Tag Archives: British Army

England vs Australia: one-day international, 1917-style

Today, England and Australia are due to start a series of one-day international cricket matches (although the rain my wipe out todays match).  Official ODIs began in 1971, but one-day matches had been a staple of local cricket for years and in the Great War they were even pseudo-international matches.

The first official One Day International (ODI) took place between England and Australia in January 1971 in Melbourne.  The format is current one 50-over innings per team, with the highest score winning the match.  Prior to this, though, one-day games had been played in various different formats around the cricketing world.

The demise of first-class county and international cricket in 1914 did not mean that there were no more cricket matches. Some of the professional cricket leagues continued (somewhat controversially) and the public schools matches carried on, while military units played charity matches.  Some of the latter drew large crowds at the big cricket grounds of England.

The Australian War Memorial have photos from one one-day match in which London cricketers did particularly well – and it was a game between England and Australia. Or rather it was between a British Army XI and the Australian Imperial Force. On 14 July 1917, raising money for St Dunstan’s charity for  blind ex-service personnel, the two teams took the field at Lord’s before a large audience.

Marching band from No 1 Command Depot on the pitch during the interval of the Army-AIF match (c)AWM

Marching band from No 1 Command Depot entertaining the Lord’s crowd (c)AWM

The full scorecard is available on cricket archive; the result is given as a draw at the top of that page because one-innings matches were unusual in those days, but it was a victory for the British team with the highest score after one innings. In summary – as described by the Daily Express:

Several first-class county cricketers and a few internationals participated in the match at Lord’s on Saturday between an English Army XI and the Australian Forces. The Englishmen won, scoring 165 for nine wickets against 130 [all out] for the Australians who batted first. Lieutenant Kelleway hit 53 out of 89 for the losers. Tyldesley (Lancashire) 38, Captain P.F. Warner (Middlesex) 34, and Lieutenant-Colonel J.W.H.T Douglas (Essex) 26 [sic] were the best-known English scorers. Private Lee, the Middlesex bowler, took five wickets for 23 runs.

Lee and Tyldesley walking out from the Pavilion to opening the Army XI's batting (c)AWM

Lee and Tyldesley walking out from the Pavilion to opening the Army XI’s batting (c)AWM

We have met Londoner Harry Lee before in a previous post (here). Although he failed as a batsman in this game, his bowling clearly had an impact – and this was after he had been discharged wounded from the army! (The picture is captioned as being Lee and Tyldesley, but the scorecard lists Lee and J.W.H Makepeace as the openers; I cannot say for sure which it is in the photo)

J.W.H.T Douglas and P.F. Warner were also Londoners. Johnny Douglas (nicknamed ‘Johnny Won’t Hit Today’ Douglas by Australian fans in honour of his slow scoring) was born in Clapton, while ‘Plum’ Warner was a long-standing part of the Middlesex team and the MCC set-up in St John’s Wood, living in Chelsea and in Portland Place before the Great War. Both were Test captains for England and were Wisden players of the year – Douglas in 1915 and Warner (unusually) the single player of the year in 1921.  Douglas also won the gold medal for middleweight boxing at the London Olympics in 1908. Kent’s David Jennings, who scored 26 runs, was also a Londoner – born in Kentish Town.

Charles Kelleway, the top-scoring AIF batsman, was an all-rounder who played in 26 Test matches (it’s not clear to me from the Express report whether he scored 53 from 89 balls or in a partnership of 89 with E.P. Barbour). The only other Test players in the team, Matthews and Macartney (another future player of the year), were dismissed cheaply.

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Posted by on 6 September 2013 in Famous People, Places


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Too young to fight: Herbert J Bryant

Many young men and boys tried to enlist in the armed forces underage in 1914 and 1915. Some did so repeatedly. Herbert James Bryant was one of them, briefly joining two different units in 1915 before eventually being conscripted in 1918.

In the first 17 months of the war, the British armed forces were made up (at least legally) of voluntarily-enlisted men. Many who enlisted in this period were underage boys, many making into the army at the age of 13 or 14 – Richard van Emden describes the experiences of some of them in his book Boy Soldiers of the Great War.

