The year started on a sad note when Walter Marshall – Groundsman at Trent Bridge for over 40 years – passed away on 15 January at the age of 89. A good club cricketer who played three First-Class matches for Notts as an amateur between 1889 and 1891, Marshall joined the staff four years later. In addition to his grounds duties, he captained the Club & Ground XI, helped the Club Secretary and undertook coaching, during which he discovered and developed many County players – including Garnet Lee and Wilfred Payton. He prepared the wicket for the Trent Bridge’s first Test match in 1899 and continued to live in a cottage in the ground after his retirement.
A fixture list of eight matches – six to be played at Trent Bridge – was announced in March, with both fixtures against the National Fire Service to be played over two days. Three local clubs – Forest Amateurs, the Royal Engineers Postal Section and Notts Forest – would also be using Trent Bridge as their home venue, while it was expected that Notts Amateurs would play some matches at the ground.
A loss of £539 on the 1942 season was announced at the Annual General Meeting on 22 April, when the Chairman Sir Douglas McCraith made his traditional appeal for greater support from Club members, pointing out that “If the 3,000 ‘neglectful members’ had each sent half-a-guinea the club would not have had a deficit last season.” The Chairman also announced that “Butler and Hardstaff were in India, and had met in Bombay. They had also met Noble, who had been on the clerical staff. Giles was abroad, but there were no up-to-date details of other members of the team.”
Within a few months of the death of his mentor, Wilfred Payton also passed away; he had played 489 First-Class matches for Notts between 1905 and 1931, scoring over 22,000 runs at an average of 34.44.
In early May it had been hoped that two West Indian Test players – Manny Martindale and ‘Puss’ Achong – would play for Notts in the first match against BA Collieries on 29 May but neither appeared for a distinctly unfamiliar and inexperienced home team; GE McLellan, DJT Mew and SE Foster played their only games for the county, while JT Oldershaw was also making his debut. Captain Gorge Heane was unable to play because of a Home Guard exercise, so Notts were led by Edwin Marshall, who had recently become the season’s first centurion in local club cricket. Geoffrey Huskinson – who had played two First-Class matches for Notts in 1922 and five times during the previous season – was instrumental in organising the fixture but was unable to captain the visitors because of a broken arm.
That honour fell to Stuart Rhodes (the Joint-Captain of Notts with George Heane in 1935), who led a team described by the Nottingham Journal as “a blend of youth and experience – the veteran of the side being Harry Bettison, of Gedling, whose bowling and fielding and, one might add, his batting, are a credit indeed to his 60 years.” Drawn mainly from clubs in the Notts & Derbys Border League, the visitors bowled Notts out for 180, of which Cyril Poole scored 71. However the visitors could only manage 101 in reply, with Oldershaw taking 4 for 32 and Hodgkins 3 for 36. “Entertaining cricket, in a carefree atmosphere” declared the Journal; “While Notts won with plenty in hand, their opponents put up a spirited fight and appeared to be little overawed, as one might have thought possible, by the Trent Bridge atmosphere.”
On 8 June the City Freemasons – aided by 73 from Ronald Forman, the captain of Forest Amateurs who also made five appearances for Notts in 1943, and three wickets by Nottingham Forest manager Billy Walker – beat their County colleagues in a fundraising match at Trent Bridge.
Before the next match the Club Committee issued another appeal for financial support. Admission prices for the season had been reduced by three pence to one shilling per day, but former members were asked to make contribution to ensure the Club’s survival: “We ask if you will be good enough to give a token subscription – not necessarily the full subscription of £2 2s, although some are still paying that. With the view of being able to commence county cricket again as soon as conditions permit, our ground is being maintained in a very fair condition at considerable expense. More cricket is being provided by the Notts club during the war for the Services than by any other club.”
The first two-day match since May 1940 took place on Saturday 12 and (Bank Holiday) Monday 14 June against the England XI of the National Fire Service. Captained by Alexander Snowden of Northamptonshire, the visitors included Test player Johnny Arnold (Hants), Charlie Elliott from Derbyshire and Marshall Webster, the Forest Amateurs’ opening bowler who also played five wartime matches for Notts. The home team held a lead of 49 after the first innings – led by a briskly-hit 74 from George Heane – but there was only time for the Fire Service to reach 92 without loss in their second innings before the match was declared a draw.
