Lieutenant Grace of Wellington

The short life of Thomas “Hami” Grace is very much the stuff of legend. The word “brave” seems to have been invented for him, although his unassuming manner is commented upon as much as his courage. Perhaps best remembered as a rugby player, he was one of the few who played both rugby and cricket for Wellington. Hami appears to have been an exciting three quarter who played for both Wellington and North Island as well as touring Australia and New Zealand with the Maori rugby team. He was also a fine cricketer, though.

The 1910 Wellington 2nd XI, featuring Hami Grace & Clarrie Grimmett

The 1910 Wellington 2nd XI, featuring Hami Grace & Clarrie Grimmett. - NZ Cricket Museum Collection

A proud product of Wellington College, Hami played in the 1st XI there and went on to play two First Class matches for Wellington. His first, against Hawkes Bay in December 1911, saw him have a quiet game, scoring four runs and taking 1 for 34 in a drawn game. He did not play for Wellington again in a First Class match again until January 1914, when, against Otago in Dunedin, he took 4 for 6 in the Otago second innings and scored 16 not out and 28, respectively, in a game that Wellington won by 85 runs. His representative career ended on that high note as the man who Wisden would later describe as “a useful all round cricketer” enlisted in the Wellington Regiment on August 13th 1914.

His army training was carried out at Trentham Army Camp near Wellington where he was quickly promoted to sergeant. He left the country in October 1914 for service in Gallipoli. By all accounts he became a very good soldier, quickly winning promotion in the field to lieutenant. On July 17th 1915, Hami was mentioned in dispatches for displaying coolness and bravery when carrying out a bombing raid on Turkish trenches. Hami specialized in ‘anti-sniping’, where New Zealand snipers were used to track down Turkish ones. A persistent story also tells of him commanding grenade throwers because of his skill at throwing a cricket ball!

Hami Grace was killed on August 8th 1915 in the defence of the trenches gained at the summit of Chunuk Bair. The official Wellington Regiment history describes what happened there as one of “the most intense infantry fights in the whole war”. Of the 760 members of the Wellington Regiment who had gained the summit, 711 became casualties in it defence. Hami was one of them. His name is on the Chunuk Bair (New Zealand) Memorial in the Chunuk Bair cemetery.

 

Thomas Marshall Percy (Hami) Grace, Ngati Tuwharetoa;  b.July 11th 1890, Pukawa, Lake Taupo, d. August 8th 1915, Chunuk Bair, Gallipoli.

^BP

Testing the Ferns

On the 6th of May 1934, delegates from each of New Zealand’s provincial centres were invited to a meeting in Oamaru with the intention of establishing a New Zealand Women’s Cricket Council (NZWCC). There had been a steady increase in the number of women playing the game since the first interprovincial match in 1910, with the Amalgamated Theatres Shield being the centrepiece of the provincial game prior to the Council’s foundation. After the NZWCC was established, progress was quick in organising competition with the English encouraged here for a tour in 1935.

The very first White Ferns team, 1935. - NZ Cricket Museum collection

The 1935 White Ferns.
NZ Cricket Museum collection

The 1935 English side had already planned to visit Australia before their trip was extended to include New Zealand. It’s remarkable in today’s sporting environment that the team had to pay its own way to Australia, and then the extra to add on the New Zealand tour. The NZWCC looked to help out their visitors by billeting players and providing them with a portion of the gate takings from the tour. They also ensured a hefty amount of sightseeing was included in the New Zealand experience.

When the English players left Australia in January 1935, it was 6 months since they had left England. Their arrival in Auckland was delayed by a day, further cramming the schedule for the tour and forcing the players straight off the boat and onto Eden Park to face Auckland. There didn’t appear to be any ill-effects from their journey as the English put on a brilliant display of “all-round cricket ability” that would’ve done “credit to the best of men’s teams”. The comparison to men’s cricket was regularly used in the New Zealand press since women were still developing their presence in the game – in England and Australia comparisons were slowly fading through years of high-quality competition.

