for his part in the Battle of Bardia in early 1941. These were three pretty impressive wash-outs!

Palestine Warm-Up

The team played three preparatory matches in Palestine in the second half of September 1940, of which they won two and lost one,[127] but we know very little at all, other than the fact that bowler Bill Sheldrake starred with the bat, scoring six fifties in seven innings,[128] and Test batsman Ray Robinson failed with the bat, but did well with the ball.[129]

AIF vs Palestine Police at Mount Scopus, Jerusalem on Sat 14 Sept 1940

The only match in Palestine that we can date is a match against the Palestine Police at Mount Scopus. General Blamey was in attendance, along with the deputy Inspector-General of Palestine Police, Colonel A J Kingsley Heath.[130] Legendary cameraman Damien Parer again acted as the team’s photographer.[131] The ground is on a barren, stony landscape, and the surface looks entirely devoid of grass. We know only that this match was the one in which AIF was defeated.[132]

The Egyptian Tour

Four matches took place from late September into early October, all won by the AIF.[133] The schedule consisted of four matches, with Gezira Cricket Club, Egyptian Cricket Club, a British Army team, and a Royal Navy team.[134] The averages published after the tour shows that AIF took forty wickets in all, and that the most innings that any AIF batsman played was four. This strongly suggests these were four single-innings matches with low scores. ‘Errol’ Flynn (165 runs @ 82.50, with highest score 79x) and Norm Allnutt (145 runs @ 36.25, with highest score 48) stood out with the bat, and Ray Robinson (17 wickets @ 7.76) and Syd Steen (16 wickets @ 8.56) did best with the ball.[135]

AIF vs Gezira Club at Gezira on Fri 27 Sept 1940

AIF won the match by three wickets.[136] Gezira scored 142 runs. Ray Robinson (6/57) and ‘Sammy’ Steen (3/27) starred with the ball, taking nine wickets between them, to dismiss a strong Gezira club team, including two well-known County batsmen in their captain, RAF Squadron Leader Charles Bray (Essex) and Captain Cyril Hamilton (Kent). Norm Allnutt (41) led the batting effort, with Cecil Bourne (25), Jack Whelan (20) and Harold Austin (18) in compiling 7/144, to secure a three-wicket win.

Unfortunately, we have no details at all of the other three matches. Nonetheless, it is fair to say that with only a single loss in seven matches, and a clean sweep of the Egyptian matches the campaign was a considerable success – Mission Accomplished for Harold ‘Fatty’ Austin – though the results are scant, and historical recognition has been nil.

Fatty Austin

Fatty Austin

Darwin on the eve of war

Darwin, with a population today of around 130,000, was still just a small country town as the war began. Its fixed (non-indigenous) population of 3,600 in 1938 – which had doubled over the decade – swelled to around 5,000 in 1939, as RAAF, Royal Australian Navy and Army personnel were deployed to bolster the limited military installations that had been created in the 1930s.

A naval reserve base was set up in Darwin in 1935, which became headquarters from 1937 of the Northern Territory Naval District. Four 6” naval guns defended the harbour by 1936. High-powered wireless, refuelling facilities, a boom and water supplies were built or improved in 1939 in a burst of activity prompted by fears of war. Designated as HMAS Penguin V at the outbreak of war, the naval facility was renamed as HMAS Melville in August 1940.

The Darwin Mobile Force was an all-volunteer mixed artillery and infantry unit of around 250 men raised in November 1938 to garrison Darwin. Previous to that, only fifty men of the artillery and engineers were stationed there. The Mobile Force (not particularly mobile) was encamped on the site of the abandoned Vestey’s meatworks. It became the Darwin Infantry Battalion with the advent of the AIF in August 1940, and moved to the Larrakeyah Barracks.

12 Squadron of the RAAF was the first RAAF squadron permanently deployed in the Northern Territory, which deployed at the civilian airstrip at Parap from August 1939 while the RAAF station was being constructed. It flew a handful of Anson patrol aircraft and some light training aircraft. Critically, in light of later events, it had no fighter aircraft.

Military Domination of Sport

Local founder football clubs Buffaloes (now Darwin) and Waratah competed with military teams from the Mobile Force, the RAAF and Garrison Artillery in the local Australian Rules football competition in the 1939/40 season. Henry Dondey, Northcote and VCA Colts cricketer from Melbourne, is evident as the star centre-half forward for Garrison team. Neil Peterson – later founder of the first RAAF cricket teams in London in 1942, as we shall see – was editor of the RAAF Football Record, and played in the forward pocket.[137] Mobile Force were premiers over Garrison.[138]

Local cricket was also dependent largely on military personnel. Seven of eighteen vice-presidents of the NTCA in 1940 were military personnel from all three forces, including an RAN Captain, RAAF Wing Commander and three Majors.[139] When the Northern Territory Cricket Association met in April 1940 to plan the season, five teams entered. Four of these were military teams – from the Darwin Mobile Force, the garrison artillery (‘RAA’), Aerodrome (“Drome” or the “United [Australian] States”) drawn from the RAAF, and a Navy team – along with a civilian team from Palmerston (20 km east). The Association played traditional two-week Saturday fixtures, and the local cricket season ran from May to October each year.

Lindsay (‘Lin’) Darling, a cousin of international batsman Len Darling, and a former Riverland and Sturt club cricketer, was prominent for the Palmerston team. He was stationed with the post office in Darwin from January 1940. He later took a leading role in setting up 1941 season for the NTCA as the wartime population of Darwin burgeoned with the influx of service personnel.

HMAS Melville XI 1940

HMAS Melville XI 1940

Coverage of the local cricket season was unfortunately very limited. The Navy cricket team, formally HMAS Melville by the end of the season, were the premiers. A photograph exists of the premier team on the cricket ground, next to the newly-built Hotel Darwin.[140] This splendid building was constructed on the Esplanade next to the harbour, to accommodate Qantas’ flying boat passengers.[141] The old Town Oval – nicknamed ‘Gravel Rash Oval’ by the footballers owing to its sparse grass cover – was the centre of (Australian Rules) football from 1916 and cricket from the 1870s.[142] It has now been absorbed into a local park, with the sporting grounds moved further from the centre of town. Local sportsmen recall the lovely views of the sea, and the inconvenience of lost cricket balls and footballs.

The cricketers’ attire – a mixture of naval whites, cricket gear and singlets, with long shorts – suggests the cricket was fairly informal. The HMAS Melville team was drawn from all of the States. The most prominent cricketer in the team is Brisbane cricketer Harold Muhl, brother of East Suburbs’ bowling stalwart Arthur Muhl. Harold was a grade cricketer for South Brisbane, QCA Colts and Eastern Suburbs from 1930/31 to 1937/38, and for Subiaco in Perth during 1942/43 – 1945/46. Despite his delicate build, moderate height and somewhat cherubic face, he bowled excellent fast-medium with “whirlwind arm and body movement”. He was regarded as an excellent fieldsman and catch, and a hard-hitting tail-ender.[143] His bowling in the 1944/45 Perth first grade season was exceptional, and included two nine-fers in an aggregate of 63 wickets for the season. He was a Queensland public servant who enlisted in the Navy on the day before the declaration of war, and was discharged back into Government service in 1941. He rose to considerable seniority in the Queensland public service into the mid-1970s, and was awarded a couple of (slightly obscure) imperials honours for his efforts – The Royal Victorian Order – fifth class, and an Imperial Service Order.

Army cricket

2/15 Battalion of the AIF was raised in Queensland in early 1940 as part of 20 Brigade, destined for 7 Division (and later transferred to 9 Division). The battalion was dispatched from Brisbane to Darwin in mid-July 1940, to bolster the Mobile Force. It was settled at Vestey’s meatworks. Lt. Doug Cubitt and seven enlisted men went to hospital immediately after arrival, as a rubella (German measles) outbreak hit the unit, and the epidemic lasted to mid-August.

The 2/15 Battalion settled into an extensive sporting program straight away: “The Battalion is fortunate in that it has an energetic welfare committee, which has generously supplied over £200 of sporting material for cricket, hockey, football and indoor games.  There is an excellent spirit of competition amongst the companies in the various fields of sport”.[144] Inter-company matches were evident within a week of arrival.[145]

Within three weeks of arrival, the officers of the battalion were ready to challenge the officers of the Mobile Force to a cricket match at the Larrakeyah Barracks.

Officers of 2/15 Battalion vs Officers of Larrakeyah Barracks at Larrakeyah on Sunday 4 Aug 1940

There is a three-page detailed scorecard preserved in the War Diary of 2/15 Battalion.[146] The 2/15 Battalion officers compiled a creditable 224 in the first innings, with four of the top five batsmen retiring. Lt. Doug Cubitt – presumably recovered from his measles – scored 50 op retd, and his opening partner Lt Ross Jenkinson scored 44 op retd. Lt Ralston (42 retd), Lt Williams (33 retd) and Lt W H V (Bill) Jubb (25) rounded out the total. Bill Jubb was Regimental Sports Officer and OC Cricket. We will meet him in Brisbane first grade cricket during the 1940/41 season – sadly, he later died as a company commander at the Battle of el Alamein.

For Larrakeyah, Bertie Lane bowled his first four overs for 43 runs without a wicket, then took four wickets in six scoreless balls, including a hat-trick (WWW..W).  His first victim was the 2/5 Battalion commanding officer R F (“Spike”) Marlan.[147]

Larrakeyah fell 100 runs short in their first innings, with a total of 124. The innings was entirely dominated by an innings of 74x (14×4) by opener Douglas Murphy, who carried his bat through the innings, supported only by Harry Jessup’s total of 29 at number four. After Jessup fell (at 83), six wickets fell for just five runs. The last man in, Angus, then scored two runs while Murphy added 34 runs (1144414141441) in no time at all, to reach a total of 124. For 2/15 Battalion, Bill Jubb took an impressive 6/58 off nine overs, and opening bowler Neal Currie took 3/26.

When Larrakeyah followed on, they inverted their batting order. Dr William Russell, the medical officer, came to the fore with a lusty score of 49 (3×6, 4×4) at number eight in the anaemic total of 108, which was just enough to avoid an innings defeat. Dr Russell had shown a knack for avoiding disaster – in March 1940, he was obliged to stick his fingers in a soldier’s throat to hold open his windpipe, blocked by the soldier’s swallowed false teeth, while the patient drove them over two miles of bumpy bush track to the hospital.[148] For 2/15 Battalion, Alfred Peek of Gympie (4/23) and Alexander Ralston of Tenterfield (4/19) did the bowling damage – both were wounded in action but survived the war – but first innings bowling star Bill Jubb was hit for 0/33 off two overs by Dr Russell.

