At the Club’s AGM on 19 March, Chairman Sir Douglas McCraith reported a loss of nearly £200 on the previous season and that of, the 3,500 members before the war, only 916 remained.  He appealed to all former members to support the club in difficult times and painted a gloomy picture of the future: “Many things will be changed and altered after the war and I think county cricket will be one.  It is going to be difficult to get county cricket established again.  I very much doubt if we shall ever return to pre-war standards.  I think we must look forward to a reduction of matches.  That doesn’t mean cricket will languish altogether but in my view it will be on a smaller scale with fewer matches.  Some clubs may not survive and we must see that Notts does survive.”

The Cricketer magazine also sounded a note of caution for the Trent Bridge faithful: “The success of the matches arranged by Nottinghamshire last season was largely due to the attractive batting of Hardstaff, but his countless admirers will now have to exercise patience, at least for this summer, as he has gone overseas, and so, too, has the county’s very useful bowler, Butler.”

Twelve fixtures had been announced at the AGM, the first of which was against an RAF XI at Trent Bridge on 25 May.  Frederick Newman, who had played for Surrey from 1919 to 1921 before joining Sir Julien Cahn’s XI, opened the batting although Notts’ highest score of 55 was achieved by Douglas Hounsfield, a guest from Derbyshire.  Rain intervened when Notts were on 132 for 5, saving the home team from a likely defeat against a team whose first four batsmen were Test players: Charlie Barnett (Glos), Bill Edrich (Middx), Cyril Washbrook (Lancs) and Les Ames (Kent).

Notts had considerable difficulties in raising a side for the next match, against Derbyshire at Ilkeston on 6 June.  The team that took the field included Geoffrey Huskinson, who had played two First-Class matches for Notts in 1922, Noel Turner, a 2nd XI player before the war, KF Pickard, who made his only appearance for the county, and Stanley Proffitt, who had played seven County Championship matches for Essex in 1937 and was – according to the Nottingham Journal – “the well-known table tennis star who has appeared in several exhibition matches in Nottingham.” Despite this, Notts reduced the home team to 136 all out in just under two hours, Arthur Jepson leading the attack with 5 for 35.  Bill Blaxland scored 57, but another seven batsmen accounted for a total of just ten runs and, having passed Derbyshire’s total for the loss of six wickets, Notts continued batting to close on 276 for 9, George Heane top scoring with 93.

A team of Derbyshire Freemasons were due to visit Trent Bridge on 10 June for a fundraising match against their Nottinghamshire counterparts but were unable to raise a team so a contest between the City and County Masons was played.  The City team included Billy Walker – Manager of Nottingham Forest FC – who bowled unchanged and took 3 wickets for 25 as the County team subsided to 66 all out, with Wilfred Payton (the former Notts amateur) carrying his bat for 45.

On 13 June the fixture against Leicestershire at Trent Bridge was abandoned without a ball being bowled, although play was possible the following day when a ‘Left-handers’ team, captained by former Notts 2nd XI player Arnot Ashley and including Arthur Wheat and Stanley Proffitt, played a ‘Right-handers’ team in a fundraising match at Butterley in Derbyshire.

Notts raised a strong side for the match against the British Empire XI at Trent Bridge on 20 June, but the county’s bowlers struggled as the visitors – led by 77 from Laurie Fishlock (Surrey and England) – declared on 243 for 6.  Despite 40 from Reg Simpson and 35 from Charlie Harris, a heavy defeat was in prospect as the West Indian Test bowler Bertie Clarke claimed five victims.  The Nottingham Journal reported “At 6 pm, Notts, with six wickets down for less than a hundred, had virtually lost their match [but] at 7.30 pm, when stumps were drawn, the last-wicket pair were still undefeated and in an hour and half of dramatically defiant batsmanship the tail-enders saved the match.  Chief hero of this thrilling duel between bat and ball was John Hodgkins, footballer-cricketer, who is a fast bowler in actuality but who proved himself the most stubborn of batsmen in this match, keeping his end up through 80 minutes of crisis.”

The following week Sir Douglas McCraith, the Club Chairman, pleaded for more support: “I wish to appeal to those members ... who have not already paid their subscriptions, to help us keep the club going in these difficult times.  We are the only County club providing high-class cricket for the Forces.  Up to the present, we are down by about £350, as compared with last year.  I appeal to all to send us something, if it is only a portion of the subscription.”

An RAF XI visited Trent Bridge on 27 June when a number of guest players were required to make up the Notts team including: Alan Skinner, the Derbyshire captain; New Zealand Test player Roger Blunt; and Esmond Lewis, a young wicket-keeper who would play for Warwickshire after the war.  Led by Frederick Newman’s 143no, Notts made a sporting declaration at 252 for 2.  The RAF side, captained by Wilfred Payton, looked well set for victory until Les Berry of Leicestershire played on to Frank Woodhead for 84.  As the Nottingham Journal reported, “Hodgkins and Woodhead bowled so well that the game changed dramatically, three wickets falling for five runs, but the ‘tail-enders’ saved the match.”

A fundraising match between an RAF XI and an Army XI was played on The Forest on 2 July; no Notts players were involved, although three cricketers that had previously guested for the County – Ewart Astill (Leics), Proffitt and Lewis – were in the Army team.  However various Notts players – including Simpson, Marshall, GV Gunn, Lilley, Voce and Stocks – were involved in a charity match between the Lord Mayor’s XI v Chief Constable’s XI on 5 July.

