At the start of the year three Notts players were playing cricket while posted in India. Reg Simpson and Joe Hardstaff continued to accumulate sizeable scores; meanwhile – as a bowler – Harold Butler was finding the wickets in the sub-continent less to his liking, although a knee injury that he suffered while playing football was also giving him concern. And before the start of the domestic season it was announced that Walter Keeton, Bill Voce and George Vernon Gunn would, once again, be playing in the Bradford League.
On 21 March an MCC sub-committee – including Notts Secretary HA Brown in its five members – issued their recommendations for a knock-out county cricket competition based on three-day matches. The following day Notts announced a ten-match programme, eight of which would be at Trent Bridge including a two-day match against Derbyshire on the August Bank Holiday.
The Club’s Annual General Meeting was held on 26 April, at which the Chairman Sir Douglas McCraith announced that a profit of £48 had been made during the previous year. Updating members on the whereabouts of Notts players, he announced that – in addition to the trio in India – Ron Giles had recovered from the injuries that he had suffered in India; Arthur Jepson, Bill Voce, Charlie Harris, Eric Meads, Frank Woodhead and Joseph Knowles were in the Forces in the UK, and it was hoped that they would be available for some matches in 1945. Walter Keeton was in the Special Constabulary and had told Notts that he hoped to play some matches for the county for the first time since 1940. HA Brown was congratulated on his 25 years as Secretary of the Club, while George Gunn was elected to the Committee to replace Sir Julien Cahn who had died in September 1944.
VE Day was celebrated on 8 May, so the whole of Notts’ 1945 season was played in peacetime conditions, starting over the Whitsun weekend of 19 to 21 May. The first visitors to Trent Bridge were Leicestershire, who were bowled out for 168, John Hodgkins taking 5 for 26. Before the match, much had been made of Notts’ debutant Flying-Officer RH Loader, described as ‘a pupil of the famous Australian bowler [Clarrie] Grimmett’, but he got no help from the pitch and bowled nine overs without a wicket. The visitors had taken 70 overs to reach their total which Notts passed in the 38th over of their innings, Hodgkins completing a memorable day by top-scoring with 51.
On Bank Holiday Monday Notts encountered an RAF XI captained by RES (Bob) Wyatt and including a number of servicemen who had appeared for and against the home county in previous wartime seasons. The RAF were bowled out for 170, but a target that had been easily exceeded in the previous match proved harder to reach and Notts were facing defeat when Wyatt claimed an extra half-hour to achieve victory. However, having bowled without a wicket once again, Loader – alongside Arthur Jepson – withstood the pressure from the RAF bowlers and played out time, Notts closing on 115 for 9.
On 2 June a Notts Collieries XII were the visitors to Trent Bridge, and despite their numerical advantage they were bowled out for 117. The Nottingham Journal explained that “The match ... was in the nature of a ‘talent finder’, for it has already been suggested that the county club may recruit largely in future from the Notts coalfields, [but] the Collieries proved somewhat disappointing, in the batting department particularly.” Walter Keeton – playing only his second wartime match for Notts – opened with Edward Heane, whose brother George (the Notts Captain) was otherwise engaged at Lord’s where he was playing for an England XI against the West Indies. Notts took their time to reach the victory target, achieved for the loss of three wickets with ten minutes to spare.
On 16 June Notts travelled to Chesterfield to play Derbyshire, the first time they had visited Queen’s Park for eight years. Eight-ball overs were used in this match, and a young Derbyshire side had difficulty coping with the Notts bowlers, particularly Jepson (3 for 33) and Woodhead (4 for 21); the home side were all out for 78, Gilbert Hodkinson top-scoring with 14. Notts made hard work of the reply and when the fifth wicket fell at 48 the result was still in the balance. However the sixth wicket pair of Eddie Gothard and Heane steadied the innings and the victory target was achieved for the loss of two more wickets.
Notts fielded seven professionals – the largest number so far in a wartime fixture – for the next match against the National Fire Service on 30 June, when spectators could watch from their cars in the recently re-opened car park. By contrast the visitors were much below strength, and although Notts found themselves at 67 for 3 the fourth wicket pair of an amateur and a guest player from Surrey – namely Edwin Marshall (95no) and Jack Parker (93no) – took the score to 247 when Heane declared at tea. The Fire Service lost wickets cheaply and were 48 for 4 when heavy rain brought an end to the match.