Doug Murphy was a slender right-handed batsman hailed from Tocumwal in the southern Riverina in NSW, and worked as an accountant for the Commonwealth Bank in Sydney before the war.[149] He joined the Army and attended the Royal Military College in 1939, just in time for appointment when war began. He became Adjutant of the Darwin Infantry Battalion in early 1941, and soon after married Brisbane girl Nan McWhirter, whose family owned a department store there.[150] Her brother James McWhirter was Murphy’s best man, and died in naval service, as we shall see. Murphy went on to became a Major during service in New Guinea and was mentioned in dispatches, and after the war became a well-known stockbroker in Brisbane.[151] He continued to play cricket, and played for United Services against an international cricket Press team assembled in Brisbane for the MCC tour in 1954/55.[152]

Harry Jessup was a handsome man with a pukkah moustache,[153] who attended the Southport School in the mid-twenties, where he rowed. He played minor grade cricket for Valley in Brisbane in 1929/30, and Rugby Union in B grade for GPS Old Boys in 1931. He was prominent in Brisbane society through the thirties, and was an accountant. He enlisted in the militia in the early thirties, but was living in Darwin as an apparent civilian – accountant, planter and pearler – in mid-1939. On the outbreak of war, he was immediately mobilised as an officer in intelligence,[154] suggesting his civilian life may have been a cover of some sort – he could apparently speak Malay as well.[155] Certainly he rose extremely quickly in the Army, flying into Malaya in early April 1941 as part of an advanced party, and held a succession of key posts in 8 Division Headquarters, including GSO3 (Intelligence) from September 1941, all through the disastrous campaign in Malaya and Singapore. As the Battle of Singapore moved to its conclusion in February 1942, 8 Division commander General Gordon Bennett determined to escape, and Jessup initially intended to join the escape party. On consideration, he decided to stay with his men and go into captivity. Bennett – who did not lack courage but was difficult – successfully escaped, to an ambiguous welcome in Australia. Jessup became an important authority on the Australians in Japanese captivity, being held in Singapore throughout the war, and maintaining comprehensive diaries which cast useful light on many aspects of events.[156] He was an important witness at the Royal Commission held immediately after the war on Bennett’s conduct.[157]

Neal Currie was the son of Lieutenant-Colonel Patrick Currie, CBE, CMG, DSO and Croix de Guerre – all earned on the Western Front in the Great War – from Rockhampton.[158] Neal won a scholarship to attend secondary school at Brisbane High School, then a scholarship to the Royal Military College in 1933. Originally an officer in the Darwin Mobile Force, he crossed over to 2/15 Battalion while in Darwin, where he became the unit’s Adjutant.[159] He was taken prisoner of war, along with his commanding officer Lt-Col ‘Spike’ Marlan and the battalion chaplain C S S Arkell – who were both members of the cricket team – at el Gazala during the ‘Benghazi Handicap’ fiasco in early 1941 as the battalion was obliged to retreat in disarray, when the German Afrika Korps attacked unexpectedly. He survived his captivity with honour, and was mentioned in dispatches for his service as a POW of the Italians at Sulmona POW Camp. He remained in the Army after the war, including as an instructor and Rugby coach at Royal Military College in the late forties and early fifties, and retired as a Brigadier in 1967.

2/15 Battalion left Darwin after September 1940, and went on to distinguished service at el Alamein and in the Pacific.

Summer of 1940 in England

It is a universal memory of those who were there that the summer of the Battle of Britain in 1940 was preternaturally beautiful and prolonged, with clear blue skies and warmth throughout the season, with the otherworldly sight of aerial battles overhead.

“I have watched a cricket match during which batsmen and bowlers paused to watch a Nazi plane being chased by a Hurricanes over their heads and then resumed. The only unusual feature was that on prompt resumption the umpire had forgotten how many balls had been delivered in the over and appealed for information to the scorers”.

Battle of Britain

Battle of Britain

Cricket Season 1940

Cricket writer R C Robertson-Glasgow writing in Wisden 1941 noted:

“It is not easy to write notes on our First-Class cricket season of 1940, because no competitive First-Class cricket was played … The military crisis wiped out several matches due to have been played at Lord’s, in at least two of which the standard of play would probably have been that of a Test Trial … Entertainment, therefore, as left largely to private enterprise”.[160]

He noted that two ‘private enterprise’ teams stood out as key to the season – London Counties, with legendary Test batsman Jack Hobbs as President – and British Empire – with writer and administrator Plum Warner as President. They were teams of ‘strong County standard’. The Essex county team initially arranged a summer program, but it was curtailed when the county was declared a Defence Area which prevented most travel. The cricket Leagues in northern England flourished, with an influx of otherwise unoccupied first-class players, though the cancellation of professional contracts in Lancashire League at the outbreak of war ‘sadly diminished the gates’.

Lyrical cricket writer Neville Cardus regretted the fact that:

“There has been no first-class cricket at Lord’s during one of the most beautiful summers known in England since the wonderful year of 1921, when Warwick Armstrong’s team swept victoriously over every cricket field in the land. But Lord’s was fairly busy with club matches during June and July’.[161]

The season began in May 1940 as the situation normalised after the fall of France, and grew almost organically. The British Empire XI, the London Counties XI, the usual schools and various clubs competed at Lord’s, along with a slew of teams from the emergency services – London Fire Service, Metropolitan Police, Barrage Balloon, various Air Raid Protection (ARP) units – and some services matches.

As Sir Pelham Warner traced it:

“And so cricket at Lord’s grew, slowly at first, almost in a day-by-day arrangement, but after a while to such an extent that at the end of July and during August and the first week of September there were games practically every day”

The British Empire XI played 37 matches for the season, winning 22, and raising £1,239 for the Red Cross in a strictly amateur format.[162] The team was organised by nineteen-year old Desmond Donnelly with ‘unbounded enthusiasm’,[163] and led by H T (Hugh) Bartlett, an aggressive left-handed batsman standing 6’ 2” (188 cm) in height, from Sussex by way of Dulwich College (where he scored two double centuries) and Cambridge University. His 1938 season had been outstanding, with a famous 175x in his first appearance for Gentlemen against Players, and 157 in two hours against the Australian visitors at Hove and a nomination as a 1939 Wisden Cricketer of the Year. Wisden labelled him “the type of batsman who can transform a match in the space of twenty minutes or so by his daring and fearless pulling, his powerful driving and his determination to prevent the bowler dictating the situation”.[164] He usually began his innings scratchily, swinging and missing and scoring slowly, but then often achieved the upper hand. He toured South Africa in 1938/39 but did not play in the Tests. A number of other well-known Test and first-class players played for the Empire XI during the season, including batsman Denis Compton and fast bowler Ken Farnes (both of whom were also 1939 Wisden Cricketers of the Year), and Yorkshire bat Norman Yardley and West Indian leg-spinner C B (Bertie) Clarke from Barbados, who had returned after the 1939 Test series in England to study medicine at Guy’s Hospital in London.[165] They were joined by an interesting array of club cricketers, and many players came and went in the chaotic wartime environment.

The most prolific scorers for the Empire XI were opener L F (Len) Parslow from Chingford club, with 900 runs @ 45.00 in 20 innings, including three centuries, and wicketkeeper W M F (William) Bebbington formerly of Darjeeling, who scored 809 runs in 27 innings. Bertie Clarke bore the brunt of the bowling with 209 overs – just less than the next three most prolific bowlers in his team put together – taking 83 wickets @ a miserly 10.74

The London Counties XI played 26 matches, losing only one (to the Empire XI), also raising funds for the Red Cross. The club was organised by C J E Jones of the Forest Hill club, who ‘threw all his efforts into providing the best possible substitute for competitive cricket’.[166] He drew together professionals from Southern England – Surrey, Middlesex, Essex, Kent and Somerset – whose financial circumstances were ‘reduced’ by the cancellation of contracts at the outbreak of war. The first proceeds of the matches went to the players, who insisted that a portion go to charity. He secured the support of County and Test legends Jack Hobbs, Frank Woolley, Patsy Hendren and Andy Sandham. They decided ‘always to play the game seriously’ regardless of the opposition, and often played on the ‘village greens’ rather than the county grounds.

Core players included the Kent duo of Arthur Fagg (1,098 runs @ 57.36) and Leslie Todd (745 runs @ 49.66 including an ‘abnormal’ number of sixes) with the bat. Forty-six-year-old F J (‘Long Jack’) Durston, taker of 1,329 first class wickets between 1919 and 1933, took 61 wickets @ 9.09 with ‘perfect length’, while Alan Watt of Kent took 62 wickets and Somerset’s Arthur Wellard took 70 wickets, and scored a rollicking 102x in 52 minutes (8×6, 7×4) against Hoddesdon. Jack Hobbs could not play, but acted as President. Revered Kent left-hand batsman Frank Woolley, scorer of almost 60,000 first-class runs, and regarded as one of the great stylists of the late Edwardian game, played several matches during the season, at 52 years of age. He  debuted in 1906, and played over thirty seasons – long enough to have three benefit seasons donated by Kent.

The wartime Royal Air Force (RAF) XI played its first major fixture at Lord’s on 3 August 1940 against London Fire Service with a crowd of 6,000. During 1940, the RAF was a little busy with the Luftwaffe, and the team played only two matches. The team came into its own during the 1941 season, and was a fixture at Lord’s for the rest of the war, and had a particular rivalry with the RAAF sides.

A West Indies XI was also assembled in 1940, but played only a single match for the season. The team was centred on four 1939 Test tourists – miraculous all-rounder Leary Constantine, leg-spinner Bertie Clarke and lightning fast bowler Manny Martindale – who batted 8,9 and 10 in the third Test in August 1939 – with Leslie Compton a ‘ring-in’ wicketkeeper. They first played at Lord’s in a match against Warner’s XI on 22 August in front of 7,000 spectators. Again, the West Indies teams became a fixture from 1941 to the end of the war.

The season ended in early September 1940, amongst the smoke and fire of the terrible air-raids on London known as the Blitz. Warner again:

“The season ended on a dramatic note amidst sirens, gunfire, shell-splinters and smoke … who will forget the great air raid on London and the fire at the Docks as seen from the top of the pavilion?”

