As August 4 marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, I thought it would be a good time to look back on the impact of the war on MCC and Lord’s, with the help of material found and catalogued in the MCC archive.
When war broke out, three-quarters of the County Championship had already been completed, so MCC believed there would be no good purpose in cancelling matches.
The August 17th 1914 minutes of Middlesex CCC’s committee meeting had no mention of the war whatsoever. However, by the end of the month, with attendances falling rapidly and 80,000 British Expeditionary Force troops in Belguim being routed by the German army, the MCC Committee changed their minds.
The war and Lord's
Prior to war breaking out, 1914 was a celebratory year for MCC, as it was the 100th anniversary of the Lord’s Ground that year, and a match between an MCC South African Team and The Rest to commemorate this anniversary had taken place in front of the King.
During the war, however, the Ground was used for military purposes, with accommodation provided for certain units, as well as classes undertaken on wireless instruction, foreign languages and military cooking. No.2 Grove End Road, situated behind the Ground, was let as headquarters to the Royal Volunteer Battalion.
A game of baseball was played at Lord's between Canada and United States
In the Pavilion, Lord’s staff and some members helped the effort by making hay nets for horses, with 30,000 sent to the barracks at Woolwich. Geese were kept on the outfield during the war so the grass could be maintained between matches.
On 8 March 1918, a bomb went off near the main entrance of Lord’s, causing considerable damage to adjacent buildings, including the Hotel. Many windows were broken around the Ground.
In 1920 MCC commissioned a Roll of Honour for members who had died in the War, which included 330 names. This was later revised in 2004 after research revealed that 33 names had been included incorrectly with a further 26 missed out. The names included two recipients of the Victoria Cross, three Test match cricketers, and another 69 who had played first-class cricket. The Roll of Honour remains in the Pavilion today.
On show in the MCC Museum is a bat, donated by A Podmore, that was sent to Sergeant J Piggott on the frontline in France in 1917. The bat was pierced by shrapnel after a shell burst, and Sgt Piggott, unhurt in the attack, sent the bat back for a replacement.
There were three members of MCC who had played in Test matches who were killed during the war. Kenneth Hutchings, who was one of the stand-out performers in Kent’s County Championship success in 1906, played seven Tests for England after being invited to tour Australia with MCC in 1907-08. He served in the King’s Liverpool Regiment, and was killed in September 1916. He was struck by a shell in Ginchy, France, and died instantly.
Second Lieutenant Leonard James Moon died of wounds in Salonika, Greece in November 1915. Moon played cricket for Middlesex for 10 years, and played in four Test matches for England against South Africa in 1906. Reggie Schwarz also played cricket for Middlesex, before emigrating to South Africa. As well as three appearances for England at rugby, Schwarz played in twenty Tests for his new nation. He died of Spanish Influenza on the Western Front seven days after the Armistice in 1918.
Sir Pelham Warner’s name will always be synonymous with Lord’s and MCC, and he spent some time as a Captain at the War Office during the war, and later served in the Department of Information at the Foreign Office. Recently a trunk of his items were given to us by Marina Warner, his granddaughter, which included an eight-page letter sent to him by his friend Hughes R Davies. Davies had lost his son Geoffrey at Hulluch in September 1915, and the letter details his sorrow over his son’s death. Geoffrey had played first-class cricket for Essex for two years prior to the war.
While the war was going on MCC continued to send teams to play public schools, and in the second half of the war, Lord’s was used for matches to help raise money for the war’s casualties. In 1917 a game of baseball was played between Canada and United States to help the widows and orphans of Canadians who had died in the war - 10,000 people attended this match.
Another motivation was that cricket provided a welcome distraction from the war, with Warner helping to arrange charity matches for the services to play in as a way to play cricket without wrestling with the national conscience. But there was an impatience to play cricket again – the mood had changed from the anti-sport attitude that was prevalent in 1914.
In 1917 two matches were played at Lord’s, one was an English Army XI v an Australian Army XI, and the other was a Combined Army & Navy XI v a Combined Australian & South African Forces team. £1,320 went to two funds, the St Dunstan’s Hostel for blinded soldiers and sailors, and Lady Lansdowne’s Officer’s Family Fund. In 1918, two more matches were played at Lord’s between and England XI and a Dominions XI, the second of which was attended by King George V. It was very rare in those games to look down the scorecard and see a name not prefixed by a military rank, as this scorecard shows.
After the war, MCC Secretary Francis Lacey had to deal with the repair of the Ground following the bomb damage in 1918, and this letter from Lacey to the War Office tells of his demands to get Lord’s repaired in time for the following season:
MCC received a letter from the War Office congratulating them on their assistance during the war, which was framed and hung in the Pavilion immediately afterward. Nowadays, this letter remains on display in the MCC Museum.
What is in the MCC Archive?
Work on cataloguing the MCC Archive, held next to the Ticket Office at Lord’s, commenced in March 2012 as part of a wider Documentation Project.
So far over 45% of the material held in the archive has been catalogued.
This has included minute books, scorecards, plans of the ground and surrounding areas, personal papers of past Secretaries of MCC, deeds relating to the ground and surrounding properties, touring files, audio interviews with famous cricketers and personalities past and present, cash books and scrapbooks belonging to famous figures within MCC such as Gubby Allen and Sir Pelham Warner.
Around 1,400 of over 2,250 cataloguing entries of archival material are currently available to view online at Lords.org, through the online catalogue, which also contains details of our Museum and Library collections.
As the cataloguing has progressed we have been able to open our collection up to Members and researchers, and as a consequence we have now had more visitors than ever before.