In March a wide-ranging report on the future of County Cricket was published by the MCC Select Committee, whose members included Notts Captain George Heane and Secretary HA Brown.  Key recommendations included a Knock-Out Cup, all counties playing the same number of County Championship matches, and a return to the six ball over.  Also that month, HA Brown and former amateur player Vincent Cartwright were appointed as Magistrates on the Nottingham City Bench.

In late March, a programme of nine matches against what had become traditional wartime opponents was announced; seven of these contests were to be at Trent Bridge, as were matches between Worksop and Denstone Colleges in June and between the Anti-Aircraft Brigade and an RAF XI in August.

Overs of eight balls had been introduced in 1939 in what was to be a two-year trial but the practice had continued to the end of the 1943 season.  However for 1944 the length of an over reverted to six balls – except, for Notts, in the home and away fixtures against Derbyshire.

The season started with two matches over the Whitsun Bank Holiday weekend: on Saturday 27 May a Notts Collieries XI visited Trent Bridge, and the Nottingham Journal said that they “had selected a team which is expected to give Notts a very hard match.” Notts handed debuts to John Newsome from Nottingham High School, Frank Saxton – a talented all-rounder from Hucknall – and Tom Reddick, a South African who had been born in China.  Reddick had played two First-Class matches for Middlesex in 1931 and subsequently featured for Sir Julien Cahn’s XI, and became player-coach for Notts in 1946.  The ‘very hard match’ never materialised, with the Collieries XI being bowled out for 172, Jack Taylor (of Notts Amateurs and University College) taking 6 for 44.  Notts won by seven wickets, Reddick scoring 80no and Reg Simpson contributing 53 runs.

A number of the Notts players – including Simpson and Poole – were involved in a charity match at Bulwell Hall Park on the Sunday before the County welcomed an RAF XI to Trent Bridge on Bank Holiday Monday.  The airmen were captained by former England player RES (Bob) Wyatt and included a number of players who would go on to represent their country after the war.  Batting first, Notts were all out for 193 – Heane top scoring with 32 – but five wickets from Frank Woodhead put the home side in a strong position for victory.  However the crowd of 8,000 – the largest wartime attendance to date – witnessed an unexpected conclusion to the match.  As the Nottingham Journal reported: “... it was only a sporting gesture by Heane, the Notts captain, which gave the airmen a flight to victory.  With ten runs wanted Heane, in this last over, took the ball for the first time, lobbed them up and let the airmen gain the fruits of what had looked likely to be only a moral victory ... A quiet day with a gaudy finish.”

On 6 June a letter from Harold Larwood was sent to a fundraising event in Nottingham:

“I wish to send you all my good wishes for a bumper effort during your ‘Salute the Soldier’ Week.  Soldiers, like cricketers or footballers, can always do better when they have the full confidence of their supporters, so instead of barracking them let us all cheer them on to Victory by knocking Hitler’s middle stump flying ... Put on your fast bowlers, and let us all do our best, and by so doing hasten the day for the boys’ return.”

The National Fire Service (North Midlands) XI were unable to fulfil the fixture planned for 10 June, so the next match for Notts was not until 24 June.  In the meantime Reg Simpson and Heane played for an England XI against a West Indies XI at Lord’s on 10 June; Simpson was run out for 15 and Heane only scored two runs, but he then took 4 for 6 in the visitor’s first innings.

The Services (Anti-Aircraft Command) XI that visited Trent Bridge in late June were captained by the Welsh rugby international Viv Jenkins and included two Australian airmen, Clive Calvert and GL Wall, Notts player Edwin Marshall and regular guest player HG Jourdan, from the Royal Engineers Postal Section.  Calvert top-scored with 79 before the servicemen declared at 233 for 6, leaving Notts just over two hours to win the match.  Despite some lusty hitting from George Heane (51no) the home team required nine runs when time was called.

In the following week the full story of Calvert’s performance emerged, as the Nottingham Journal reported: “The innings of the afternoon was that of Flight-sergt. CE Calvert of the Royal Australian Air Force, who, playing for the Services, hit up 79 out of 116 in 1¾ hours.  The previous night Flight-sergt. Calvert was over Germany on an operational sortie.  He got back to his camp, somewhere in the Midlands, in the early hours of Saturday morning, hitch-hiked into Nottingham and arrived at Trent Bridge half an hour late, but still in time to knock the Notts bowling all over the shop – his innings included 11 boundaries.”

The Club’s AGM was held unusually late in the year – on 29 June – and the meeting had an optimistic tone.  A profit of £180 was reported for the previous season and the President, Major TP Barber believed that there would be immense interest in cricket after the war; he also expressed the view that there was ample talent in the county to carry on the great traditions of cricket in Notts in the years that were ahead.  However, the Club were anxious to pay off the overdraft of £916 before the end of the war in view of the need to spend between £3,000 and £4,000 on renovations and improvements to the ground.