Following the Auckland match, Betty Archdale, the English captain, proclaimed to the press that their opponents had “no need to be nervous” – she thought the Aucklanders were “quaking at the knees” when they came in to bat. In spite of this encouragement from the opposition, the provinces put up little resistance against a very good English side of experienced cricketers. As they travelled down the country, England drew with Auckland, Wanganui, Canterbury, Otago and Invercargill (who all had to follow-on before time ran out in the one-day matches), while Wellington were beaten by an innings and 75 runs. But England saved their best for last.

At Lancaster Park on February 16, 1935, the White Ferns made their first Test appearance. Where the tour matches were played on just one day, the Test was played over two days – giving England the time to push on for a huge victory by an innings and 337 runs. There were encouraging signs for the young New Zealanders, though: in the second innings Margaret Marks stoically batted for over 115 minutes to make 22, while New Zealand improved on their first innings total of 44 by making 122 for 9 (captain Ruth Symons was absent injured).

The Hallyburton Johnstone Shield.  - NZ Cricket Museum collection

The Hallyburton Johnstone Shield.
NZ Cricket Museum collection

Around 3000 spectators turned out for the match, proving that public interest in cricket was high in New Zealand at the time. While New Zealand would have to wait 13 years before playing another Test, the legacy of this English tour was felt in domestic cricket much sooner. Following the tour, Mr Hallyburton Johnstone donated a shield in his name for competition amongst the provinces. Initially played for in 1936 on a challenge basis, the Hallyburton Johnstone Shield remained the premier women’s cricket trophy in New Zealand until 1982.

 

August 21st marks 10 years since the White Ferns last Test match began. How good would it be to see our current crop carrying on the Test tradition started by Ruth Symons and her teammates 79 years ago?

 

Second Lieutenant Hickmott of Christchurch

Rupert Hickmott was one of only two New Zealand cricket representatives to be killed in World War One. Wisden wrote after his death at the age of 22 that “he was probably the most promising cricketer in the Dominion”, and they were quite possibly right.

Hickmott played for St Albans, Canterbury and New Zealand, being a member of the team that toured Australia in 1913/14. During that tour he scored 346 runs, with an average of 26.15. He also played in the first ‘Test’ against the mighty Australian team that toured New Zealand in 1914, scoring 26 and 7 respectively. His first class average as a batsman was 25.09, with a highest score of 109 for Canterbury against Hawkes Bay in 1915. As a bowler he averaged 27.27, but the figures, as is so often the case, do not reflect the man. He was seen as a batsman of immense promise because of his flair and his elegance at the crease. He seems to have possessed a calm temperament and had the ability to constantly learn from his experiences on the field. They said Hickmott could make time stand still when he was batting and was a gifted fielder and clever bowler. Maybe, just maybe, he was a New Zealand captain in the making.

The NZ side that toured Australia in 1913-14. Hickmott is front row, 2nd from right. - Papers Past, http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast?a=d&cl=search&d=NZH19131217.2.134.2

The NZ side that toured Australia in 1913-14. Hickmott is front row, 2nd from right. – National Library of New Zealand, http://tinyurl.com/m8j8aat

His leadership qualities were recognised by Christchurch Boys High School when he was awarded the Deans Memorial Scholarship in 1912 – an award given to a student for “general character”. This stature was reinforced by a schoolmate, who described him as “immensely popular”. In 1909, at the age of 15, Hickmott was playing for Christchurch Boys High School against Auckland Grammar in the inaugural Heathcote Williams Shield match. He was out for a duck in his first innings and scored 18* in the second. He played again in 1910 before, in 1911, scoring a century and taking 10 for 135 with his slow/medium pace spin. With that performance, he established himself as a national presence in the game.

Hickmott possessed grace and talent on the field and he was selected to play for Canterbury while still at school. Progress to the highest honours appeared assured and so it proved. He played seventeen first class matches in all until WWI came. A member of the cadet force at school and, later, a member of the Territorials, Hickmott had to apply to the Army for permission to leave the country when he toured to Australia in 1913-14. Later he joined the war effort and was posted to the Canterbury Regiment.