The Horizontal Heavyweight Weighs In

A giant billboard on the Gaiety Theatre in the Strand was prepared by famed sporting cartoonist Tom Webster that depicted the British lion shaping up to bat, with a broad bat labelled Freedom, encouraging investment in war savings bonds to ‘help keep his end up’. An array of well-known characters from his cartooning career since the end of the Great War – Tishy the cross-legged horse, the unflappable billiard player Melbourne Inman and the (knocked-out) Horizontal Heavyweight appeared in the background. At top right was a running total of the war savings contributed to date.[167]

The Battle of Britain

Arthur V Stevens, Professor of Aeronautics at Sydney University, returning to Australia from a visit to the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough, observed that:

“Cricket, football, and shooting have been partly responsible for the great success of British airmen … Co-ordination of hand and eye is the essence of good flying and fighting in the air”.[168]

There was no Australian fighter squadron deployed in England, though 32 Australian pilots took part in the Battle of Britain (and 127 Kiwis), flying in various RAF and empire squadrons, and six Australian pilots were killed in action.[169]

One of them was Tasmanian fighter pilot Stuart Walch – 6’ tall, with brilliantined hair and a pencil thin moustache. He was a member of an early and well-known early settler family in Hobart, descended from a captain in the 80 Regiment of Foot who had fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill in the American Revolutionary War in 1776.[170] Stuart, son of well-known businessman Percival Walch, was educated at Hobart’s Hutchins School, where he was ‘prominent in football and cricket’.[171] He played cricket for Hutchins in the first XI in 1934, and showed characteristic courage when he rowed in the 1934 team that won a Head of the River Cup at Launceston in icy and choppy conditions, when three of the six competing boats were swamped. He won a much-coveted cadetship for flying training at RAAF Point Cook  in 1936, and was sent on to the UK for a short-service commission in the RAF in 1937. He deployed with RAF 151 Squadron from 1938, then moved in May 1940 just before the Battle of Britain to the newly-formed RAF 238 Squadron, as a flight commander. The squadron flew Hurricane fighters from Middle Wallop in Hampshire over the naval installations on Portland Bill and the Isle of Wight in the English Channel.

He had his first (shared) victory over a Messerschmitt 110 heavy fighter on 11 July, the second day of the Battle of Britain. He had two other shared victories in the next week or so, then one fighter shot down and another damaged on 21 July, and another kill on 26 July. Technically he was not an ‘ace’, which requires five victories, but was an experienced airman with 55 missions and four victories in total, and experience as flight commander and instructor. He was shot down and killed on 11 August 1940 leading a flight against 150 German raiders that had badly damaged Portland.

Not all of those heroically involved in the Battle of Britain were military personnel. Tall curly-haired W L (Bill) Bennit was Goldfields royalty – the son of a Kalgoorlie publican – and had been in London since 1938 as a student at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. His father Les Bennit, licensee of the Inland City Hotel at Kalgoorlie and a local Councillor, was Patron of the Saturday Turf Cricket Association at Kalgoorlie through the war, and was himself the son of local pioneer publican ‘Old Bill’ Bennit.[172] Young Bill was an outstanding Goldfields cricketer, an ‘ever-popular sportsman’ who studied law in Perth in the mid-thirties, but then decided on a thespian career. He played Country Week cricket for Goldfields and Eastern Goldfields at three carnivals. In 1937/38, he was vice-captain of the winning Eastern Goldfields side, and topped the carnival batting with 412 runs @ 82.40 including an innings of 154 in three hrs vs Kojonup in the fifth round, and took ten wickets. He played local cricket for Centrals and for High School (the 1937/38 premiers), and was a frequent representative player. When war broke out, he joined a fire-fighting and rescue unit in London, and soon became commander of an Auxiliary Fire Service unit during the Blitz.[173] He married Bowral girl Rachel Hedgeland while in London in 1941, and played some good cricket for an Auxiliary Fire Service team that season.[174] In 1943, he had taken 75 wickets and scored 900 runs by early October, and seems likely to attain the all-rounder’s highest season honour – the ‘double’ of a hundred wickets and a thousand runs.[175] Late in the war, he enlisted in the Dorset Regiment as an officer,[176] and returned from England only in 1947. He lived in Perth after the war, and returned to cricket, playing with the Bassendean first grade side in the early fifties, latterly as captain. He returned to the theatre, and worked in radio for 6IX, and was a television pioneer in Perth in 1949,[177] but died relatively young in 1955.[178]

The British spirit of quiet dignity in adversity and an ironic sense of humour shone through in an anecdote related in Wisden, about a notice posted on a cricket ground on the south coast after an air raid. It read:

“Local cricketers are as pleased as you. Each peardrop which fell on this ground saved lives and property. We shall carry on. Nothing which falls from the skies will deter us, except RAIN.”[179]

Diggers in Britain

Whilst en route to the Middle East, the convoy carrying 18 Brigade, Second AIF (the ‘Third Convoy’) was instead diverted around the Cape of Good Hope and on to England. They were sent to reinforce the depleted British forces following the German conquest of France, and the withdrawal of the British Expeditionary Force through Dunkirk. Gavin Long, the official war historian noted:

“Politically the presence of Canadian, Australian and New Zealand soldiers in England in that time of danger probably had a greater importance than their numbers justified. Yet so empty was England of trained men, and even of such arms as the Dominion forces brought with them, that they made an appreciable addition to the defending army”.[180]

After the debacle in France, some fifteen divisions were available in England, but only two were fully equipped – 1 Canadian Division and 3 Division, under General Montgomery. The British Expeditionary Force has lost the cream of its vehicles, tanks and artillery in the fighting in France, and even infantry weapons were in short supply. The AIF force was a strong brigade-sized group including 2/9, 2/10 and 2/12 Battalions, and was well equipped with personal and small unit weapons, at least to 1940 standard. However, it had only six artillery pieces, and an almost total lack of motor transport.

In July, 25 infantry Bde was formed out of surplus artillery, service and machine gun troops from 18 Bde, and infantry reinforcements. They were formed into 70th, 71st and 72nd Battalions (later retitled 2/31st, 2/32nd and 2/33rd Battalions).

Stonehenge_from_north,_August_2010The AIF men deployed to the Salisbury Plain in England’s southern county of Wiltshire (around 50 km from London) beginning in 18 June 1940. The force was headquartered at Amesbury Abbey on the outskirts of Amesbury next to the Avon River, and about 5 km east of Stonehenge. 18 Bde was situated at Lopcombe Corner, and the rest near Tidworth.

The AIF units were designated as ‘Australforce’, and were deployed as a mobile column held just behind the southern coast beaches to repulse attacks, especially from parachute troops.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill visited the troops on 4 September 1940, and noted:

“It has been very gratifying and refreshing to have Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians with us in this island during what has been undoubtedly one of the most anxious periods in our long history … the sons of the motherland, freely and of their own will, come across wide ocean spaces, wherever the Navy can carry them, to stand by our side, giving us their aid, giving their lives, giving us the moral sense of the conviction which they feel in their hearts, that, having made every effort to avoid this war, we are bound to fight it at all costs until this time, at any rate, we have made an end of it”.[181]

Immediate Deployment

Naturally, cricket began immediately on arrival in England, during the unusually beautiful summer. The Argus’ correspondent noted of their arrival in June: “Around our camp are several beautiful playing ovals, and our men have been availing themselves of the unaccustomed long hours of daylight. They can play cricket almost up till ‘lights out’ at ten o’clock”.[182]

The AIF units arrived without their sporting equipment – except (ironically) for six surf rescue reels – as it had all been sent on to Palestine. Fortunately, the Australian Comforts Fund came forward immediately to purchase £500 worth of sports equipment.[183]

A 2/10 Battalion representative side played Bulford Garrison at Lopcombe on Saturday 29 June 1940, just eleven days after the AIF’s arrival in England, and 2/12 Battalion played the Winchester Rifle Depot at Winchester the next day.

This breakneck routine of training interspersed with cricket continued throughout the summer of 1940: ‘At least two games are played every week against teams from English regiments stationed in the vicinity, or from nearby villages’.[184] “During the past month the 10th Battalion has been represented by one and sometimes two cricket teams on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons”.[185]

Dreams of Bradman

Expectations of the Australians were high. Early in July, ‘McCabe and Macartney’ appeared for an AIF team in England – unfortunately not the Test greats Stan McCabe and Charles Macartney, but Sapper John McCabe of Coogee and Corporal Bob Macartney from Northbridge, both of whom were surf lifesavers. The opposing English side was said to have ‘a few county players’. Needless to say, ‘the Australians were badly beaten’.[186]

The eminence grise of the MCC, ‘Plum’ Warner, who had been a wonderful supporter of Australian cricket over decades, began planning ‘big games’ for the Australians almost before they arrived. He started to arrange a 6 July match at Lord’s, with an England team of Test standard, including Jack Hobbs, to oppose an ‘Austral-New Zealand Army team’.[187] That idea petered out, but the Australians were discussing the practicalities of a representative side by the end of the month, with the appointment of an entertainment officer.[188]

Fantasies of Australia-England ‘Tests’ to take place as soon as August 1940 were engendered by Bradman’s enlistment in the RAAF:

“Now that Bradman has joined the R.A.A.F., it raises the intriguing possibility of an Australian Eleven led by him against an all-star R.A.F. side, captained by Hammond, the English Test captain. It could represent England at Lord’s in August.” … One Australian said to him: “Let’s get going at match practice and by the time Bradman comes to take over we will have a side good enough for a real war-time Test.”  Mr. Manning added that the M.C.C. would readily cover all expenses. In such a match there would be at least £5,000 or £10,000 to help swell cricket’s contribution to war funds”.[189]

Needless to say, none of this ensued. More realistically, both the London Counties XI, and the Metropolitan Police sought matches against a representative side,[190] but neither ensued.

However, on 13 July, Australians began their occupation of Lord’s, which lasted until the end of 1945, when nine busloads of slouch hats debouched to attend the match between British Empire XI vs London Counties.[191] Naturally, they disparaged the ‘Empire’ XI as including only a West Indian and an Indian, as ‘Australian battalions now in Britain could have supplied any number of cricketers of the standard required’.

AIF vs Winchester College at Winchester College on Sat 13 July 1940

Victorian Captain Jack Kroger led a representative AIF side against Winchester College on 13 July. The AIF side drew on the 70 and 72 Battalions at least, who sought nominations from men ‘desirous of playing and who is at least up to District cricket standard’.[192] They played on a slow, grassy turf pitch at the school, but the boys of the school administered a spanking to the Diggers, scoring 280 runs to the AIF’s 60.[193]

25 Brigade vs Rifle Brigade at Garrison Ground Tidworth on Sun 4 August 1940

In July, the Rifle Brigade, an historic infantry regiment of the British Army,[194] headquartered at Winchester, issued a cricket challenge to the AIF troops in the Tidworth area.[195] The Rifle Brigade team was  assessed as ‘probably the best Army team in England’.[196] An all-day match was scheduled, beginning at 11.30 am on Sunday and ‘although the match will be regarded seriously, it will be played in the village green tradition’.[197] The Brigade Commander made it clear that as many as possible of the Brigade’s men should attend, if there were not on duty. The 25 Brigade team drew on all three infantry battalions, along with its headquarters, machine gun and artillery units.

In Australia’s best demotic tradition, humble Signaller Max Brame[198] was captain of the side, despite the presence of a Major and a Captain in the side. Captain ‘Black Jack’ McCaffrey (a Duntroon regular officer) and Major Clem Cummings – a good local Cairns cricketer for Ivanhoes and St John’s, and representative sides – both had distinguished wartime careers, and McCaffery served through the Korean War and was later Principal of the Australian Police College.

South Australian Ian McNeilage, was a schoolteacher, amateur actor and A grade Rugby player for Woodville, Ray Morgan was a Toowoomba golfer and cricketer for Toowoomba Grammar and Old Grammars, John McNamara played in Newcastle first grade cricket for Merewether, and tall fast bowler Selwyn Edgar played for Mosman second grade, was soon after taken prisoner of war in the desert fighting. early 1941.