On 1 July Reg Simpson was in the RAF side that drew with the Civil Defence Services at Lord’s; the Notts opener only managed eight runs at ‘the home of cricket’, but was considerably more successful on his return to Trent Bridge for Notts’ next match against Leicestershire on 8 July.  Arthur Jepson appeared for Notts for the first time since July 1942, but it was Simpson (133 runs) and HG Jourdan (74) who led the home team to 266 for 3 when stand-in captain Edwin Marshall declared.  Once again Notts were beaten by the clock, reducing Leicestershire to 157 for 9 when time ran out and the match was drawn.  The Australian airman Calvert played for the visitors and scored 33, while their real hero was the undefeated captain Aubrey Sharp – at age 55, “a man who first played in county cricket way back in 1909 and [who] must be the only pre-Great War cricketer still playing in first-class circles.”

Like so many teams that were selected for wartime matches, the Notts side for the next match against Derbyshire on 22 July was subject to some late changes.  This fixture would have seen a debut handed to the Hampshire player Squadron-Leader PA Mackenzie, but on the day before the match it was announced that he was unavailable – and he never did play for Notts.  He was replaced by South African Denijs Morkel for his first Notts match since 1940, while two players made their debuts for Notts: Jack Heaton, an England rugby international, and Flight-Sergeant GL Wall from the Royal Australian Air Force, who had played against Notts on 24 June.

The debutants took five wickets between them as Derbyshire were all out for 146, after which the home County’s South African opening pair of Morkel and Reddick accumulated 107 runs for the first wicket; Notts passed the visitors' total for the loss of one further wicket and continued batting until the match closed with the home side on 205 for 7.  A magnanimous Derby Evening Telegraph reported that “.. the home batsmen rarely found the bowling troublesome”, describing how Morkel had hit two sixes and three fours in one over as the 100 partnership took just under an hour.

A two-day match against the National Fire Service’s All-England XI had been scheduled for the Bank Holiday weekend in early August but, as the opposition had had to withdraw, this fixture was replaced with two one-day matches, the first of which was on Saturday 5 August against an RAF Midlands XI.  The visitors were to include eight players of county standard and were to be captained by Squadron-Leader Mackenzie, but two days before the match it was announced that Mackenzie was in hospital and unable to play. On the day before the match Notts announced that the Yorkshire and England player Maurice Leyland would be in the home side, while Reg Simpson would be playing his last Notts match before being posted overseas.

As the Nottingham Journal reported, Notts “carried too many big guns for their rivals” and the County side achieved their second successive eight-wicket victory.  Lt-Col Vallance took 5 for 63 as the airmen were reduced to 146 all out, Leslie Warburton (Lancs) top-scoring with 69no.  In reply, Simpson struck 41, Morkel 58 and Leyland 51 as Notts batted on to close at 253 for 6.

On Bank Holiday Monday Notts faced EA Marshall's XI, which the Evening Post described as: “... an exceptionally well-balanced contingent, who can be relied upon to give a good account against the county side ...”

The Evening Post also included some barbed comments about certain Notts players: “.... a very welcome item of news is that GV Gunn is returning to Trent Bridge from which ground it is hoped he will not stray again for league cricket purposes.  It will be recalled that some time ago we expressed surprise that he, along with Voce and Keeton, should have preferred to make the long journey to the Bradford area for a game instead of assisting the county club, to which they owed so much, to keep the flag of cricket flying.”

Gunn’s return did not exactly begin auspiciously – he managed only four runs before becoming one of Hodgkins’s three victims – but the bowling honours went to Flt-Lt HJ Hubble with 6 for 34, as Marshall’s XI were all out for 218.  One wicket fell to RD Clarke, the Notts Amateurs fast bowler who made his only appearance for the county side.  Denijs Morkel led the Notts reply with 108 and victory was achieved for the loss of five wickets, three of which fell to Gunn at the cost of 46 runs.

As in 1943, much cricket was played around the country: Reg Simpson appeared for England XIs at Lord’s against the Royal Australian Air Force and a Dominions XI before moving on to the Birmingham Cricket Festival, where George Heane and Tom Reddick also played for some of the Festival XIs.  Meanwhile on 7 August, Arthur Jepson played for the RAF against Sussex at Horsham.  In the nine days between 5 and 13 August, Simpson played in a different match each day; in teams ranging from the City Police to an England XI, he amassed 529 across nine innings.

Notts ended the penultimate wartime season with two away matches, the first of which was against Derbyshire on 12 August.  In its Spring Annual The Cricketer had reported that: “The Derbyshire CC pavilion has been so badly damaged by children that the match with Nottinghamshire on August 12 will be played at the LMS Railway ground at Derby.” The visitors included F Newton, a fast bowler from Stapleford who played his only match for the county side, and wicketkeeper Arthur Wheat, who made his first appearance since playing for Notts throughout the 1939 season.

