Trent Bridge Connection to Lost Heroes


On 25 April each year, Australians (and New Zealanders) – wherever they are – will mark ANZAC Day and remember their fallen in conflicts from the First World War onwards.

The date was chosen because 25 April 1915 was the day of the first landing of Australian and New Zealand troops on the beaches at Gallipoli – where they were met by the might of the Turkish army and suffered terrible loss of life.

One of the more extraordinary stories to emerge from that day was that a game of cricket was played on Shell Green in an attempt to distract the Turks from the imminent departure of allied troops. Shells were passing overhead all the time the game was in progress. 

That link between 25 April and cricket has been reinforced over the years with several Australian touring teams visiting Gallipoli – and Shell Green – as both a team bonding exercise and as a tribute to their lost Countrymen.

It seems fitting, therefore, that we pay our own tribute and remember two Australian cricketers killed in WWI who each played at Trent Bridge in their careers.

Trooper Albert ‘Tibby’ Cotter was a fearsome fast bowler for New South Wales and Australia, better known before the War as “The Sydney Express” and, by English fans, as “Terror Cotter”.

He is fondly remembered in his home state – one of the roads leading up to the Sydney Cricket Ground is Albert Cotter Drive.

Cotter played three times at Trent Bridge. In the Ashes Test of 1905, his bowling was not quite as fiery as feared (he took three English wickets in first innings) but he did make 45, the highest score of his Test career, in the Aussies’ first innings.

Earlier in that tour, Cotter played against Nottinghamshire, taking three wickets and two catches in a drawn game.  Four years later he was back at Trent Bridge for a county game (Nottingham did not have an Ashes Test that summer) when he took five wickets in the match – including getting Wilf Payton in each innings – as Australia got their tour underway with a convincing victory.

Test and club team-mate Warren Bardsley remembered Cotter as: “…a real corker, strong, big. Never got tired. Tibby loved to break stumps and he loved to ‘pink’ a batsman…Tibby reckoned that when he ‘pinked’ a batsman, he should remain pinked”.

His ability to break wickets (and batters’ hearts) was underlined in what must have been his last match.  A ‘friendly’ (when was England v Australia ever a friendly?) was arranged between an English XI and an Australian team in Sinai in 1917. 

The English team – led by England and Essex player JWHT Douglas – were all from the officer class and duly rigged out in cricket gear or smart (as far as possible) uniforms.  The Aussies were mainly from the other ranks and played in battle dress.  England dismissed the Aussies for just 57 and were poised to win the ‘unofficial ashes’…but Cotter had other ideas; he bowled Douglas first ball and proceeded to rout the English for only four runs – and one of those was a bye!

He embodied many of the qualities and attributes that soon would be credited to the typical ANZAC: He was brave, relentless, powerful, with a determined larrikin streak and disdain for authority.

Nevertheless, he was a recruiting aid for the ANZAC Forces, appearing on posters and even on cigarette cards. He died shot by a Turkish sniper at Beersheba on 31 October 1917 when acting as a stretcher bearer.  Apparently, his prodigious strength meant that he could carry two wounded comrades at a time.

Cotter was the only Australian Test cricketer killed in World War I, though many dozens – possibly hundreds – of state and club cricketers were killed.

One such was Private Alan Marshal who played club and grade cricket in his native state of Queensland but, remarkably for that era, played First-Class and league cricket in England, representing Surrey and WG Grace’s short-lived London County sides between 1905-1910.

Marshal played four times at Trent Bridge in the County Championship and three times against Notts at The Oval – all whilst on Surrey’s books.

On his first visit in 1907, his 96 in Surrey’s second innings was impressive, but not enough to prevent defeat. That was his best score against Notts but he did score eight First-Class hundreds against other county sides..

His best match with the ball against Notts was at The Oval in 1908 when he took 5-19 in Nottinghamshire’s first innings.  1908 was a good year for Marshal whose all-round performances earned him a place on the list of Wisden Cricketers of the Year for 1909.

He died on 23 July 1915 at Imtarfa (now Mtarfa), Malta from Typhoid Fever contracted whilst on active service.

Marshal and Cotter will be remembered at Trent Bridge when the Australians visit for an ODI in September and as part of a major WWI project that will include displays and lunchtime talks in August when – fittingly as they were Marshal’s team – Surrey are the visitors.

April 2024