There is sadly no record of the play, but the 25 Brigade team excelled, and won easily on the first innings, scoring 3/230 declared in response to Rifle Brigade’s 154 and unfinished second innings of 4/140.[199]

A return match that took place on 18 August with an almost identical team, saw a drawn result – no details available.[200]

AIF vs NZ Services at Aldershot on Sat 24 or Sun 25 August 1940

The big representative match of the season was that against the New Zealand Services, that was held on the turf pitch at the Aldershot ground[201] late in August. This was apparently regarded as the first truly representative AIF match in England, and it resulted in an embarrassing loss.

The Second Echelon of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) was diverted to England in company with the Australian third convoy. It consisted of the 5th and 7th NZ Infantry Brigades, along with artillery, cavalry and tank units, and was headquartered at Aldershot from June 1940.

Public Domain (John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland)

Percy Chapman and Douglas Jardine

The match was arranged by the Australian and New Zealand YMCAs. The ‘Lowry Hut’ mobile canteen, established with the aid of £10,000 from wealthy Kiwi racehorse owner (and former cricketer) T H Lowry, was deployed to dispense tea, snacks and cigarettes.[202] Mr Lowry senior was the father of New Zealand Test skipper Tom C Lowry, and of two daughters, who married two eminent English and Australian cricketers – Mrs Percy Chapman, and Mrs Reg Bettington. Former England Test captain Percy Chapman – recently invalided out of the artillery – attended the match, as Mrs Chapman presided over the canteen.

At least two weeks before the match, the AIF selectors brought together players from a number of units for practice at Tidworth on three consecutive days.[203] South Australian Riverland cricketer Jack Morrell was obliged to drop out of a match at Southampton when he ‘received word yesterday that six of us had to go over to Tidworth to practise for the A.I.F. team’.[204]

For the AIF, Max Brame was again captain, with John MacNamara, Jim Hackworthy, Selwyn Edgar, Frank O’Leary and Jack McCaffery who had played in the 25 Brigade representative team against Rifle Brigade. New additions to the team included three South Australians: Jack Morrell from the champion Glossop team in Albert District and later Upper Murray Turf Associations, a Country Week and representative batsman and occasional spinner, O H (Harry) Cox who played for Brighton and the Junior SACA Colts in Adelaide in the late twenties, and Lieutenant E H (Harold) Lines, a Kensington and East Torrens grade cricketer, and previously an Australian Rules footballer for Norwood. Originally a Victorian, Captain T J (Tom) Daly was a peacetime soldier, most recently with the Indian Army, and was Adjutant of 2/10 Battalion, and captain of the battalion cricket team.[205] From 2/3 Field Company (engineers) came Tasmanian grade and representative cricketer Viv Filleul, who played in the Northern Tasmanian Cricket Association for the Launceston club, and for West Launceston and North Launceston with the move to district cricket from the mid-thirties. He had played in intrastate cricket for North vs South, and was a star local Australian Rules footballer.

The New Zealanders had a reasonably strong side headlined by a rare dual international – cricket and Rugby Union – the stylish and fast-scoring left-handed batsman and wicketkeeper Eric W (‘Snowy’) Tindill. Blond and handsome, he played five (cricket) Test matches for New Zealand, and racked up 69 first-class matches, notably on tour in England in 1937, and in Australia in 1937/38, and played 30 Plunket Shield matches over almost twenty years with Wellington. His fellow opening batsman Clem Wareham played twice in the Plunket Shield for Wellington in 1934/35, and played bright cricket locally for Wellington College Old Boys. Stan Betts was a right-handed all-rounder who bowled medium pace for Taranaki for 20 years but never crossed the Bight to play for Wellington in the Plunket Shield. He was also an international hockey representative. Captain Phil Monk played a handful of Plunket Shield matches in 1928/29 and 1929/30 for Otago, before moving to Wellington late in 1930 and Henry Reaney was a medium pacer from Hawke’s Bay for twenty years, with a single Plunket Shield match for Wellington in 1932/33. Herb Barker was a Hawke Cup batsman for Taranaki for almost twenty years, and was captain immediately before the war, but also never appeared in Plunket Shield competition. A B Gillespie from South Canterbury was a Brabin Cup (national under-21) representative player in 1937/38.

The Kiwis certainly stood out in the sartorial stakes. Three extant photographs of the match[206] show the Australians in a mixture of uniform and sports attire, wearing sandshoes or Army boots. Kiwi Herb Barker – who strangely shows on the scorecard as not having batted – looks well turned out while at bat, in cricket boots, club cap and whites. The New Zealand umpire was in full uniform including the famous ‘lemon squeezer’ hat, while the Australian umpire looks a little scruffy, though also in khaki uniform.

Australians versus New Zealanders in a cricket match at Aldershot: H. Barker (N.Z.) turns one over the wicketkeeper's head

Australians versus New Zealanders at Aldershot – Barker batting

The New Zealanders got off to a good start, and their openers secured the top scores. Snowy Tindill was dismissed for 23, and Clem Wareham went on to the match’s top score of 50. Some smaller contributions came from Sergeant-Major Betts (14) and Private Coupland (14) in the middle order, and the Kiwis wound up with a perhaps disappointing total of 135 runs. For the Australians, Sydney fast bowler Selwyn Edgar generated plenty of pace to secure the excellent figures of 5/45, and Harry Cox took 3/25. At some stage, the match was interrupted by an air-raid warning lasting 45 minutes, though play continued throughout. The Australian innings followed a very similar pattern to that of the Kiwis – the openers started well, then the rest fell away. In the Australian case, Max Brame’s innings of 33 was the top score, Newcastle opener John McNamara scored 12, and Tom Daly’s 5 not out at #11 was the next highest score, as the team collapsed for a total of just 69 runs. The Kiwi bowlers shared the wickets around – South Canterbury’s A B Gillespie took 3/6, Stan Betts 3/27, Phil Monk 2/15 and Herb Barker 2/12.

The New Zealand newspapers were extremely gallant, suggesting the Australians may have been troubled by the pitch. “New Zealand’s defeat of Australia in the military cricket match on Saturday was as decisive as it had been unexpected. However, it must be admitted that although accurate bowling and smart fielding both contributed to the win, it was principally due to weak Australian batting. The second contingent of the A.I.F. seems hardly representative of the Commonwealth’s cricketing talent.”[207] The Australian coverage was more pointed: “The first game played by the A.I.F. in England proved disastrous, New Zealand scoring a decisive victory”.[208]

Sadly, New Zealand’s star batsman Clem Wareham was killed in a hit and run accident in black out road conditions not long after the match. He was ‘struck by a fast driven motor-car and killed … when crossing a narrow village street in a black-out’. ‘The car braked and skidded after hitting Wareham, but did not stop’.[209]


Naturally, a return match was planned, and scheduled for Saturday 7 September 1940 at the Garrison Oval at Tidworth. The Australian team was selected, with six changes – interestingly, all of the officers were made to fall on their swords – but the match did not eventuate, despite the beautiful summer weather, as larger events unfolded.

The Battle of Britain had reached a critical point. Unbeknownst to the Germans and despite their heavy losses through August, their attacks on the British fighter defences had stretched the RAF to its limits. In frustration at the apparent lack of results, the Luftwaffe shifted its axis of attack to the cities from the fighter stations, as Hermann Goering ostentatiously took command, and began a massive series of attacks on London – which lasted 57 consecutive days – beginning on 7 September 1940. This had the intention of drawing the RAF into a climactic battle and destroying Britain’s will and capability to resist.

London Bomb Damage

London Bomb Damage

Intelligence reports, aerial reconnaissance of the invasion barges concentrated in France, favourable tides and weather, as well as the sudden change of tactics, suggested that invasion was imminent.[210] In the evening of 7 September the chiefs of staff  issued the watchword ‘Cromwell’ to the Army and Home Guard – this signified ‘invasion imminent’.

10:30 am “United Kingdom has been put on Yellow invasion alert. Full scale German attack probable within three days”

4:30 pm “Military Intelligence inform Chiefs of Staff “possibility of invasion has become imminent”. Defence forces to “stand by at immediate notice””

7:05 pm “Message to all UK units: codeword CROMWELL. Home Defence forces to highest degree of readiness. Invasion of mainland UK expected at any time”.[211]

Some Home Guard commanders rang church bells, giving rise to rumours of airborne landings, as a mild panic broke out. Australforce was ordered in mid-evening to mobilise against imminent aerial and ground invasion. 18 Brigade HQ at Amesbury Abbey scrambled, with many of its personnel away in London, and was only ordered to stand down at midnight.

The ‘Cromwell’ alarm came again on 22/23 September 1940 – for the second and last time. The Australians were never called upon to oppose German parachutists or a seaborne landing.

Despite horrible losses of civilians, buildings and materiel, in fact the Blitz served only to relieve the pressure on the air defences, fortify the British will to resist, and eventually rule out the Germans’ (always faint) hopes of a cross-channel invasion.

Essex vs AIF at Colchester on Sat 26 October 1940

The undaunted ‘Plum’ Warner tried once again to arrange a match for an Australian team at Lord’s in around September 1940. Riverland cricketer Jack Morrell was selected, but the match was cancelled owing to the continued bombing Blitz over London.[212] Perhaps as consolation in part, the selected AIF side played a team drawn from the Essex country cricket club in a one-day match at the Essex  county ground in late October. Jack Morrell played, and the team was led by former Tasmanian captain Doug ‘Dinah’ Green,[213] whom we last encountered being evacuated from Paris through Dunkirk in May 1940. England and Essex fast bowler Ken Farnes was unable to play. Unfortunately, we have no game details, beyond the fact that there was a little drizzle and fog, but the AIF had ‘quite an easy win’.[214] This was the last major match involving the Australforce AIF iunits in England, as the NZEF Second Echelon and AIF third convoy were released to join their comrades in the Middle East late in November 1940. Only a handful of forestry and railway units remained in England.

Jack Kroger in England

We last met Jack Kroger after the disappointing Winchester College match in July. He visited Manchester late in the year, and naturally visited Old Trafford. “Captain Kroger was shown over the ground by the curator, who remarked: “It were the best —- summer for 26 years, lud, and there is no cricket.” Though the grass was inches high on the oval the curator seemed quite happy, saying that next time ‘Braddy’ arrived they would have plenty of grass on the wicket for him”.[215]

First Australian units into action

Despite the ‘near miss’ of the AIF in England, the first Australian units went into action in the middle of 1940. The flying boats of RAAF’s 10 Squadron, and Australian naval forces in the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean led the way – naturally with cricketers to the fore.