A third match against an RAF XI had been planned for 11 July but when this was cancelled a fixture against Leicestershire was arranged, replacing the match originally scheduled for 13 June.  Notts were without Harris – who was playing for the Army against the Royal Navy at Lord’s – and Heane, while G Finlay (a Cheshire opening batsman) and PL Hampshire played their only matches for the county; neither debutant registered a run as Notts declared on 204 for 9, Newman’s 80 being the highest score.  A Leicestershire side that had been described as “a mixed proportion of local amateurs and their own professionals” reached 67 for 3 before play ended as a draw, Les Berry – the previous week’s hero when appearing for the RAF – being bowled by Hodgkins without scoring.

When a match on 18 July had to be cancelled because the London Counties XI had ‘transport difficulties’, Notts offered to host a fixture between the Anti-Aircraft Gunners of the Midland and Northern Regions; however this match was also called off at late notice and rearranged for 6 August.

The next match for Notts was on 25 July, when a Northern Command XI became the only Army side to visit Trent Bridge during 1942.  George Heane returned to captain the home side while Dennis Watkin made his first appearance of the season and Frederick Stocks made his debut for the County.  The servicemen – including Maurice Leyland and Stuart Rhodes, Notts’ Joint-Captain with Heane in the 1935 season – bowled out the hosts for just 118, Leslie Bulcock taking 7 for 38.  Although most of the visiting batsmen failed to reach double figures, it appeared that Leyland would secure victory until he was the last man out with the score on 117, handing Notts an improbable victory.  “Not for years has any cricket match seen such a thrilling finish” said the Nottingham Journal, “nor one in which so many meritorious individual performances have to be noticed.”

The next match – against the National Fire Service on 1 August – saw Rhodes make his first wartime appearance for Notts while Frank Shipston played his first match for the County since 1933.  The Fire Service team included England players Harold Gimblett (Somerset), Arthur Mitchell (Yorks), Johnny Arnold (Hants), James Langridge (Sussex) and Bill Farrimond (Lancs), although it was the Surrey amateur Leonard Summers who caused the Notts batsmen the most trouble, taking 6 for 68 as the home side were all out for 251.  Gimblett, Arnold and Langridge each passed 50 but the match was drawn with the Fire Service on 220 for 4.  The Nottingham Journal declared the match to be “One-day cricket at its best, under most pleasant conditions” before a satisfied crowd of 5,000.

On Bank Holiday Monday (3 August) Derbyshire were the opponents at Trent Bridge and Notts had persuaded Harold Gimblett to remain in Nottingham and make a guest appearance.  Only 15 overs were possible – during which Gimblett took the only wicket to fall – before the matched was abandoned with Derbyshire on 65 for 1.

Four Notts players were otherwise engaged over the Bank Holiday weekend, with Sgt CB Harris and 2nd-Lieut GFH Heane playing for a Northern XI v an Army XI at Headingley; the two-day match was drawn, with Harris taking one wicket and hitting 31 runs, while Heane claimed two wickets and scored ten runs. Meanwhile Leading Aircraftman RT Simpson and Corporal A Jepson were playing for the RAF North against the RAF South in Blackpool, in the first of a series of two-day matches which continued in Sheffield and Scarborough.  Also on this weekend, Walter Keeton – who appeared for Bingley in the Bradford League during most of the wartime seasons – raised his own side for a charity match in Leeds.

The rearranged Anti-Aircraft match on 6 August only involved one Notts player – Major EA Marshall – who scored 64 as the Midlands Region fell three runs short of the North’s 216 for 8.

On 22 August Notts travelled away for only the second time in the season when they played Leicestershire at Grace Road.  Two Notts debutants took four wickets apiece: Bryan Farr – who would make seven First-Class appearances for Notts after the war – claimed 4 for 10, while Ronald Swindall – from Gedling Colliery CC and the first local club bowler to reach 100 wickets for the season – took 4 for 30 as the hosts subsided to 80 all out.  Captained in Heane’s and Marshall’s absence by Derbyshire’s Alan Skinner, Notts reached their target for the loss of five wickets, Huskinson top scoring with 27no.

On the following day five Notts players – Newman, Huskinson, Stocks, Marshall and Lilley – appeared for the Lord Mayor’s XI when they beat the Chief Constable’s XI in the latest match in the series of fundraisers at the Police Training Ground in Carrington.

The final match brought the National Fire Service back to Trent Bridge on 29 August; as on their previous visit, the Fire Service team included a number of England and county players, while Notts were unable to select most of their senior players.  Having been 114 for 9, a final wicket partnership between Hodgkins and Swindall brought the Notts total to 165.  This pair were also responsible for the four wickets that fell in the Fire Service’s innings, before the Notts total was surpassed in the 31st over, with James Langridge undefeated on 61.

This was the only defeat in another challenging season, Notts having played nine completed matches, winning three while drawing five.  Including the team that started the abandoned home match against Derbyshire, 37 players had been needed to fulfil these fixtures, and credit was regularly paid to the Secretary HA Brown for his work in raising competitive teams.

One other Notts player was also active in 1942, although – in this case – thousands of miles from Nottingham.  William Sime (who would succeed George Heane as Captain in 1947) had been born in South Africa and on 26-27 December he played for a Combined Air Force XI against The Rest of South Africa at the Wanderers Ground in Johannesburg.  The Air Force team was captained by Squadron-Leader WR (Wally) Hammond, and in the first innings Sqd/Ldr WA Sime found the bowling of Staff/Sgt (and Test match player) Norman Gordon “completely demoralising”, only scoring a single.  However Sime fared better in the second innings when he “mingled classic strokes with an astonishing variety of ‘cow-shots’” in scoring 39 not out, although the Rest did win the match by five wickets.

Photo shows Harold Gimblett of Somerset, England, the National Fire Service and, for one game only, Nottinghamshire.

For all the scorecards and other information about this season, go to Cricket Archive here

September 2020