Willesden lad Herbert James Bryant was one of those boys who managed to get into the army in 1915 despite being underage (He may well have tried unsuccessfully before then, but there is no record of it).

In June 1915, Bryant joined the Middlesex Regiment, telling them that he was a brass worker aged 18 years and 11 months. How obvious it was that he was too young is hard to say, but this young 5 feet 4 inch fair-haired and blue-eyed boy did not last long in the army. On his first day with his unit, 10 June, he absconded and disappeared for a week until the civil police picked him up on the 18th. The next day he was discharged for having lied about his age.

Bryant's (short) record in the Middlesex Regiment

Bryant’s (short) record in the Middlesex Regiment

Not to be discouraged, he enlisted again (describing himself as a painter’s labourer) two months later on 31 August, this time in the Royal Fusiliers – joining their 27th (Reserve Battalion). In the three months before he was again discharged for lying about his age, Bryant was repeatedly punished with confinement to barracks and cessation of pay for unauthorized absences and malingering.

When Bryant was sent back to civvie street on 28 December 1915, the nation was on the verge of adopting conscription to replace the voluntary enlistment that was not finding sufficient recruits. In theory, with a National Register compiled in August 1915 and a new official system for recruitment, it should have been much harder for underage boys to get into the army.

It took another 28 months for Bryant to get back into the army. Although he was ‘deemed to have enlisted’ in June 1917 (under the terms of the Military Service Act) he was not called up until April 1918, the delay presumably due to his employment at Small Arms Factory in Acton. He had certainly grown up since 1915, now being 5 feet 7.5 inches in height with tattoos on his forearms: a heart and an anchor.

Bryant's details when he was conscripted - including previous service and date of birth

Bryant’s details when he was conscripted – including previous service and date of birth

Despite his ‘A1’ fitness, Bryant was never sent to the front. After four months in the 5th Reserve Cavalry Regiment, he transferred to the Tank Corps, eventually joining the 19th Battalion on 21 September. After being granted home leave for Christmas 1918, he was discharged from the army on 13 March 1919.

Join the Tank Corps - 1919 recruiting poster (c) IWM

“Join the Tank Corps” (1919 recruiting poster (c) IWM) – Bryant rejoined the Tank Corps around this time.

Bryant was not done with military service, thought, and rejoined on demobilisation. He stayed on in the Tank Corps, serving in the 20th and 5th Battalions in 1918-20, during which time he again got in trouble repeatedly for overstaying his leave, absence and neglect of duty. Eventually his service was cut short but a series of illnesses: after contracting from gonorrhea, he also suffered from variocele and was then discharged suffering from ‘Disordered Action of the Heart’ (“DAH”).

Herbert James Bryant was one of the many boys who tired to join the army underage in 1914 and 1915. Eventually he did join up, conscripted in 1918. Oddly, though, he may still have been underage. His Tank Corps service papers give his date of birth as 25 June 1899 (which led to his official enlistment on his 18th birthday in 1917, before his call-up). Strangely, it seems that he was still only 16 when he joined up in early 1918, though. On the 1911 census, Herbert Bryant is listed as a 9 year-old; he does not appear in the 1901 census and his birth was registered in summer 1901 rather than 1899.

1911 census entry for Herbert Bryant's family - note his age: 9 year.

1911 census entry for Herbert Bryant’s family – note his age: 9 year.

It seems mostly likely that he gave a fake date of birth in the National Register in 1915 (just before he joined the Royal Fusiliers) and was called up on the basis of that information three years later. That means that he was originally accepted into the Middlesex Regiment in 1915 at the age of 12 or 13.

Whether it was a sense of duty, a desire for adventure or social pressure that drove boys like Herbert James Bryant to enlist is hard to say, and their motives probably varied just as much as those of other enlistees. What is clear is the Bryant was keen to join up, repeatedly lying about his age to get into khaki, apparently even fooling the conscription system in 1918.


Thanks to David Underton for pointing out that DAH in the Great War stood for Disordered Action of the Heart, rather than its modern meaning Diffuse Alveolar Hemorrhage.


Posted by on 4 January 2013 in Ordinary Londoners, Recruitment


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