The Flying Porcupines

Initially based at Pembroke Dock in Wales, the squadron of 250 men became operational in February 1940. The squadron’s primary role throughout the war was to locate and destroy German submarines, but its giant Sunderland flying boats also proved useful for air-sea rescue and transport missions. In 1940 it predominantly escorted Allied convoys passing through the north-western Atlantic Ocean, moving its focus into the Bay of Biscay in the ‘corner’ formed by Spain and France, during 1941. The squadron relocated to Mount Batten, near Plymouth in southern England from April 1940 to June 1941.

The unit’s main early tasks included convoy escorts, anti-submarine patrols and air-sea rescue work, and on 1 July 1940, Flight Lieutenant Bill (“Hoot”) Gibson’s crew gained the distinction of sinking the first submarine destroyed by the squadron.[216] U-26 was a type 1a U-boat, which was scuttled by its crew on 1 July 1940, south-west of Ireland after an attack by the British Flower-class corvette HMS Gladiolus followed up by bombs from Gibson’s 10 Squadron Sunderland. So much for the Squadron’s prey – now for the predator.

On 13 July 1940, the crew of 21 yo Sydney lawyer Flying Officer Harry Havyatt drove off a Messerschmitt 110 long-distance fighter three times, in what was said to be the squadron’s first interaction with a fighter aircraft.[217] The Sunderland’s extensive anti-aircraft gunnery defences led  propagandist Lord Haw Haw to label the squadron as ‘flying porcupines’ (fliegende Stachschwein) to underline their reputation as far from easy game. On 29 July 1940, the RAAF suffered its first combat casualty of the war – a wounded gunner injured by a 20 mm shell shot through the front turret of a 10 Squadron Sunderland.[218]

SunderlandOn Wed 31 July, an Sydney Morning Herald correspondent spent a day with the Squadron,[219] noting ‘Cricket, football, and hockey are largely ruled out of the R.A.A.F. sports list, because of the demands of operational duties which frequently make it impossible for sports teams to hold together. Consequently squash and tennis are the chief games played, but darts are not shunned.’ As we shall see, cricket was not entirely shunned either.

HMAS Australia

The Royal Australian Navy’s flagship heavy cruiser HMAS Australia cruised from Brisbane to Sydney in February and March 1940. The ship’s company played cricket matches against Church of England Grammar School (‘Churchie’) in Brisbane, and against the company of HMAS Adelaide and an Eastern Command team while in Sydney (both won by HMAS Australia).[220]  She spend May – July 1940 escorting convoys in the Indian Ocean and the African west coast. She was part of the Royal Navy squadron that bottled up the French Indian Ocean fleet in Dakar during July 1940 to prevent it falling into the hands of the Germans, or their Vichy French protectorate.  In that period, she suffered her baptism of fire when a French aircraft flew near the Allied ships and dropped bombs with no effect.

Somaliland Operation

The light cruiser HMAS Hobart was at Aden in the Middle East when the Italians entered the war in June 1940, and soon went into aerial action against the Italians – firing on some attacking Italian bombers, and dropping bombs on an Italian radio station in the Mediterranean with her Walrus amphibious aeroplane.[221] When the Italians invaded British Somaliland in August, Hobart acted at Dendera as the operational headquarters for the withdrawal of seven thousand troops, civilians and wounded, and the demolition of various facilities.[222] Three of her crew volunteered to go ashore with a small 3-pounder artillery piece to act as a makeshift anti-tank gun in the defence of the township. They were overrun in the fighting, and became Australia’s first casualties on land.[223] Fortunately, they were captured unharmed, and were later released from captivity when British East Africa was taken back into British hands.[224]

Mount Gambier 2/0

Young champion left-hand batsman and developing slow bowler M S (Mick) Duigan – tall, slender and aquiline – was ‘prominent in cricket, baseball, football, and other sporting circles’ in Mount Gambier in south-eastern South Australia.[225] He played for the Federals club locally, in inter-town Whitty Trophy matches and in Adelaide Country Week.  Three other Duigans played for the Federals team at this time, and Mick’s late father Mick senior had been a champion inter-town cricketer for a quarter century.[226] Young Mick brought up a big career milestone, when aged just 24 years old in mid-January 1940, when he reached 2,500 runs in the local competition, scored since his A grade debut at 15 years old in 1931/32. A typical country sportsman, he also played baseball for Federals and football for North Gambier for a couple of seasons. Mick enlisted in 2/27 Battalion AIF in April 1940, and went on leave in Adelaide after basic training in August. Sadly, Mick fell to his death from a window of the Victoria Hotel in Adelaide at 3 am while partying.

Mount Gambier lost a second outstanding local cricketer in the winter of 1940. Hotel keeper and exceptional all-rounder Ken Peacock – an opening batsman and medium pacer – died of illness in the AIF Artillery Depot aged only 31 years old, less than a month after joining the AIF. Ken had scored an outstanding 197 in just two hours in Whitty Cup cricket against Millicent in 1927/28 aged 19 years old as he ‘thrashed the bowling to all parts of the field’ – this was the highest ever Whitty Cup innings to that time. With the ball, he stood out with an innings of 10/16 for Standards vs Kookaburras in local competition in 1931/32 – the only recorded ten-fer in local matches to that time.[227]

Germans Don’t Play Cricket (again)

At a lunch in April, noted cricket columnist and music critic Neville Cardus observed, in the well-worn trope:

“If cricket settled the most bitter of civil wars in England, there was no reason why it should not help to maintain peace in the world to-day … Lancashire and Yorkshire fight their battles on the cricket fields these days”, he said, “and if the Germans had ever played cricket, peace probably would have continued.”[228]

Some heavy-handed German propaganda during 1940 once again revealed their inability to understand the eccentricities of the English character:

Lokal Anzeiger features on its front page a “revolt” by Kent cricketers against a Government command to plough up the club’s pitch. They are said to have pleaded that the rights had been handed down from their forefathers, who played cricket before helping Drake to defeat the Armada. The story adds that non-cricketers became enraged and decided to carry out the Government’s order by force”.[229]

It does sound a little unlikely.

And yet…

“A visit to Lords on a dark December day,” noted Harry Altham, “was a sobering experience; there were sandbags everywhere, and the Long Room was stripped and bare, with its treasures safely stored beneath ground, but the turf was a wondrous green; old Time on the grandstand was gazing serenely at the nearest balloon, and one felt somehow it would take more than totalitarian war to put an end to cricket.” … “I believe there is a general feeling that the game can and should be kept going wherever possible”.[230]

At a less exalted level, opinion at the annual meetings of the Melbourne district clubs in August 1940 also backed the idea of continuing, despite all of the obstacles, with points to provide interest, but not trophies.

Mr Langford, Richmond President: “Cricketers would find it difficult to concentrate on sport, but it would be wrong if every sporting body was to shut up and allow its members to wander the streets worrying about the war”.[231]

Mr W J Dowling North Melbourne Secretary: “They were not looking for trophies in these perilous times but he thought that members wanted to see competitive cricket. He thought that the season would be very drab without a points system”.[232]

Mr Dehnert, Collingwood President: “Several young players in the club were not eligible for home defence training and others were in reserved occupations. Cricket should definitely be continued as long as possible without interfering with the war effort”.[233]

J J Liston, Williamstown President: “It was necessary for healthy sports to be played to afford players and members a means of escape from the burdens and responsibilities of life to-day. In all strife the brunt of the fighting had to be borne by players of field games”.[234]


The wedding of Roger Kimpton and Moira Creswick in July was a major Melbourne society event of the winter of 1940. Moira was the daughter of late Major H F Creswick, in turn the only son of famed pastoralist and racehorse owner Alexander Creswick, who was probably the largest individual sheep owner in the history of Australia,[235] and had owned as many as thirty stations scattered over the country, and 400,000 sheep at his peak. He had died in March 1939.[236] “Though he scorned public ostentation his house, Yarrien, with a porter’s lodge, ballroom and footmen in livery, was one of the last Toorak establishments to be kept in the style which had made that suburb a byword for opulence”.

Kimpton Flour Mill

Kimpton Flour Mill

The Kimptons were a wealthy family operating the country’s largest flour mill, and Steve and Roger Kimpton had been educated at Melbourne Grammar and Oxford University, where they stood out academically and as sportsmen.

Kimpton’s wedding attendants were Geelong Grammar cricketer, footballer and track athlete Bill McCulloch – a grazier and airman, who was later the temporary commander of RAAF 77 Squadron – and Melbourne Grammar cricketer, footballer and athlete Bill Newton – St Kilda and Victorian Second XI cricketer, RAAF airman, and later winner of the Victoria Cross, and savagely executed by his Japanese captors. We earlier noted Roger Kimpton during 1939/40 as an early enlistee with first-class experience, and Bill Newton as a stand-out in the 1938/39 first grade season.

A photograph in the Australian War Memorial collection [237] is particularly poignant – it is a group portrait of the twenty-two members of No. 2 Course, No. 1 Elementary Flying Training School at Parafield, SA – which includes all three men, McCulloch, Newton and Kimpton.

Of the twenty-two men, all early enlistees in the RAAF, six were killed, eight became Squadron Leaders and one a Group Captain. And one – Bill Newton- was awarded a Victoria Cross.






[1] The man himself was on a golf course that day, playing A division pennant golf at Mount Osmond, with a respectable round of 75 (Mail Sat 27 Apr 1940). As noted in the previous chapter, Harold Burgoyne has just unveiled his monster score of 393 not out in the B grade final in Moss Vale, to once again eclipse one of Don’s earliest record scores. The effect of all of these tiny pinpricks to the Don’s exceptional prestige is unknown.

[2] Grimsby Telegraph 7 Oct 2013 article ‘The Crampin cricketer trawlers’. http://www.grimsbytelegraph.co.uk/Crampin-cricketer-trawlers/story-19897073-detail/story.html Beyond the original six converted to Royal Navy service, he added the Barnett, Wellard, Pataudi, and Yardley, a new Bradman in 1950, and finally Trueman and Statham in the fifties.

[3] http://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?164724 and http://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?164725 cover the details of the Hammond and Bradman. http://www.naval-history.net/xDKWW2-4004-13APR04.htm provides detail of the campaign and the units’ place in them. An interesting personal tale from the son of Hammond’s skipper John ‘Jakey’ Crockett appears at http://www.harry-tates.org.uk/veteranstales34a.htm Argus Thu 23 May 1940 noted that the crew of the Bradman were all rescued, though the captain was wounded in the action.

[4] Courier-Mail Thu 13 Jan 1938. Similar favouritism was expressed closer to the race in Newcastle Morning Herald Fri 11 Mar 1938 (and others), reprinting an article by Captain Heath of the London News Chronicle.