On Bank Holiday Sunday a number of the cricketers involved with the contest at Trent Bridge shifted their attentions to the first of two charity matches between the Lord Mayor’s XI and the Chief Constable’s XI; meanwhile, Charlie Harris played for the Army v Civil Defence at Lord’s on the Saturday, for Epsom against HM Garland-Wells XII on the Sunday, and for the Army v RAF at Lord’s on Bank Holiday Monday.
Numerous changes were required for the next match against Leicestershire at Trent Bridge on 19 June. Ralph Forman from Forest Amateurs made his county debut, as did Alan Parnaby, the captain of Durham, and Andy Beattie, the Scottish international footballer who would later manage Nottingham Forest and Notts County. Hodgkins’ bowling had Leicestershire at 18 for 5, while Parnaby’s only match for Notts is certainly one that he would have remembered as he took the visitors’ last three wickets in five balls without conceding a run. One of his victims was WA Palmer, whose 57 represented exactly half of Leicestershire’s total score, and Notts won the match by six wickets.
On 26 June Notts visited Ilkeston to meet a Derbyshire team playing their first match of the season. Notts gave debuts to two players who were well-known locally as accomplished rugby players: John McLellan, who kept wicket, and Jack Taylor, who top scored with 69. Notts were all out for 247, and with Derbyshire on 94 for 7 with half an hour remaining, an away victory appeared possible. However no further wickets fell as the home side closed on 153 to leave the match drawn.
Charlie Harris and George Heane were not available for Notts on 26 June, as they were playing for AB Sellers’ XI against the Army at Leeds; the two Notts batsmen struck just over half of their team’s runs between them and Heane took two wickets as the servicemen won by two wickets.
On 6 July the Evening Post published extracts from a letter sent from Reg Simpson, who was training as a RAF pilot in Arizona. Mentioning that he had enjoyed ‘a colossal time’ during a week’s leave in Hollywood with some friends, Simpson wrote “We still survive despite average temperatures of 106-112 degrees in the shade, which takes a bit of getting used to. There is no cricket here, but we played two exhibition games of rugger at nearby towns in April ... Flying is OK out here, but ground school in the heat is terrible. So far I’ve got in just over 100 hours flying.”
A strong Northern Command XI visited Trent Bridge on 10 July, including England players Maurice Leyland (Yorks) and Stan Nichols (Essex) with a number of other county and Bradford League cricketers. The home side also looked promising, although the late replacement WE Hopwood would not have taken many fond memories from his only match for Notts. Although his smart fielding was responsible for a run out, the weather proved the winner as the match ended after just 8.3 overs with the Northern Command on 31 for 2.
On 15 July Trent Bridge hosted a limited-overs match between a Notts, Derbys and Leics Army XI and a Lincolnshire Army XI; the three-counties side included three players who had previously appeared for Notts in 1943: Andy Beattie, Alan Parnaby and Jack Taylor, who top-scored with 66 runs.
Two days later Derbyshire visited Trent Bridge, and Notts included two debutants: Eddie Gothard – who had played cricket for Notts Amateurs and Staffordshire, hockey and rugby for Derbyshire, and who would play 45 First-Class matches for Derbyshire after the war – and TJD Walker of Notts Amateurs and Cambridge University. They also welcomed back Roger Blunt – former New Zealand Test player – for his first match since June 1942. Notts recovered from 7 for 2 to declare on 229 for 8, and although Derbyshire attempted to meet their target they closed on 193 for 5. The visitors used eight bowlers while Notts used six, prompting the Nottingham Journal to remark that “there was a wide variety of bowling, even if some was mediocre!”
On 24 July Major EA Marshall – who regularly stood in for George Heane as captain, and played 37 wartime matches for Notts – became the first member of the Home Guard to be selected for the Anti-Aircraft XI when they played the Northern Command at Bramall Lane in Sheffield. The Notts man took one catch and scored 45, while his county colleague Charlie Harris hit 58 in a five wicket victory for their team.
The National Fire Service All-England XI that returned for a second two-day match on 31 July and 2 August contained three Test players – James Langridge and Johnny Arnold of England, and ‘Puss’ Achong of the West Indies – while Notts gave debuts to Major E Vallance of the Royal Engineers Postal Section and F Preston of the Nottingham City Police. Preston claimed two wickets in the Fire Service’s first innings as they were all out for 138, and – having taken four wickets and the scored 45 runs – George Heane declared on 194 for 8. Preston removed both openers in the second innings, while Vallance accounted for James Langridge, who top-scored with 60. Needing 101 to win, Notts achieved their target for the loss of four wickets in a match that was notable for both teams losing a player to illness: the visitors’ Levy suffered from colic, while Taylor of Notts withdrew with a high temperature.