Still, Rupert played cricket. In Wellington, he played for Trentham Soldiers Club while he was training at the army camp there, averaging 40.8 across five innings. On his final leave from Trentham, he played for St Albans against Riccarton in January 1916. He made a top score of 24 and took 7 for 80 in, what was to be, his last appearance on a New Zealand cricket ground.

On the 4th of March 1916, Hickmott embarked for France, via Suez. He doesn’t quite disappear from our sight though. We have a fleeting glimpse of him after this in Lyn MacDonald’s magisterial book “Somme” (London; Michael Joseph, 1993). In the book, an ex-pupil of Christchurch Boys High School remembers marching up to the front line on the Somme with the Canterbury Regiment, where he is met and cheered on by other members of the Regiment who were already in the trenches, including four of his school mates. One of them was Rupert Hickmott, described as “the idol of Christchurch Boys High School”.

Soon after, on the 16th of September 1916, Hickmott was killed in action. His name is on the Caterpillar Memorial in the Caterpillar Valley Cemetery on the Somme.

In their first game of the new season in October 1916, members of the St Albans cricket team wore black armbands in his memory.

 

Rupert George Hickmott; b. March 19th 1894, Christchurch, New Zealand, d. August 16th 1916, the Somme, France.

^BP

From Leonard to Harry: the Cave family legacy

Harry Cave shakes hands with King George VI during New Zealand's 1949 UK tour.- NZ Cricket Museum collection

Harry Cave shakes hands with King George VI during New Zealand’s 1949 UK tour. – NZ Cricket Museum collection

When Harry Cave was selected to play Test cricket for New Zealand in 1949 he was fulfilling the promise of an entire family, a family who could’ve had a New Zealand representative a generation earlier if war had not intervened.

In the years before WWI, cricket in Wanganui was dominated by the Cave family; five brothers who all shared a passion for cricket and farming. When Taranaki and Wanganui combined to take on the Melbourne Cricket Club in 1900, Leonard, Ken and Henry took to the field while Wilfred and Arthur stood as umpires. Ken would go on to umpire New Zealand’s first Test in 1930, while Henry would see his son, Harry, represent New Zealand. The future was not so bright for Leonard, however.

In 1915, Leonard left the farm he was working with Harry and joined the 7th Reinforcements of the New Zealand Field Artillery. Embarking from Wellington in October 1915, Leonard’s service saw him stationed at the Somme in 1916 where he was wounded, forcing a stay in a London Hospital for several months. In 1917 he returned to action where, by October, he was stationed in Belgium. On the 18th of October 1917, Leonard Philip Cave was killed during a German air raid.

Leonard was often described as the best cricketer of the Cave brothers, in fact one report after his death noted that he was perhaps the best cricketer Wanganui had produced. All the potential that he held would eventually be fulfilled by his brother’s son, Harry.

Like his father and Leonard before him, Harry took up farming with his brother, Tom. This relationship allowed Harry to take time off to pursue his cricketing ambitions, which lead to Harry winning the Hawke Cup with Wanganui, the Plunket Shield with Central Districts, the New Zealand Cricket Alamanck Player of the Year award, and the New Zealand Test captaincy.

But Harry Cave’s legacy goes far beyond his achievements on the pitch. The New Zealand Cricket Museum archive contains letters, photographs, diaries and mementos of Harry’s life and cricketing career. While they contain every detail of what it was like to be a touring amateur sportsman in the 1940s & 50s, they also highlight the dedication and sacrifice required to be a farmer and a family man at a time when a tour to the UK meant months overseas. Best of all, everything is in his own words.

An excerpt from Harry Cave's 1949 UK tour diary and a photo from the match mentioned.

An excerpt from Harry Cave’s 1949 UK tour diary and a photo from the match mentioned. – NZ Cricket Museum collection

22 of Southland, 15 of Canterbury

In the summer of 1876-77, James Lillywhite brought a team of England’s best cricketers out to New Zealand and Australia. Beginning with games against Australian domestic sides, Lillywhite’s All England XI then jumped the ditch to take on our domestic teams before returning to Australia to play cricket’s first ever Test matches. While much has been made of those Tests, Lillywhite’s All England XI enjoyed a successful, and somewhat unusual, tour to New Zealand that is seldom mentioned.