[5] Newcastle Morning Herald Fri 11 Mar 1938

[6] Sydney Sun 6 Apr 1940

[7] Official Histories – Second World War, Volume I – The Government and the People, 1939–1941 (1965 reprint) Chapter 5 – The Danger in Europe, April-September 1940 pp 237-238

[8] Sydney Morning Herald Mon 15 Apr 1940

[9] Sydney Morning Herald Wed 25 May 1940

[10] Sydney Sun Tue 4 Jun 1940

[11] Sydney Sun Tue 14 May 1940

[12] Sydney Sun Tue 4 Jun 1940

[13] Sydney Sun Thu 12 Sept 1940

[14] Sydney Sun Tues 31 Dec 1940

[15] Argus Tue 27 Aug 1940

[16] Argus Fri 7 Jun 1940

[17] See Argus Wed 28 Aug 1940 and Townsville Daily Bulletin of the same date, for instance

[18] C E W Bean, Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918, Volume IV – The Australian Imperial Force in France, 1917, Chapter XVI Holding the Gains at Messines p 675

[19] Advertiser Sat 28 Sept 1940 and News Mon 30 Sept 1940

[20] Sydney Sun Tue 18 Jun 1940

[21] Sporting Globe Wed 24 Sept 1941

[22] Sydney Morning Herald Wed 3 Jul 1940

[23] Argus and Sydney Morning Herald Sat 17 Mar 1934

[24] See C. J. Lloyd, ‘Parkhill, Sir Robert Archdale (1878–1947)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/parkhill-sir-robert-archdale-7960/text13859. The article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988. His son R J B (Bruce) Parkhill was a wicketkeeper for Scots College and University, and a wartime prisoner of war. ‘Sir Spats’ died in 1947.

[25] Sydney Morning Herald Wed 3 Jul 1940

[26] Advertiser Tue 9 Jul 1940

[27] Advertiser Tue 9 Jul 1940

[28] Sydney Morning Herald Wed 10 Jul 1940

[29] Camperdown Chronicle Thu 11 Jul 1940

[30] Sydney Morning Herald Thu 11 Jul 1940

[31] Sydney Morning Herald Thu 18 July 1940

[32] Wagga Wagga Daily Advertiser Thu 1 Aug 1940

[33] Canberra Times Tue 13 Aug 1940, (London) Times 23 Oct 1940, The Cricketer Annual 1940-41 p 21

[34] Perth Daily News Tue 14 May 1940, reprinted multiple times through May and June 1940.

[35] Newcastle Morning Herald Thu 23 May 1940

[36] Sydney Morning Herald Thu 30 May 1940

[37] Argus Tue 4 Jun 1940

[38] Argus Wed 5 Jun 1940

[39] Perth Sunday Times Sun 7 July 1940

[40] Sydney Morning Herald Mon 3 Jun 1940, Argus Tue 4 and Wed 5 Jun 1940

[41] Courier-Mail Thu 20 Jun 1940

[42] Courier-Mail Mon 22 Jul 1940

[43] Sydney Morning Herald Sat 18 and Sat 25 May 1940

[44] Sydney Morning Herald Mon 3 June 1940

[45] Sydney Morning Herald Mon 5 and Wed 7 Aug 1940

[46] Sydney Morning Herald Mon 19 Aug 1940

[47] Sydney Morning Herald Mon 26 Aug 1940

[48] Harry R Meyer was a star cricketer, a founder of the first country carnival in Adelaide before the Great War, captain of the first zonal premier team at SA Country Carnival in 1925/26, and donor of the Meyer Cup for carnival competition in 1937. He played country carnival cricket into his fifties. On Rob Meyer’s return from service in 1945/46, his father chaired a meeting to bring the Ashbourne Cricket Club out of recess after six years, and was elected president, with Rob as captain, and five Meyers played in the team in all. Port Elliot Southern Argus Thu 18 Oct 1945

[49] Kadina and Wallaroo Times Wed 12 Mar 1941 and Murray Pioneer Thu 31 Jan 1946

[50] Reported in Argus Wed 28 Aug 1940 and in many regional newspapers

[51] Reported in News Sat 30 Dec 1939

[52] Brisbane Worker Tue 20 Feb 1940

[53] From 1943 to 1968, she served as Senator Tangney (ALP) as Australia’s first female Senator, and was invested as Dame Dorothy Tangney in 1968.

[54] News Fri 28 Jun 1940 and Sun Fri 28 Jun 1940. His enlistment made headlines in over forty newspapers all over Australia within a couple of days.

[55] Daily Sketch Sun 30 Jun 1940 as reported in Argus Mon 1 Jul 1940

[56] It was reported in a number of newspapers, apparently first in an unnamed Sydney newspaper. There is good coverage in Albany Advertiser Thu 5 Sept 1940. Sports columnist ‘Old Boy’ (Reginald Wilmot) in the Australasian Sat 21 Sept 1940 skewered the hoax – “It was war news like the potato on the hot-dog barrow—”all hot and floury”— but there was not a word of truth in it.” “Still it was a good story, and why bother about the truth? It is always a pity to spoil a story by adhering too strictly to the truth.”

[57] For instance, he appeared in a ten-minute slot on 3AR at prime time (6.50 pm) in ‘one of the highlights of the day’ according to Argus 26 Sept 1940. He later outlined ‘what was required of Australia in helping the Empire to bowl out Hitler and his team and to save civilisation’. Perth Mirror Sat 5 Oct 1940

[58] Official History, Army Vol I To Bengazi, chapter 4 To the Middle East, p 70 notes that with the deployment of ANZAC troops to the Middle East, ‘Britain could insure against Italian entry into the war without robbing the main theatre’. This seems too trite given the newspaper coverage of the time, though it is possible that the Italians were always the major motivation.

[59] See for instance headlines in the Sydney Sun on Sun 11, Tue 13 and Sun 25 Feb 1940.

[60] Sun Sat 23 Mar 1940 noted that the British presence in India was the ‘only barrier’ to chaos there.

[61] War Diary of 2/2 Battalion [AWM 52, item 8/3/2/2] January 1940 p 35 [Colombo 31 Jan 1940]

[62] The date of the match was recorded as ‘February 1940’ by the writer in The Cricketer 11 May 1940. The convoy arrived on Tuesday 30 January, and departed on the morning of Thursday 1 February, so the match could only have occurred on Tuesday 30 or Wednesday 31 January. The men granted leave on Tuesday were ashore only between 1.15 pm and 6.30 pm, leaving little time for a match to be arranged. The Wednesday leaves were all day. Review of the 16 Brigade War Diaries (including those of 2/1, 2/2 and 2/4 Battalions) demonstrates that Wednesday is far more plausible, and seems clinched by the fact that the named men were all from 2/4 Battalion and the Cavalry Regiment, all from the Strathnaver, and all on leave on Wednesday. War Diary of 2/4 Battalion [AWM 52, item 8/3/4/2] January-February 1940 p 12 [Colombo 31 Jan 1940] notes ‘Cricket match onshore against Colombo Cricket Club by troops’.

[63] Samuel Peter Foenander was a remarkable man known as ‘Ceylon’s Walking Wisden’ who was one of Sri Lanka’s foremost sports writers and leading historian of the game in Sri Lanka for around fifty years. He was an excellent schoolboy cricketer, whose influence an writer and administrator extended to athletics, tennis, golf, soccer and Rugby, and – like the great Neville Cardus – was also a music critic. He had a massive cricket library and collection of cricket memorabilia, and wrote around a dozen books on cricket. Ethnically a Bharatha, a member of a community with its roots in India’s Tamil Nadu, he was considered a ‘burgher’ in the complex racial identities of Sri Lanka and worked successfully to at least partially integrate sports in Sri Lanka. See Wisden (1968) ‘Obituary: Of deaths in 1967’ and for evidence of his Australian connections Argus Sat 16 Jan 1937.

[64] Ceylon Observer of Sat 10 Feb 1940 quoted in Burnie Advocate Thu 14 Mar 1940

[65] Miell rose to command the Cavalry Regiment as Lieutenant-Colonel before suffering a severe breakdown late in the war. See http://www.awm.gov.au/units/people_1080766.asp. Finlay rose to peacetime Major-General as Director of Military Intelligence, and commandant of Duntroon Military College until his retirement in 1967. See http://www.awm.gov.au/units/people_1080758.asp.

[66] Sun Tue 27 Feb 1940

[67] Border Watch (Mt Gambier) Tue 12 Mar 1940 and Burnie Advocate Thu 14 Mar 1940

[68] Wellington Times Thu 22 Feb 1940 and Molong Express and Western District Advertiser Sat 24 Feb 1940.

[69] War Diary of 2/4 Battalion [AWM52, Item 8/3/4/2] January – February 1940 p 98 [Camp Julis, 21 February 1940]

[70] AIF News 6 Apr 1940 at War Diary of 6 Division General Staff Branch, AWM 52 1/5/12/5 May 1940 – p 193 and Argus Sat 27 April 1940

[71] Jim Welsh, a cricketer and serviceman from Maleny in Queensland was interviewed for the Australians at War Film Archive (UNSW) number 1721 (March 2004). He led the 2/32 Battalion cricket team in 1941, and played for his Brigade in representative matches. He recalls preparing a ground, enlisting a local Arab to mark  the boundary line surrounding one of the concrete pitches laid by the engineers in Palestine (at Part 4, 22:00): “I had an interpreter, we went down and got a bloke, he came and did it with a, I think he had a camel with a plough behind it. Put a furrow right around as a boundary.”

[72] Sun Thu 22 Feb 1940

[73] Argus Mon 18 Mar 1940

[74] Sydney Sun Tue 11 Jun 1940

[75] Sydney Morning Herald Sat 2 Mar 1940

[76] War Diary of 16 Brigade [AWM52, Item 8/2/16/2] January – March 1940 p 142 [Camp Julis, 12 March 1940]

[77] AIF News 6 Apr 1940 reproduced in War Diary of 6 Division General Staff Branch AWM 52 1/5/12/5 May 1940 – p 193

[78] AIF News 12 April 1940 reproduced in War Diary of 2/2 Battalion [AWM 53, item 8/3/2/5] April 1940 p 94 [12 April 1940]

[79] Sun Tue 5 Mar 1940

[80] War Diary of 2/2 Battalion [AWM 53, item 8/3/2/4] March 1940 p 146 [Julis, Sun 31 March 1940]

[81] AIF News 6 Apr 1940 at War Diary of 6 Division General Staff Branch AWM 52 1/5/12/5 May 1940 – p 193

[82] Perth Daily News and Adelaide News Fri 26 April 1940

[83] He was wounded in action 25 Feb 1941 with ‘multiple grenade wounds’, and was Mentioned in Dispatches as Major, 2/7 Australian General Hospital in Mar 1947.

[84] In 1960, both his wife Joyce (possibly poisoned) and his lover’s husband Dr James Yeates (injected in the heart with adrenalin, and hit over the head in his Vaucluse garage) died in suspicious circumstances within five months. In 1964, Hedberg married his lover Diana Yeates, and no-one was ever charged with Yeates’ murder. The sensational case was covered in great depth in the press of the time, and in Sun-Herald journalist Candace Sutton’s book The Needle in the Heart Murder (Allen & Unwin, 2003).

[85] Published in the Dubbo Liberal Thu 10 Oct 1940

[86] In various newspapers at various times he was recorded as FJ or EI or DJ or GA or Cecil Bourne. Pity the poor historian.

