Leicestershire CCC during the First World War

To commemorate the centenary of Armistice Day today, Sunday, November 11, ECB launched Cricket Remembers, a campaign to remember the cricketers who fought in the First World War. To commemorate those that fought in the war, Leicestershire County Cricket Club Archivist Richard Holdridge has written the following article.

In common with many other organisations, Leicestershire County Cricket Club produced a Roll of Honour towards the end of the War. This proudly sets out those who volunteered for War service, and what they did. There was clearly an attempt to include everyone associated with the club.

Apart from players - past and present - and staff, it states that 105 members are with HM Forces, seven of whom have been called to higher service. Five players were killed in action, and two players died after the Great War in the first quarter of 1919.

Of the five players who lost their lives in action, the most eminent was 2nd Lieutenant, William Ward Odell, MC.  A hard-working fast bowler, who took almost 700 wickets for the county and on several occasions played for the Gentlemen against the Players, suggesting he was close to England selection.

Serving in the Sherwood Foresters, he was awarded the Military Cross. The citation states that the information his patrol gained on where the enemy where about to attack from, allowed the British guns to focus their fire.

Though this action was in June 1917, the official announcement did not appear in the London Gazette until September. By this time, the Foresters were embroiled in the 3rd Battle of Ypres, and Odell was sadly killed on October 4. His battalion lost 15 officers and 234 other ranks at the encounter. His name is inscribed at Tyne Cot, just one of 35,000 commemorated there.

He was the son of Rev Joseph Odell, a prominent Primitive Methodist Minister, and from a cricketing viewpoint it is fortunate that two of his children were born whilst he was serving as a minister in Leicester.

Joseph served in Birmingham from 1885 to 1905, which allowed both brothers to attend King Edward VI School Camp Hill, and William played for Warwickshire Club and Ground.

William did however have that all important birth qualification for Leicestershire CCC, though census records suggest that he always lived in Birmingham, latterly at 83 Aubrey Road, Small Heath. William's brother Edwin Freame Odell also represented Leicestershire CCC in a first-class fixture against Northamptonshire CCC in 1912.

Two of the other cricketers were Amateurs, who had both played for Leicester Ivanhoe. By coincidence, both had attended Mill Hill School in Surrey.

Though Arthur Davis was a fine wicket-keeper, his opportunities were restricted, firstly by competition from Johnny Whiteside and John Shields, but also his employment with the Leicester Permanent Building Society. He was killed near Albert on November 4, 1916, and is commemorated at Thiepval. His name is also inscribed on the War Memorial in St Mary Magdalene’s church, Knighton.

The most poignant story is perhaps that of Captain Harold Wright, who served with the 6th Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire regiment. They became part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary force and headed off for the Dardanelles in the summer of 1915. He sustained severe shrapnel wounds to his back and head on July 28, and he was then hospitalised in Alexandria.

Hearing of his condition, his parents came from England to visit him and accompanied him  back to hospital in London in early September, where he died on September 14.

There was a tremendous outpouring of grief at his military funeral. Harold’s father was a well-known Loughborough businessman, and there was a vast attendance at Quorn Parish church. The mourners included the local Member of Parliament, and also Private William Buckingham, who had only shortly before been awarded a VC.

As a cricketer, he had never scored many runs for the county, but the view was widely held that he was destined to be its captain one day.

Other Leicestershire CCC cricketers to die in the War were Joseph Surman from Coalville, and Albert Shipman, one of the Ratby fraternity. Neither had played a first-class match for the county, but, as members of the groundstaff, had played for both the Second XI and Club and Ground teams.

Joseph had played cricket and football for Hugglescote, and like his father, worked at Bardon Hill Quarry. He played for the Second XI in 1911, and the Club and Ground in 1912, combining games with groundstaff duties. He was killed on April 13, 1917 whilst serving with the 1st/5th Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers.

Albert Shipman was probably an even more promising cricketer. He had been based by the county at Ashby and had bowled successfully for the Club and Ground and Second XI teams in 1914. He was one of 10 children of Ben and Mary Shipman of Ratby, who had two brothers, William and Alan, who played regularly for the county. He had a twin sister Constance, who had died as a young girl.

Albert died of wounds on March 5, 1917, and is buried at the Warlingcourt Haute British Cemetery, near Arras. His stone bears the inscription ‘Always in our thoughts’, words chosen by his mother. His father never recovered from the shock of his son’s death, and died in 1918.

Two Leicestershire CCC cricketers who played at first-class level, Thomas Charlesworth Allsopp and Hugh Logan, passed away during the first quarter of 1919.

Thomas Allsopp played for Leicestershire CCC for three seasons and picked up 88 wickets at an average of 28.29 with his slow left arm spin, including a best return of six for 85.

He was also a talented footballer, playing as an outside left in the Football League for Leicester Fosse and in the Southern League for Brighton and Hove Albion, Luton Town and Norwich City.

Thomas was born in Leicester on December 18, 1880 and was Sergeant of the Royal West Surrey Regiment. He died from influenza in Norwich on March 7, 1919, and is buried in Norwich Cemetery.

Hugh Logan, born in Market Harborough, May 10, 1885, played in one match for Leicestershire CCC in 1903 against Philadelphia. His father, John William Logan, was President of Leicestershire CCC between 1905 and 1908.

Hugh was a Lieutenant of the Leicestershire Yeomanry and died from pneumonia in Tournai, Belgium, February 24, 1919. His name is inscribed on the War Memorial at St Peter’s Church in Church Langton.

Perhaps this list should also remember those who were seriously injured. William Nairn Riley was a Cambridge blue, who played for Leicestershire CCC after term was over in the seasons prior to the War. Significantly one of his two centuries for Leicestershire CCC was against Yorkshire CCC, and he was facing an attack that included two of the greatest bowlers of all time, George Hirst and Wilfred Rhodes.

Serving as a Lieutenant with the 4th Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment, he was wounded and had a leg amputated, thus ending his sporting career, for he was also an International Hockey player.

After the War he became a Solicitor in Brighton and served on the Sussex CCC committee. Sadly, a few years before he died aged 62 in 1955, he needed to have his other leg amputated. He continued to drive a car and fish, refusing to be defeated by his disabilities.

Lest we forget.

Photo credit: Nathan Gallagher/ECB.