As the Derby Evening Telegraph observed “After some rather unexciting batting, Notts declared at the comfortable total of 235 for five wickets” and Derbyshire made a real attempt at reaching their target.  Newton’s one wicket accounted for the home side’s top scorer Roy Genders before the match ended in a draw with Derbyshire on 195 for 8 – a match that “started as a peaceful, almost boring, affair, but finished with the spectators – including at least one American – cheering hard for the home team.”

An extra match was planned for 19 August when an RAF XI were due to visit Trent Bridge, but unseasonal weather prevented play from starting; under the headline “A Trent Bridge Disappointment”, the Evening Post observed that “The cancellation of the match between Notts and a RAF XI was a disappointing finish to the Trent Bridge season.”

Notts C.C. Captain Engaged

A happy cricket romance was disclosed yesterday, when the engagement became known of Mr. G.F.H. Heane, the Notts cricket captain, and Subaltern Joan Gidney, an officer in the A.T.S. attached to the Postal Section of the Royal Engineers.

The romance began when Subaltern Gidney went down to the Trent Bridge ground to see the cricket and was introduced to the Notts captain.

Nottingham Journal,  22 August 1944

Before the last match on 26 August it was probably something of an understatement when the Evening Post revealed that “Mr. H.A. Brown, secretary of the Nottinghamshire C.C., has experienced considerable difficulty in getting together a team for the final fixture with Leicestershire at the Grace-road ground, Leicester.”  The least experienced of all wartime teams included two players making their only appearances for the county – opener Corporal Whysall, nephew of Notts stalwart WW ‘Dodge’ Whysall, and W Bircumshaw, a member of the Notts Public Schools side – while Thomas Walker, now Captain of Cambridge University, had not played for Notts since the previous July.  The heroic Flt-Sgt Calvert was named in the team published on Friday evening but did not play in the match, so Notts had to borrow Horace Cox from Leicestershire.

The Evening Post struck an optimistic note by saying “The inclusion of Newsome and Bircumshaw in place of old and fully tried local club talent is welcome for it is in this way that the Nottinghamshire club can show the appreciation of the great work which is being done by the organisers of the Notts Public Schools programme.  Some more useful batting and bowling talent has been noted among the boys, and several are worthy of a trial.  Perhaps the Notts committee could arrange to get a look at them in action.”

Having reduced the hosts to 162 all out Notts would have been relatively pleased but, in an exciting finish, Leicestershire claimed a 40-run victory with only four minutes left to play.  Bircumshaw, with just a single to his name, was one of five middle-order batsmen who managed two runs between them.  The experienced fast bowler Haydon Smith claimed the wickets of Walker, Whysall, Newsome, Hubble and his clubmate Cox, while Bircumshaw was one of three victims for Glamorgan’s Emrys Davies.

Overall the season had been successful, and of the nine matches that were completed, Notts won four and drew three while using 31 different players.  Hodgkins and Newman each played in eight of these fixtures, while Heane, Stocks and Vallance each appeared in seven matches.

From Nottingham Journal readers’ letters, 28 August 1944


Sir, – May I impress express through your paper my appreciation (and no doubt that of hundreds of others, too) for the interesting cricket the Notts CC Club was able to arrange for cricket lovers during this the fifth year of the war?

It must at times have become a Herculean task to get the teams together, and our thanks are due, too, to the players, a number of whom had to travel considerable distances, and no private cars as pre-war.

In these days of stress and strain it has been a real luxury to indulge in the health-giving recreation of watching cricket and it was a joy to see Heane’s (congratulations on his recent engagement) sure fielding; also that of Poole and Stocks, or to see any of these at the wicket.

It was a pity the last home match was washed out, especially after such glorious weather at the Whitsuntide and Bank Holiday matches, but “the cricket-lover’s sorrow, the gardener’s joy”.


The cricketing year continued for Reg Simpson, however, and he enjoyed continued success in India, making his First-Class debut when playing for Sind in the Ranji Trophy; Joe Hardstaff was also finding Indian wickets to his liking, while Harold Butler had played two First-Class matches for the Services XI in Bombay.

Sir Julien Cahn – former Club President, cricket enthusiast and benefactor – died suddenly on 26 September at the age of 61 and the Notts cricket community lost another stalwart on 29 November when Jack Carlin passed away at the age of 71.  Over a period of 52 years he had served the Club as wicketkeeper-batsman and scorer, while also becoming an umpire and standing in four Test matches against Australia.

1944 ended on a happier note as George Heane married Joan Gidney in West Bridgford on 28 December; wedding guests included the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Nottingham, Nottingham Forest manager Billy Walker, Yorkshire CCC captain Brian Sellers and many representatives from the County Club  The ushers included clubmates Edwin Marshall and regular guest player Lt-Col ET Vallance, and – as the Nottingham Journal reported – “A ‘cricketer’s cake’ with four miniature figures in appropriate playing attitudes round a smooth wicket on the second tier, was cut.”

Photo:  Reg Simpson


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

September 2020