[87] He stole £712, in his first offence, to repay a gambling debt of just £30, and then blew the rest on the horses. (News Tue 10 Feb 1948, Advertiser Wed 11 and Tue 17 Feb 1948). The judge sympathized with his plight, but sentenced him to 3½ years, noting ‘a public example had to be made of him as a warning to others in positions of trust’ (News Mon 8 Mar 1948)

[88] War Diary of 6 Division General Staff Branch AWM 52 1/5/12/5 May 1940 – 10 May 1940 p 2

[89] Sadly, there is no record of a Herbert Smith playing for the AIF team. C Smith played once for AIF against XVI of Mitcham in Sept 1919, scoring 61x in middle order, adding a lot of runs with Jack Gregory, and bowled an over or two, but he does not look like a wicketkeeper.

[90] Neither Vincent Smith nor — Vincent Smith (as a middle name) have convincing matches amongst early enlisters in the AIF nominal roll, other than a Tasmanian with no obvious connection to South Australia.

[91] He is erroneously listed as V A Smith in the newspapers (in apparent confusion with Vin Smith above him in the list), but is clearly identified by the War Diary as WO2 N A Harris: War Diary of 6 Division General Staff Branch AWM 52 1/5/12/5 May 1940 – 10 May 1940 p 2

[92] Listed as NSW cricketer ‘P Reed’ in the newspapers (and once as ‘S P Reed’), who had played for St George, he is correctly identified in his battalion’s War Diary when selected as John Robertson Reid of the Carrier Company. War Diary of 2/1 Battalion [AWM52, Item 8/3/1/5] May 1940 p 2

[93] I can find no evidence of him playing at the club, or in the district.

[94] Newcastle Herald Mon 6 May 1940, again apparently the strongest source, recorded him as “J Whelan of Paddington”, while the other major newspapers misprinted as “Y Whelan”. Argus 30 Sept 1940 labels him Paddington cricketer Jack Whelan. AIF News 3 May 1940 at War Diary of 6 Division General Staff Branch AWM 52 1/5/12/5 May 1940 – p 150 clearly identifies him as Private Whelan of 6 Division Signals, who is certainly John Barry Nash Whelan of Woollahra, NSW. Sydney Morning Herald 6 May 1940 calls him Sydney cricketer M Whelan of Paddington. The ‘M’ reference, and perhaps the Paddington reference appear to be confusing him with Paddington first grade player Maurice Whelan, who was a star cricket and Rugby Union star for St Joseph’s College in the mid-thirties. There is no evidence of Maurice Whelan serving in the AIF, nor of anyone called Jack Whelan playing for Paddington.

[95] For the technically minded, the large biplane has engines mounted mid-wing and tapering to the rear. It looks like an obsolescent Vickers Valentia bomber and transport, which certainly served in the Middle East early in the war. It was a troop carrier and bomber which could carry twenty-two men.

[96] Sydney Sun Thu 9 May 1940

[97] AWM photo 009390, wrongly labelled as April 1940 in Syria.

[98] Ian Fitchett, acting Official AIF Correspondent in Sydney Sun Thu 9 May 1940.

[99] AWM P02269.008 is incorrectly attributed to August 1940.

[100] Cyril Penn Hamilton http://cricketarchive.com/Archive/Players/29/29913/29913.html

[101] He was an exceptionally illustrious ‘ring in’. Following outstanding military service, in which he rose to be a Lieutenant-Colonel, he became a distinguished lawyer and cricket administrator, was knighted, and served as New Zealand’s Governor-General in the mid-seventies.

[102] AWM photographs 001873, 001878 (Sphinx and Pyramids), 001882 and 001894 (Museum) are dated 17 May 1940, but this seems unlikely given the match against New Zealand was played that day. I would favour a date of 14-15 May for all of these.

[103] See the article by Samir Raafat, “Anzac Day:  Kiwis in Maadi 1939-46”, originally published in the Egyptian Mail 27 Apr 1996 and reprinted at http://www.egy.com/maadi/96-04-27.php, the elegant little book recently published by Rob Franks, Kiwi Cricketers Along the Nile – New Zealanders and Wartime Cricket Played in Egypt 1940-1945 pp 11-15

[104] ‘Vivian’ and ‘Gray’ have eluded identification by me and by Warwick Franks. Despite the suggestive surname, the former is not Test man ‘Giff’ Vivian (who had been thought lost at sea at the outbreak of war), as he was not in the Middle East at this stage.

[105] Sydney Morning Herald Mon 10 Jun 1940 and AWM photo 001875

[106] AIF News Palestine 25 May 1940 reproduced at War Diary of 17 Bde [AWM 52 8/2/17/5] May – June 1940 p 69

[107] Amazingly, he is identified in different newspapers as FJ or EI or DJ or GA or Cecil Bourne. A number of papers also assert that he played Shield Cricket for Queensland in 1933. Gordon A Bourne, Cecil’s older brother, did once play for Queensland in 1930/31, but did not join the AIF until August 1940. Cecil Ivor Bourne was a fine local and Country Week cricketer, son of local champion George Bourne, and played for Brisbane Grammar in the GPS competition, and with brother Gordon and aboriginal fast bowling prodigy Eddie Gilbert, for Murgon in Country Week cricket in Brisbane in the mid-thirties. The various errors appear to be confusing Cec for Gordon, and attempts back in Australia to force the facts into shape for their readers.

[108] In the South Burnett region, near Gympie and Kingaroy about 8 km inland from the Sunshine Coast

[109] West Australian Mon 20 and Tue 21 May starts the match a day early on Friday 17 May, then declares it was of three days’ length to coincide with its finish on Sunday 19 May. This is not consistent with the other sources, which point to a two-day match, on Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 May.

[110] All of the Australian newspapers drew on the same (scanty) releases from the Middle East (complete with a misspelling of Captain Yeldham as Feldham. Fortunately, the Times of London (Mon 20 May 1940) carried a small item providing the context for United Services’ well-merited fight-back victory.

[111] Variously claimed as 11/97m in  Guardian Thu 23 May 1940 and 11/111m in the Sydney Morning Herald Thu 23 May 1940, and a (surely incorrect) 11/11m in the Argus Thu 23 May 1940 and a number of regional newspapers.

[112] AIF News Palestine 25 May 1940, reproduced at the War Diary of 17 Brigade [AWM 52 8/2/17/5] May – June 1940 p 69

[113] News Thu 15 Aug 1940

[114] AIF News Palestine 29 June 1940 reproduced at the War Diary of 17 Brigade [AWM 52 8/2/17/5] May – June 1940 p 195

[115] AIF News Palestine 27 July 1940 reproduced at the War Diary of 17 Brigade [AWM 52 8/2/17/6] July – August 1940 pp 117-118

[116] Border Watch Tue 27 Aug 1940

[117] Inevitably, misspelt as Stein and Steyn.

[118] Courier-Mail Thu 19 Sept 1940

[119] Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers’ Advocate Wed 23 Oct 1940. Date is fixed by an entry in the War Diary of 2/2 Battalion AWM52, Item 8/3/2/9 September 1940 p 14 (11 Sept 1940 at Helwan in Egypt)

[120] News Thu 15 Aug 1940

[121] Perth Daily News Thu 26 Sept 1940

[122] Alex Barras in Western Mail Thus 26 Oct 1939

[123] Western Mail Thu 8 Dec 1938

[124] Perth Sunday Times Sun 16 Feb 1936

[125] Sydney Morning Herald Wed 26 Sept 1945

[126] War Diary of 2/6 Battalion [AWM52, Item 8/3/6/3] Mar – July 1940 p 94 [at Beit Jirja on 31 July 1940]

[127] News Thu 26 Sept 1940 (J. A. Hetherington, dateline Cairo 25 Sept)

[128] (Perth) Mirror Sat 28 Sept 1940

[129] News Thu 26 Sept 1940

[130] The Mail Sat 26 Oct 1940. Born 1899 in Egypt, Colonel Albert John Kingsley-Heath O.B.E., M.C. served in Palestine from at least the mid-twenties. He was author of The Palestine Police Constable’s Manual published in Palestine in 1931. He was chief of the Criminal Investigation Department in 1937, when he resigned owing to a nasty outbreak of Arab-Jewish violence. He was awarded an OBE in 1938, so seems to have retained the favour of the authorities, and was back as Deputy Inspector General of Palestine Police Force in 1940. He was appointed Commissioner of Police and Attorney-General of Kenya in mid 1941 and died in an aircraft accident over Eastern Libya in November 1943.

[131] AWM photos 003160 (Blamey lighting his pipe), 003165 (one side fielding, taken from the pavilion) and 004348 (Harold Austin returns to the pavilion after being dismissed).

[132] The caption to AWM photo 003165 gives the result: ‘Jerusalem – Match Between A.I.F. and Palestine Police in which A.I.F. were Beaten’.

[133] Sydney Sun Wed 20 Nov 1940 (Johnny Moyes)

[134] News Thu 26 Sept 1940 and Gilgandra Weekly Thu 3 Oct 1940.

[135] Sydney Sun Wed 20 Nov 1940

[136] There are rather one-sided scores and commentary on the match, all evidently from the same source, published in Argus, Canberra Times and Kalgoorlie Miner of Mon 30 Sept 1940, and the Western Mail of Thu 3 Oct 1940.

[137] RAAF Football Record No 6 (17 Jan 1940) and No 7 (3 Feb 1940) delightfully preserved on Peter Dunn’s ozatwar Website – 2d cover price, roneoed, with seven pages, including some ads, mostly for airmen with various skills to sell, such as haircuts and shoe repairs. http://www.ozatwar.com/raaf/cecfisher.htm

[138] http://www.aflnt.com.au/fileadmin/user_upload/Images/Downloads/NTFL_History_BOOK-_Latest.pdf

[139] Northern Standard Fri 19 April 1940

[140] Northern Territory Library, photo no PH0391/0014

[141] It was demolished to a public outcry, and despite a last-minute application for injunction by the National Trust, in 1999. “…both excitingly modern and raffishly old, a key part of the town’s social geography” wrote Tess Lea in her history Darwin, (Sydney: NewSouth, 2014)

[142] The location is the corner of Herbert St and the Esplanade – the Esplanade runs parallel to the beach with a strip of land between the road and the beach 50-100m wide now Bicentennial Park. A local historian notes at http://www.mandalayluxurystay.com.au/index.php/history  “It is worth noting that the area across The Esplanade from Mandalay, now part of Bicentennial Park, was the site of a cricket ground from the early 1870s. Later, the area became known as the Darwin Oval or Town Oval. It was Darwin’s primary recreational facility until the 1960s. From 1940 an anti-aircraft battery was based at The Oval.” Also known as Palmerston Oval or Esplanade Oval. its grandstand was destroyed by Cyclone Tracy in 1974.