On 8 July George Heane played for WR Hammond’s XI at Edgbaston against the New Zealand Services, but he was back on home ground on 14 July when Notts played an RAF XI before a crowd of around 5,000. Charlie Harris made his first appearance for Notts since 1942 but, as in the first match against the RAF, a draw was the result. Notts batted first and reached 264 for 4 with Heane top-scoring on 85no, the visitors having used eight different bowlers. George Cox of Sussex was the most successful RAF batsman, reaching 110no; the visitors had been reduced to 15 for 2, but the match was drawn with their score at 192 for 4.
Frank Woodhead and Eric Meads were on opposing sides when an RAF team met WR Hammond’s XI on 21 and 22 July at Sheffield, and both were involved in Notts’ next match against Leicestershire at Grace Road on 28 July. Isaiah Smithurst, a bowler from Eastwood, played his solitary match for the county, while Harold Butler – back safely from India – stood as an umpire. Leicestershire were put in to bat and recovered from 59 for 5 to 204 all out, Frank Prentice top scoring with 95. Arthur Jepson had taken 6 for 34 when he was struck on the leg and took no further part in the match. Notts reached the victory target for the loss of six wickets, Jack Parker leading the way with 101.
With the August Bank Holiday being once again at the start of the month, a two-day match was played at Trent Bridge against Derbyshire on 4 and 6 August. Jepson had not recovered from the injury he sustained the previous week, and both teams named twelve players because of known unavailabilities on the Monday. The members’ pavilion had recently been de-requisitioned by the military authorities, so for the first time since before the war it was available for use by spectators; meanwhile the area behind the building was used as a tea garden. Before the match the Evening Post remarked that Notts “will be strongly represented, and expect to complete ‘the double’ over their neighbourly rivals”, but this proved not to be the case as, in reply to Derbyshire’s 276 all out, Notts were bowled out for 125 and asked to follow on. Harold Pope took the first five wickets for 21 because, as the Nottingham Journal observed, “the home county’s spin bowling complex reared its head again.”
The outcome of the match turned on two decisions by the Notts captain, as the Derby Evening Telegraph explained: “Derbyshire, aided by two sporting gestures by G.F.H. Heane, the Notts captain, won their first match of the season in the last over ... Following on 151 behind, Heane declared Notts’ second innings at 223 for five, thus leaving Derbyshire 45 minutes to score 73 runs. These they knocked off for the loss of only two wickets. Earlier, when Notts continued their first innings of 102 for six they batted only ten men. By arrangement between the two clubs J.F. Parker, the Surrey player, should have displaced J. Bradley, but as Parker is a much better stronger batsman than his colleague Heane considered it would have been unfair to Derbyshire to allow him to bat.”
After his acts of sportsmanship George Heane moved on to the Birmingham Cricket Festival, where he guested for Sussex on 8 August before playing for the Festival XI on 9, 10 and 12 August, the latter match against an RAF XI that included Eric Meads.
Heane was missing from Notts’ next match against a Northern Command XI on 18 August. Jepson returned after injury, and the Lancashire all-rounder Leslie Warburton played his only match for Notts. The visitors were captained by Notts’ Eddie Gothard and included Bill Voce, who had chosen to play for the servicemen at Trent Bridge despite being invited to appear for the Army against the Royal Navy at Lord’s. “He is suffering from knee trouble and prefers not to risk a breakdown in a match of such importance” explained the Nottingham Journal. If the match on his home ground was Voce’s fitness test he passed with flying colours, bowling 23 overs and taking 7 for 97 as Notts were all out for 215.
At 206 for 5 the visitors appeared to be cruising to victory, only for carnage to ensue. Describing it as “... probably one of the most exciting finishes to a game of cricket in the history of Trent Bridge”, the Journal explained the unlikely conclusion to the match: “... at 206 Watts, thinking he had been bowled by Woodhead left his crease and was stumped by Meads. The next over – Jepson’s – was disastrous. Off his first ball Gothard was caught by Hodgkins, with his second ball he clean bowled Day, Voce was stumped off the fourth and the sixth spread-eagled Greensmith’s wicket. And the score was still 206! Notts had turned the tables and won by nine runs!”
The build-up to the last match of the season began soon afterwards; on 20 August the Evening Post announced: “As the only First Class county who have provided a programme in each of the six wartime seasons, the Nottinghamshire Cricket Club could not have desired a more attractive, and at the same time thoroughly fitting, finish to their wartime activities than a match against the Australians.” And although it was hoped that the team which contested the final ‘Victory Test’ at Old Trafford would play in Nottingham, in the event only six of these players appeared at Trent Bridge in an ‘Australian Services’ side.
