Lord's is used by the War Office

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The outbreak of the Great War in 1914 brought to an end cricket’s ‘golden age’, a period lasting a quarter of a century during which the game established itself beyond question as England’s pre-eminent sport.

The spread of county cricket had made the game truly national, and no other sport could claim the same level of popular appeal cutting across all social boundaries. At Lord’s in particular, 1914 was meant to be a year of celebration. The Ground celebrated its centenary and in June, King George V was among the spectators as the MCC XI recently returned from its South African tour took on the Rest of England XI.

When war was declared on 4 August, the cricket authorities at first intended for the season to continue. But the mood of the country quickly changed Within weeks, it was considered immoral for young men to be playing cricket at home while their contemporaries were fighting in Europe. When the players left the field as a round of County Championship matches came to an end on 2 September, they were not to return for more than four years. MCC offered its services to the War Office and soon Lord’s became a hive of military activity instead of cricket.

The first soldiers to find their billets at the Ground were the 1,000 strong Artists’ Corps. The men slept in the Luncheon Arbours surrounding the Practice Ground and used a marquee on the site for meals and recreation. When the Corps shipped out for France, their places were taken by a battery of Territorials. Lord’s and the adjoining properties owned by MCC saw a variety of units pass through their precincts: from the Army Service Corps to the Royal Army Military Corps and the Old Boys’ Volunteer Battalion (London Regiment), which trained and supplied over 400 commissioned officers for the Army. The Ground hosted cookery classes for military personnel and classes in wireless telegraphy and foreign languages were held in the Pavilion. MCC’s Bowling staff were even engaged to make nets for horse fodder. They were soon joined by MCC Members and friends – 30,000 were produced by May 1917.

As the war dragged on, the early hostility to sports began to ease and Lord’s hosted a small number of fixtures to raise morale and funds for war charities. In 1917, a baseball match between Canadian and American servicemen even took place with a crowd of 10,000 in attendance. The contribution of both Club and Ground to the war effort was acknowledged by the War Office in a formal letter of thanks in 1919.