[143] Courier-Mail Thu 6 Feb 1941

[144] Northern Standard Fri 4 Oct 1940

[145] War Diary of 2/15 Battalion [AWM 52 8/3/15/7] July 1940 p 111 at Darwin on 20 Jul 1940

[146] War Diary of 2/15 Battalion [AWM 52 8/3/15/8] Aug 1940, Appendix 4, pp 132-134, written at Darwin on 4 August 1940

[147] He was later captured as a prisoner of war, captured by the Germans near Tobruk when he was misdirected by a German dressed as a British MP, and was freed by American tanks at Lollar in Germany late in March 1945 (Sunday Mail Sun 8 Apr 1945)

[148] Northern Standard Fri 29 Mar 1940

[149] Riverine Grazier Thu 26 Mar 1935

[150] Brisbane Telegraph Thu 5 Jun 1941 and Courier-Mail Fri 6 Jun 1941

[151] Riverine Grazier Fri 20 Jan 1950

[152] Brisbane Telegraph Wed 24 Nov 1954

[153] See Courier-Mail Fri 8 Jan 1943 and Brisbane Sunday Mail Sun 4 Nov 1945

[154] His military records have been digitised at the National Archives, series B884, control symbols D300009 and VX51823

[155] Age Thu 29 Nov 1945

[156] His papers are held as AWM Private Record PR00683. State Library of NSW also holds microfilm facsimile of typescript version of his two ‘Changi Diaries’ as item MLMSS 2799; MAV / FM4 / 7031.

[157] Age Thu 29 Nov 1945, Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate Thu 29 Nov 1945

[158] Cairns Post Fri 20 Jun 1941

[159] Courier-Mail Tue 29 Apr 1941

[160] Wisden 1941 ‘Notes on the 1940 Season’

[161] Mercury Wed 9 Oct 1940

[162] Wisden 1941 ‘British Empire XI’ pp 114ff

[163] Mercurial journalist, sportsman and politician, who represented four different political parties over his career, after joining the Labour Party at age 16 yo.

[164] Wisden 1939 in its Cricketer of the Year profile

[165] Wisden 1994, ‘Obituaries in 1993’

[166] Wisden 1941 ‘London Counties’ pp 130ff

[167] Photograph at Wisden 1941 p 25

[168] Border Watch Thu 22 Aug 1940

[169] Kristen Alexander, Australian Eagles. Australians in the Battle of Britain (Barrallier Books: Canberra, 2013) and her Website at http://australiansinthebattleofbritain.blogspot.com.au/

[170] Jane Smart (Walch) Man, ‘Walch Family History’ at http://www.manfamily.org/about/other-families/walch-family/

[171] Examiner Wed 4 Jun 1941

[172] The obituary of ‘Old Bill’ appeared at Kalgoorlie Miner Tue 17 Dec 1940

[173] Perth Sunday Times Sun 12 Jan 1941

[174] Kalgoorlie Miner Wed 29 Oct 1941

[175] Kalgoorlie Miner Sat 9 Oct 1943

[176] The London Gazette 27 Aug 1946 and Kalgoorlie Miner Fri 26 Sept 1947

[177] West Australian Tue 25 Oct 1949

[178] His wife Rachel’s obituary appeared in West Australian Feb 6, 2013

[179] Wisden 1941 ‘Notes on the 1940 Season’. A peardrop is a British hard candy – what Australians call a ‘boiled lolly’

[180] Official History – Army Vol I – To Bardia, Appendix 1 ‘The A.I.F. in the United Kingdom’ p 305 (Gavin Long)

[181] ‘The A.I.F. in the United Kingdom’ pp 308-309

[182] Argus Fri 16 Aug 1940. This observation was confirmed by artilleryman Jack Lindquist of Streaky Bay, SA, who noted “It does not get dark until 10 o’clock at present, so we work during the day and play cricket after tea. There is a noted oval nearby”. West Coast Sentinel (Streaky Bay, SA) Fri 16 Aug 1940

[183] Daily News Sat 13 Jul 1940 and (a longer version) Riverine Herald Mon 15 Jul 1940

[184] Advertiser Thu 31 Oct 1940

[185] News Sat 2 Nov 1940

[186] Argus Mon 8 Jul 1940 (Ronald Monson, London Sunday dateline)

[187] Sydney Morning Herald Sat 29 Jun 1940 (London 28 June). ‘Plum’ called on the Australian and New Zealand High Commissioners in London (Mr Stanley Brice, and Mr Bill Jordan) to inquire which cricketers might be available. Strangely, the SMH article conflates the two High Commissioners into a composite, ‘Mr Bruce Jordan’.

[188] Daily News Sat 27 Jul 1940 (London Friday AAP item) and Brisbane Telegraph Sat 27 Jul 1940

[189] L. V. Manning in the Daily Sketch, of unknown date, possibly Sat 29 Jun 1940, reprinted in Argus Mon 1 Jul 1940 (London, Sunday)

[190] Barrier Miner Tue 30 Jul 1940 (London, 28 July timeline)

[191] Mercury Sat 20 July 1940 (London 19 July dateline, Official Correspondent with the AIF, Ken Slessor)

[192] 2/31 Battalion War Diary [AWM 52 8/3/31/1] Jun – Jul 1940 p 13 [Tidworth, 8 Jul 1940]. Also 2/33 Battalion War Diary [AWM 52 8/3/33/1] Jun – Oct 1940 p 25 [Tidworth, 8 Jul 1940]

[193] Argus Sat 12 October 1940

[194] Armed with rifles rather than muskets, and deployed initially as sharpshooters, scouts and skirmishers, they wore green jackets rather than red when raised in the early nineteenth century.

[195] 25 Bde War Diary [AWM 52 8/2/25/2] Jul- Aug 1940 p 89 (Tidworth, 28 Jul 1940)

[196] “The Newt” newsletter in 2/32 Battalion War Diary [AWM 52 8/3/32/1] Jun – Sept 1940 p 103 (Tidworth, 7 Aug 1940). “The Newt” was an entertaining soldiers’ sports newsletter published within 2/32 Battalion during its time in England, and saved in part for posterity by the Battalion’s war diarist, who included excerpts in the War Diary, now preserved at the Australian War Memorial.

[197] Argus Mon 5 Aug 1940 (Ronald Monson, London Sunday dateline)

[198] Max Brame was an opening batsman, who had played senior and Poidevin-Gray cricket for Petersham, and senior cricket for Waverley, for NSW Railways and then representative cricket in Yass, where he was stationed with the railways immediately before the war.

[199] “The Newt” newsletter in 2/32 Battalion War Diary [AWM 52 8/3/32/1] Jun – Sept 1940 p 103 (Tidworth, 7 Aug 1940)

[200] 25 Brigade War Diary [AWM 52 8/2/25/2] Jul- Aug 1940 p 94 [Tidworth, 19 Aug 1940]

[201] This is very likely the Officers Club Services Ground at Aldershot, site of nine first-class matches since 1905.

[202] See Sun Mon 8 Apr 1940 (London) and Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer Mon 8 July 1940. The canteen later redeployed with the Kiwis to Cairo. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939–1945, 22 Battalion, Ch 8 To Italy, p 231

[203] 25 Brigade War Diary [AWM 52 8/2/25/2] Jul- Aug 1940 p 118 [Tidworth, 20 Aug 1940]

[204] Murray Pioneer Thu 26 Sept 1940

[205] He was later to be Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Daly DSO, OBE, and Chief of General Staff (1966-1971).

[206] 1 State Library of Victoria, Image No: an007408, Accession: H98.105/4033; 2 State Library of Victoria Image No: an007409, Accession: H98.105/4035; and 3 Newcastle Sun Wed 9 Oct 1940 (also Australasian Sat 28 Sept 1940 and Sun Tues 8 Oct 1940)

[207] Ellesmere Guardian (vol LXI, issue 75) 20 Sept 1940 p 2 (Aug 26 dateline)

[208] Western Mail Thu 29 Aug 1940

[209] Evening Post (volume CXXX, issue 84), 5 October 1940 p 7. Two other members of the NZEF were killed when hit by a blacked-out bus within a few days.

[210] Rockhampton Morning Bulletin Wed 20 Nov 1946 carried a story outlining the facts as reported to the House by Prime Minister Attlee.

[211] filestore.nationalarchives.gov.uk/datasets/records/ukwarcabinet-17-11-2010.csv.xls

[212] Murray Pioneer Thu 26 Sept 1940, Thu 17 Oct 1940 and Thu 19 Dec 1940

[213] Sporting Globe Wed 24 Sept 1941

[214] Murray Pioneer Thu 19 Dec 1940

[215] Argus Sat 23 Nov 1940

[216] William Norman Gibson acquired the ‘Hoot’ nickname from a well-known star of Western movies. AWM photo 128165, taken in the Scilly Islands depicts ‘A Sunderland flown by Flight Lieutenant W. N. Gibson of No. 10 Squadron, RAAF, makes a second attack on an enemy U26, southwest of the Scilly Isles. The U-Boat scuttled itself soon afterwards’.

[217] Sydney Morning Herald Thu 1 Aug 1940. Another source suggests ‘Hoot’ Gibson was first to encounter an Me 110 (Barrier Miner Wed 31 Jul 1940)

[218] Sydney Morning Herald Thu 1 Aug 1940

[219] Sydney Morning Herald Thu 1 Aug 1940

[220] HMAS Australia – Report of Proceeding Feb 1940 (AWM 78-44-3 p 139, compiled 4 Mar 1940) and Mar 1940 (AWM 78-44-3 p 137, compiled 1 Apr 1940)

[221] http://www.navy.gov.au/hmas-hobart-i

[222] Official Histories – Second World War, Volume IV – Medical Services of the Royal Australian Navy and Royal Australian Air Force (1st edition, 1961 by Allan S Walker) Chapter 6 – The RAN in Action

[223] Canberra Times Fri 23 Aug 1940 and West Australian Sat 24 Aug 1940

[224] http://www.ww2australia.gov.au/farflung/firstpows.html

[225] Border Watch Sat 3 Aug 1940 and Tue 6 Aug 1940

[226] Border Watch Tue 2 Nov 1937

[227] Border Watch Thu 8 Aug 1940 (obituary), Border Watch Sat 17 Oct 1931 (ten-fer), Border Watch Sat 10 April 1937 (century)

[228] Argus Thu 18 Apr 1940

[229] Reprinted in Barrier Miner Thu 25 Jul 1940 from an English newspaper

[230] Wisden 77 (1940) article ‘Cricket in Wartime’

[231] Argus Fri 2 Aug 1940

[232] Argus Wed 14 Aug 1940

[233] Argus Thu 15 Aug 1940

[234] Argus Tue 20 Aug 1940

[235] S. R. C. Wood, ‘Creswick, Alexander Thomson (1853–1939)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/creswick-alexander-thomson-5818/text9877, published in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 20 July 2014.

[236] Obituary at Argus Mon 20 Mar 1939

[237] AWM photo P07175.004 (February 1940)