Notts needed a strong team for this match, and supporters would have been pleased to see Bill Voce making only his second wartime appearance for Notts (the other match having been the first wartime fixture back in May 1940); meanwhile the opening partnership of Keeton and Harris were reunited for the first time since September 1940. The match started well for Notts, Voce taking a wicket off the first ball of the match; and by lunch the visitors had lost eight wickets before their lower order added valuable runs, no 10 Mick Roper top-scoring with 58 before being the last man out with the score at 194. Notts made a similarly disappointing start to their innings, Keeton being trapped LBW without scoring; and led by Cec Pepper’s 7 for 40, Australia reduced the hosts to 130 all out at the end of the first day’s play that had attracted a crowd of around 8,000.
Trent Bridge the Best Ground in England Says Aussie Skipper
After the first day’s play the visiting team attended a civic reception at Nottingham Council House. Following a welcome from the Lord Mayor, representatives of the touring party made their speeches.
Referring to Australia’s service in the war, team manager Flt-Lieut K Johnson said “We felt it was our duty to help to protect this beautiful country, which we regard as the Motherland. A land which has a ground like Trent Bridge, on which, we hope, generations to follow will play, is worth fighting for. Thank goodness, when England is in danger in the future, it will be only when playing a Test Match against Australia.”
The captain, LR Hassett added “Without a doubt, the Trent Bridge ground is the finest ground we have played on in England. That is the opinion of every member of the team. We also feel that the hospitality of Nottingham cannot be exceeded by any other city.”
From the Nottingham Journal, 1 September 1945
Bill Voce started the second day where he left off the day before, going one better by taking 6 for 67 in the visitors’ second innings as they were all out for 215, Keith Miller (later to play one match for Notts in 1959) top-scoring with 81. This set Notts a victory target of 280, and the first wicket partnership contributed a promising 65 runs. However, although Keeton went on to score 52 before he became one of ten Notts batsmen to be adjudged LBW during the match, the Journal declared that “The remainder of the Notts innings was a sad anti-climax to the bright opening.” The one exception was the contribution of Voce, who hit a six and five fours with some “exhilarating batting”, hitting 35 before Notts lost by 103 runs. “This match ... was a non-stop triumph for the burly left-hander for whom League clubs are crying in vain” said the Journal. “A memorable finale to the season; very memorable for Voce. He can still gain a place in the England side!”
This final wartime season had seen Notts play ten matches, winning five and drawing three fixtures, using 25 players in the process. Edwin Marshall was the only player to appear in every match, while Eric Meads and Frank Woodhead only missed one each. Across the five wartime seasons Notts had played 50 completed matches, winning 21, drawing 21 and losing 8; fulfilling these fixtures had required a great amount of work by Club Secretary HA Brown and involved 91 different players. John Hodgkins was the most active player, appearing in 42 of these 50 matches; Eric Meads had played 37 times, Edwin Marshall 36, and George Heane 32.
Although the county’s season had ended on 1 September, Trent Bridge was then the venue for various intra-services matches. On 5 September a Bomber Command XI – including Notts players Reddick, Meads and Woodhead – played the Desert Air Force team during the latter’s tour of Britain; meanwhile on the following two days there was a semi-final of the RAF group championship and the final of the RAF inter-command championship when Fighter Command defeated the Flying Technical Command. The final of the former tournament – and the last match involving teams from the wartime armed services – was played on 11 September, after which the local clubs who rented the ground were left to conclude their seasons.
Two Notts players were also involved in matches during September, albeit thousands of miles apart. Joseph Knowles played for the Commandos CC on their tour of southern England where they played three teams of Australian and New Zealand servicemen, while Joe Hardstaff played for a Services XII against Sundar CC in Bombay.
In the autumn of 1945 thoughts turned to the future, and writing in The Cricketer 1945-46 Annual, AWT Langford considered Notts’ prospects: “Trent Bridge is rapidly returning to normal. The main pavilion has been released and is now under repair, while the Ladies’ pavilion will be available shortly, although the military are not leaving the ground. The playing area itself has never looked better and was of course used throughout the war.
"Nottinghamshire should have a good side for next season. GFH Heane is expected to lead the eleven again and then there are WW Keeton, CB Harris, J Knowles, J Hardstaff, RT Simpson, W Voce, HJ Butler, A Jepson, GF Woodhead, and R Giles.
"Meads shapes most promisingly as a wicket-keeper, and another young player who may establish himself is Stocks, a left handed batsman. TB Reddick, who played once for Middlesex some years ago, is living in the county and may play.
"On his reappearance at Trent Bridge last summer ... Voce bowled extremely well. He is now only 36 so must be a serious candidate for another Australian tour."
Photo: Bill Voce
For all the scorecards and other information about this season, go to Cricket Archive here