Each New Zealand domestic side that faced off against the All England XI featured 22 players in an attempt to even up the score. It didn’t work. Lillywhite’s side brushed aside Auckland, Wellington, Taranaki, Nelson and Southland, inflicting innings’ defeats. Canterbury put up more of a fight, losing by just 23 runs, while Westland and Otago managed to hang on for the draw. What was particularly unusual about these sides was that they didn’t just use 22 batsmen, they had 22 players in the field too – making it close to impossible for Lillywhite’s batsmen to pick the gaps.

In all these games, the highest score managed by any batsman on the New Zealand sides was the 31 made by Auckland’s Robert Yates in the tour opener. At the other end of the scale, the scorecards for the 8 domestic sides featured a combined total number of more than 100 ducks. To give that some perspective, New Zealand played 26 years of Test cricket before they recorded 100 ducks.

Southland were the last New Zealand side to play the All England XI and they didn’t fare any better than the others, losing by an innings and 65 runs. The tour had been squeezed into such a tight schedule that Lillywhite’s players had to leave on the match’s final afternoon. This led the Southland batsmen to take their time getting to the crease after each dismissal, a ploy that proved unsuccessful as there was still time after the game finished for an official farewell before the visitors departed. While the lack of competition offered by Southland was unlikely to be ideal preparation for the momentous occasion to follow, the same eleven players represented England in their first Test against Australia.

In a twist of touring, when the Australians toured New Zealand in 1878, Southland were the first side to take them on. This gave Southland the unique honour of being the last side to play England before the first Tests, and the first international side to play Australia after the first Tests. Not bad for the southernmost cricket association. Unfortunately for Southland their performance didn’t improve in the time between hosting these international sides: Australia won by an innings and 139 runs after Charles Bannerman hit 125 and Fred Spofforth took 14 wickets in the first innings. In a show of generosity to their hosts, Spofforth didn’t bowl at all in the second innings.

The ball used in the Canterbury XV v. Australian XI match in 1878. - NZ Cricket Museum collection

The ball used in the Canterbury XV v. Australian XI match in 1878.
- NZ Cricket Museum collection

The 1878 Australians didn’t enjoy quite as successful a tour as the All England XI. While they inflicted serious defeats on Southland, Wellington and Auckland, Otago and Oamaru held out for draws. However the most incredible result of the tour was against Canterbury, the formative powerhouse of New Zealand cricket. Where the other domestic sides followed the pattern of the All England tour and played 22 against Australia’s 11, Canterbury were deemed to be serious-enough competition to play just 15. Part of the reason for Canterbury’s early dominance of cricket in New Zealand, and their performance in this match, may have been due to their selection strategy: of Canterbury’s 15, only John Fowler was NZ-born and another member of the side was William Rees, WG Grace’s cousin. After bowling the highly-touted Australians out for just 46 in the first innings, Canterbury went on to win the historic match by 6 wickets.

In Praise of the Scrapbook

There was a time when a scrapbook was part and parcel of a sports’ fan’s everyday life. In a time before the internet and TV there was just the radio and newspapers. All over the world, people would listen to live match commentaries hissing through the ether from the other side of the globe and, for the next day or two afterwards, would eagerly read newspapers seeking confirmation and elaboration about what they had heard. Inevitably many of them would cut out those reports and carefully glue them in a scrapbook (how many school exercise books served this useful purpose!) and from them create their own lists of statistics, thoughts and memories.

J Hunt's 1948 Scrap Book - NZ Cricket Museum collection

J Hunt’s 1948 Scrap Book – NZ Cricket Museum collection

Of course, now it is very different. We have countless websites that connect us immediately, and in remarkable detail, with the world of cricket. We can stream games, search statistics and read opinions in a flash. We can tweet more information in a day than we would pick up in six months (and only then after hard searching) thirty or forty years ago. For better or worse, it was different then and the New Zealand Cricket Museum has boxes of scrapbooks that confirm this. Some of them were compiled by the players themselves, documenting their tours to far-off lands or cataloguing a particular domestic season. Others were compiled by fans of the game, and it’s one of those we’ve chosen to write about.