With Monday 2 August being a Bank Holiday, a number of cricket festivals were held elsewhere in the country: George Heane, Charlie Harris and Joseph Knowles played at the Birmingham Cricket Festival; Walter Keeton and Bill Voce appeared at the Leeds Cricket Week; and Dennis Watkin played twice for an RAF XI in Blackpool. On 7 August guest players Parnaby, Taylor and Bulcock played for Notts & Derbys Services XII against a Leicestershire Services XII that included Learie Constantine; and on the following day Harold Larwood and Bill Voce were joined by Keeton, Harris, Wheat, Stocks and Poole in a charity match at East Kirkby.
In the following week Walter Keeton played for the Rest of England against Lancashire in Stockport, while Arthur Jepson represented the RAF against Yorkshire & Lancashire at Sheffield.
Notts’ final match of another unusual season was on 21 August against Leicestershire at Grace Road; PL Hobson, captain of the Notts Public Schoolboys team, made his only appearance for the county in a side that lacked most of the experienced players. The home side declared on 144 for 9, leaving Notts two hours to bat; however, they passed this total within 65 minutes, led by 65 from Frederick Newman and 68no from Cyril Poole in a match that did not include a single maiden over.
This victory brought an end to another challenging but successful season and the only undefeated campaign during wartime. Of the seven completed matches, four were won and three drawn, with 30 different players being selected for the eight scheduled matches. However local cricket enthusiasts had a final chance in 1943 to see some of the county players, when Marshall, Poole and Hodgkins – in addition to guest players Preston, Skinner, Oldershaw and Swindall – appeared in the second Lord Mayor’s XI v Chief Constable’s XI charity match that attracted a crowd of 3,500 to the City Police Training Ground.
From the Nottingham Evening Post, 27 August 1943
COUNTY CRICKET IN P.O.W. CAMP
Notts Man As Lancashire Captain
“From some 3,000 prisoners of war at Marlag and Milag Nord, Germany, it has been possible to run a county cricket championship thanks to the efforts of Chief Officer Cyril Haycraft, of Nottingham, and others, who spent many weeks in preparing a wicket and getting gear &c, ship-shape.
The men divided themselves into county teams, and in his latest card to his father .... he states that cricket is going great guns.
Haycraft, who was in the Merchant Navy, is captain of “Lancashire” in the championship, and his side had lost two of their three games. In the fourth they were due to meet “Hampshire”, and though no mention is made of a “Notts” eleven, the cheery message concludes with the news that “I am afraid the wicket is not quite up to Trent Bridge standard, being made of cement with a sand outfield. Still, we get a lot of fun.”
After the end of the County’s season it was announced that Reg Simpson had obtained ‘his wings’ and an RAF commission; George Heane and Club Secretary HA Brown were appointed to a MCC Select Committee that was tasked with proposing how cricket should be organised after the war; the last local club matches were not played until 16 October; John Hodgkins scored a football hat trick when playing for Lady Bay against University College in the Notts Amateur League and Cyril Poole appeared in a Mansfield court to answer charges that he was regularly absent from his work as a coal miner because of ‘trouble with his eyes’ – although it was pointed out by the prosecuting solicitor that Poole was fit enough to play for Notts and football for Mansfield Town!
Trent Bridge – part of Nottingham’s ‘Hidden History of WW2’
The Pavilion at Trent Bridge was used as a mess room for servicemen and women who worked at the national headquarters of the Royal Engineers Postal Section that had moved to Nottingham in 1941.
Many offices, factories and houses all over the city were requisitioned, including the Hickings lace warehouse on London Road which became the sorting office for all letters to and from the personnel in the Army and RAF; over 5,000 men and women worked in the various Postal Section locations in Nottingham from 1941 to 1947.
The Press Box at Trent Bridge was used as a medical room for the service personnel and, recalling her wartime experiences, Dorothy Pope – a member of the Auxiliary Territorial Service who worked at the sorting office on London Road – admitted that “.... worst sacrilege of all, we drilled on the hallowed turf! What would Denis Compton et al have thought of that?”
From ‘WW2 People’s War. An archive of World War Two memories – written by the public, gathered by the BBC.’
Written by Dorothy Pope (nee Pelmear) in August 2005. Dorothy’s full story is available at:
Photo: George Heane, who captained the majority of Nottinghamshire's war-time matches, in typical batting action
For all the scorecards and other information about this season, go to Cricket Archive here