Derbyshire during the First World War

Sunday 11th November 2018
& News
Written by Danny Painter

Today marks 100 years since the conclusion of the First World War, 1914 to 1918. Cricket historian David Frith looks back at Derbyshire during the war. 

The onset of the war in Europe on August 4 1914 found Derbyshire struggling on the field of play, bowled out for 31 and 94 at the Derby ground to lose to Essex in two days.

The county finished with victory at Worcester, by which time several players had joined the Army, leaving others to ponder their circumstances.  In the summary of each county’s playing season there was now an unfamiliar departure: mention of players and staff who had answered the call to war: “Naturally in so sporting a county many of the cricketers enrolled themselves in different capacities for the War,” recorded Wisden.

“Capt. Baggallay [Derbyshire’s captain] of course is with the 11th Hussars, and Chapman is assisting in the Government Remount Department.  Corgenven, Hughes-Hallett, G.L.Jackson, [W.T.] Taylor, the secretary, Blacklidge, the coach, and two or three of the professionals are assisting in various units.”

A year later Wisden recorded that secretary Taylor had been wounded in the fighting. His replacement at the club, R.B.Chambers, managed to generate enough Membership to keep the Club afloat, and Derbyshire also were able to stage a few charity matches for the Red Cross Society and the St John Ambulance Association.

By 1917, the Club deemed it right to halve the cost of subscriptions, although the bank balance hung at a perilous £97.  The Pavilion at Derby had been turned into a temporary hospital for the Royal Garrison Artillery, and the military had used the ground for cricket, football and hockey matches. A year later Derbyshire managed to cling to their status as a member of the first-class County Championship by virtue of having arranged enough fixtures against other counties.

After the war had been won, the County Championship in 1919 consisted of matches spread over only two days. It was an experiment that failed, even though Derbyshire managed to get results in 12 of their 14 matches.

Unhappily for them, nine of those completed matches finished in their opponents’ favour. G.R.Jackson, younger brother of the ill-fated G.L.Jackson who was to be killed in the war, debuted for the county in this first summer of peacetime and was later to captain Derbyshire.

During the war, six Derbyshire cricketers, and one player expected to play for the county in 1915, lost their lives.

Derbyshire cricketers who died in First World War

Captain Frank Miller Bingham was killed in action on 22nd May 1915, aged 40, and is honoured at the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial in Belgium. Bingham played in one match for Derbyshire in 1896.

Lance Corporal Henry (Harry) George Blacklidge died from dysentery in Amara, Mesopotamia – now Iraq – on 23rd May 1917 aged 32 and is honoured at the Amara War Cemetery in Iraq. Blacklidge had played 7 first class games for Surrey between 1908 and 1913 and was appointed coach to Derbyshire’s newly-formed cricket nursery in 1914 and was due to play for the county when qualified but was prevented by the outbreak of war.

Charles Barnett Fleming – rank unknown – played one match for Derbyshire in 1907. He died of wounds in Grevillors, France on 22nd September 1018 aged 31. Fleming played one match for Derbyshire in 1907.

Captain Geoffrey Laird Jackson was killed in action at Arras, Belgium on 9th April 1917 aged 23 and is honoured at the Highland Cemetery, Raclincourt, Pas de Calais, France. Jackson played 4 matches for Derbyshire between 1912 and 1914. A brother and cousin both also played for Derbyshire.

Arthur Marsden – rank unknown – died in London on 31st July 1916 from wounds received in The Somme, aged 35. He played one match for Derbyshire in 1910.

Charles Niel Newcombe – rank unknown – was killed in action in Fleuraix, France on 27th December 1915, aged 24. He played one match for Derbyshire in 1910.

Captain Guy Denis Wilson – was killed in action in Camrai, France on 30th November 1917, his 35th birthday. Wilson played two matches for Derbyshire in 1902 and 1905.

The Royal British Legion has created a website entitled “Every One Remembered” and for those former Derbyshire cricketers listed – Frank Bingham, Henry Blacklidge (Coach), Guy Wilson and Geoffrey Jackson – a short message has been added to their individual profile.

The message reads; From everyone associated with Derbyshire County Cricket Club, now and in the past, we thank you for your sacrifice – we will remember them…

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