In 1948 the Australians sent a formidable team to tour England. In fact, they played the entire tour without losing a single game: 34 matches played, 25 won and 9 drawn. They won 4 Test matches and drew the other one. This remarkable feat was achieved over a relentless schedule that saw them playing cricket on 112 days of a 144-day tour. The team has became known to history as “The Invincibles” and, somewhere in New Zealand, a young “J. Hunt” was avidly following the team’s progress.

The first page of the old school exercise book they used to document the tour had the tour itinerary written out in copperplate handwriting. The key points of each county game the Australians played are written, page-by-page, in chronological order in the same elegant style. Occasionally, there is a picture or a written report from a newspaper (hard to say which one, although the paper meticulously prints the time each report arrived in the country) which carried the New Zealand Press Association reports of the matches.

The Tests are recorded much more extensively with newspaper reports pasted in and full scorecards written out. There is that wonderful picture of Donald Bradman, at the Oval, being bowled second ball by the googly of Hollies for a duck. It was Bradman’s last Test innings ever and left him only four runs short of a completing his career with a Test match average of 100. Finally, at the end of the book, there is a hand drawn map of Great Britain where each county that Australia played is carefully drawn in and identified.Bradman Page

This is probably just one scrapbook of hundreds that was painstakingly compiled covering the same tour. When you touch it, smell the old, fading newsprint and look at the beautiful handwriting you are aware of the time and effort that went into it – the creator must have spent many, many hours bringing it to life. There is also a palpable sense of what we can best describe as ownership. The tour of “The Invincibles” is more than a magical period in the history of the game: it has become part of the life of scrapbook creator. They shaped the tour into forms and patterns of information they wanted to remember and savour. They have written out and detailed the aspects of the tour that were important to them; it now belongs to them and we know that another person’s scrapbook about the same tour could be a very different creation.

Scrapbooks help remind us that cricket is more than the actions of thirteen players on a green field. It’s something in the emotions and thoughts of all those individuals who watch and experience its possibilities. Cricket exists beyond the immediacy of any game and lives on in the minds of people and scrapbooks like this one and the thousands of others that sit in attics, drawers and museums. The game, and all its marvelous layers and interpretations, is kept alive as a result.

Maybe this ‘scrapbooker’ still comes to the cricket and, sitting in the sun, remembers those long ago winter mornings when they grabbed the paper for the latest news. We’d like to think so. Perhaps cricket lost them and they went in another direction. We will probably never know. Either way, we are glad of what they created and how it shows us what it means to be a cricket fan, today or generations ago.

^BP

Lieutenant Colonel Thomas of Timaru

Charles Thomas appears to have loved sport, playing cricket for South Canterbury but making his mark as an administrator in the early years of the twentieth century. From 1904 to 1908, he was President of the South Canterbury Cricket Association, a role he combined with the presidency of the New Zealand Cricket Council in 1906. Following his term as NZCC President, he remained involved with the organisation, serving as Vice-President in 1908. On his appointment as NZCC President he expressed his pleasure that someone from the South Canterbury region had been chosen for the post. In 1911, he broadened his service, becoming Chairman of the New Zealand Amateur Athletic Association. All of these duties were carried out while he continued to ply his trade as doctor and surgeon, including the post of Port Health Officer in Timaru.

Captain Thomas as he featured in the 1903 Cyclopaedia of NZ. - The New Zealand Electronic Text Collection, http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-Cyc03Cycl-t1-body1-d3-d17-d9.html
Captain Thomas as he featured in the 1903 Cyclopaedia of NZ.
The New Zealand Electronic Text Collection, http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-Cyc03Cycl-t1-body1-d3-d17-d9.html

However, Thomas cannot be cast as simply a desk-bound administrator. He was no stranger to war, having served as surgeon in the Boer conflict in South Africa and, on the outbreak of hostilities in 1914, he immediately joined the Medical Corps of the Mounted Brigade Field Ambulance. Thomas was 48 years old at the time. He embarked for Suez in October 1914 and from Suez he would be posted to Gallipoli. There is a lovely extract from his diary describing a break on that fateful journey to Anzac Cove:

May 29th 1915. H.M. Transport “Iverine”. Had an easy time on Lemnos Island for five days. Beautiful sea bathing. Played cricket for my unit against the Australians. The Australians won easily. I made 27, second highest score on our side.

