Based on an article written by Peter Wynne-Thomas in the Notts Annual of 2009
It must be nearly 30 years since “Bomber” Wells began to talk me into writing his “autobiography”. The precise circumstances elude me, Bomber was a talker. I spent hours in his home in Ruddington going through the essays that he had written for The Cricketer magazine and then hours trying to match his stories with the actual events on the cricket field. I cannot remember whether he was a fisherman, but some of his yarns belonging to the angling fraternity. Not that they were in any way boring, his soft Gloucester tones were heard at a thousand Cricket Lovers gatherings over the whole of the UK, and his popularity was such that he would be invited to the same venues again and again.
Listening to a well-told yarn is entertaining, but putting those yarns down in cold print inside hard covers is a different matter. Browsing through the pages again after a lapse of more than a quarter of century, I can see the validity of John Arlott’s comment at the time that I had not really ‘got to the bottom’ of Bomber. Twenty years later Stephen Chalke had a second go and made a better fist of it. But neither book covered Bomber’s 25 years in Notts – it had been intended that my effort would only be volume one of two and the reason volume two never appeared was certainly not due to lack of sales for the initial effort – one winter circuit of the cricket societies by Bomber cleared the shelves of volume one.
Bomber Wells was born in Gloucester on 27 July 1930, his father, perhaps aptly, worked at the Wagon Works – the firm’s ground was used for County matches. After playing for several local clubs and picking up a host of wickets with his off breaks, he made his first-class debut versus Sussex on 14 July 1951, taking the place of the injured master spinner Tom Goddard, and taking 6-47 in the first innings. The following summer saw him serving his country in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps and in 1953, whilst stationed in Notts at Chilwell Ordnance Depot, he played for the Army and the Combined Services, as well as sneaking off for the occasional Gloucestershire county game. His first full summer with Gloucestershire came in 1954 and in that season, plus the two which followed he took 95, 122 and 123 wickets. They were proved the most productive of his career. In 1959 he lost his place in the Gloucestershire side to David Allen; at that time the county regularly fielded three spinners together – Allen, Cook and Mortimore. In 1960 therefore, Wells elected to move to Trent Bridge. In that first summer he took 120 wickets @24.25 and bowled 1354.3 overs. Older spectators will recall that he bowled with virtually no run-up and many batsmen complained he bowled before they were paying attention! During his first winter in Nottingham, he went with Jim Swanton’s side to the West Indies, but he never looked likely to play Test Cricket for England.
His right-hand batting comprised a heave for six, which too often resulted in a miss and a bowled. Well built, he was not the most athletic of fielders and rather too fond of chatting to spectators on the boundary. In 1961 he took 99 wickets @29.92 and in 1963, 97 wickets @23.77, but in 1965 his wickets were costing 30 runs each and he was left out of half the Notts games. In 151 first-class matches for Notts, Wells scored 1,281 runs @8.10. His top score was 55 made versus Glamorgan at St Helen’s, Swansea in 1962 and was described in the Notts Annual of 1963 as “a fantastic display of five sixes and four fours in 28 minutes of fireworks”. He took 429 wickets @28.09 obtaining five wickets in an innings on 17 occasions. His best bowling figures were 7-34 (12-140 in the match) versus Worcestershire at Trent Bridge in 1963. He also appeared for Notts in three Gillette Cup encounters.
In 1966 he was appointed as mentor to the Notts Colts side which played in the Notts Amateur League. His task was to act as captain and help the youngsters develop their full potential, unfortunately Bomber could not resist the temptation to bowl himself as soon as the youngsters found the going a bit tough. He ended the summer the outstanding bowler in the League, as well as in the Colts, his wickets costing 7 runs each. Afterwards he played for club sides in the Nottingham area, notably Bestwood Colliery and his home village of Ruddington. He was instrumental in the setting up of the Nottingham Cricket Lovers and through his contacts persuaded a host of famous cricketers to come to entertain the Lovers. He refused any official post with the Lovers, but latterly was appointed a Vice-President. After the early death of first wife, Pat, he went back to Gloucester and was happily married for a second time to Mary. For the last years of his life Bomber was confined to a wheelchair, but this did not prevent him attending Gloucestershire matches and amusing any other spectators who happened across him with his tales of derring-do. He was also a regular attendee at reunions of Old Notts Players, where members would still queue to obtain his autograph.
Bryan David Wells died in Gloucester on 19 June 2008, aged 77.
Nottinghamshire First Class Number: 424