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Pupils perform Battle of Passchendaele play at Lord's

A poignant performance from local schoolchildren took place at Lord’s this week, as an English Test cricketer killed during the Battle of Passchendaele was remembered.

Pupils from All Souls C of E Primary School, in Fitzrovia, visited the Home of Cricket on Wednesday on the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele, to tell the story of slow left-arm bowler Colin Blythe who was killed on its last day, November 8, 1917.

The afternoon featured a musical performance in collaboration with MCC and Westminster Archives, with their play, called The Final Test, telling the story of both Blythe and another former England player, Major William Booth. Both players represented MCC during their careers.

In preparation for the performance which took place in the Thomas Lord Suite, the children visited the MCC Museum at Lord’s to help them tell the story of Blythe, who died at the age of 38 when he was working on a railway line near Passchendaele and was struck by the shrapnel of a burst shell, and Major Booth who died in the arms of a fellow soldier after going over the top on the first day of the Somme offensive on July 1, 1916.

Blythe played 19 Test matches for England between 1901 and 1910, taking 100 wickets, but most remarkably, he took a mind-boggling 2503 wickets in his 439 first-class matches for Kent and his country, which puts him 13th in the all-time first-class wicket-taking list.

Major Booth played twice for England in Test matches, both occasions in South Africa on the 1913/14 tour. He played 162 first-class matches in all for Yorkshire and England, scoring 4753 runs and taking 603 wickets.

The names of MCC Members who died in the World Wars are engraved on a roll of honour at the top of the southern staircase in the Pavilion. However, Colin Blythe and Major Booth were only commemorated in February this year, along with 11 other players. The reason being that rules once dictated that only amateurs could be Members of MCC and not professional cricketers, so even though the men represented the club their names had been omitted.

A new roll of honour now hangs between the existing boards at the top of the southern staircase.

Westminster City Council’s Armed Forces Champion, Councillor Rachael Robathan, attended along with Councillor Jan Prendergast as Lord Mayor Locum Tenens.

Cllr Robathan said: “This was a poignant performance that demonstrated why we must remember the sacrifices made during the First World War. Seeing the stories of Colin Blythe and Major Booth performed on stage really brought to life the human cost of war.

This was a poignant performance that demonstrated why we must remember the sacrifices made during the First World War

“Hosting the event at Lord’s was a fitting way to honour these two men. I would like to thank all those involved, particularly the children, for their hard work and sensitive approach.” 

Ricky Reynolds, MCC Community Development Manager said: “MCC became involved in this project through the work that Westminster Archives have been doing over the past twelve months.

“They have been teaching World War One history in schools through drama and local site visits, and we were delighted to be able to host this event at Lord’s as part of this collaboration.”

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