Thomas landed at Gallipoli sometime in early August 1915. On the 28th of August he was involved in the fight for what was known as Hill 60. Leading stretcher parties that were attempting to pick up casualties he was killed instantly by the blast from a shell. He was buried in Embarkation Pier Cemetery, Turkey. Obituaries of Thomas praised his bravery and stressed his public service.

Charles Ernest Thomas; b. January 31st 1864, Bangalore, India, d. August 28th 1915, near Hill 60, Gallipoli.

^BP

The Maorilanders

Throughout the 1920s and 30s, New Zealand cricket sides embarked on many significant tours that enhanced the reputation of the nation, both as cricketers and as people. While some of these tours feature prominently in the records and histories of New Zealand cricket, there is one that has almost universally been forgotten. In 1935, 13 young up-and-coming New Zealand cricketers embarked on a tour of Fiji under the name the Maorilanders.

By 1935 the term ‘Maorilanders’ was almost a forgotten one in New Zealand, and rightly so. In the latter years of the 1880s and early 1900s it was a common name for New Zealand sporting teams, and for New Zealanders in general. The 1905 re-naming of the national rugby team to the All Blacks, and the prominence of the kiwi on WW1 uniforms, largely signalled a move away from names like Maorilanders, Fernlanders and En Zedders. In that sense, the 1935 Maorilanders were amongst the last of a generation.

The tour was the brainchild of Ernest Beale, an Aucklander with a strong reputation for organising colts’ teams and tours. Beale gained the sanction of the New Zealand Cricket Council and approval from the Auckland Cricket authorities (where most of the players were based) to ensure that there was no conflict for players. It also meant that the side was an official New Zealand side, yet the youth of the players, the perceived standard of the opposition and the poor quality of pitches and outfields have seen it ignored in official records.

With an average age of just 22, the Maorilanders arrival at Fiji on December 19 1935 would’ve been the first journey overseas for many of their members. There were ten matches scheduled to be played before their departure in mid-January, giving the team members some spare time to enjoy the local hospitality, beaches, sun and Fijian customs. Bruce Massey, the team captain and one of just four players who featured in First Class cricket, reported back that Sutherland could play the ukulele and Riley was a good singer which meant the team “could fare all right when the occasion arose”. It was also noted that two of the team “knew the haka”.

The tour opened with a match against the Suva 2nd XI, where Ted Dunning immediately adapted to the conditions, hitting 135 before retiring. While the New Zealanders acquitted themselves well in most games, they constantly struggled with the pitches which were often woven matting over concrete. The outfields also made run-scoring difficult – one was described as having “grass, six inches” long, no doubt due to the almost six months of constant rain that preceded the tour. In spite of the conditions, the two-‘Test’ series was shared 1-1.

The Maoriland & Fiji cricket teams pose together following the second 'Test' in 1936.  - From PA Snow's Cricket In The Fiji Islands

The Maoriland & Fiji cricket teams pose together following the second ‘Test’ in 1936.
– From PA Snow’s Cricket In The Fiji Islands

When the side returned to New Zealand after a month in the Fiji sun, they were described as “bronzed and cheerful” but their time as a team was not over. In recognition of the team’s positive role in strengthening ties between the two nations, the Auckland Chamber of Commerce got together with Auckland Cricket and arranged a game against a colts’ side for January 21 and 22. The most notable aspect of that game was the performance of a young colt name Merv Wallace who smashed 169*.

Maorilanders team 1935-36: EC Beale (manager), HB Massey (captain), DL Martin, MJ Hewitt, JR Norris, EN Vipond, EJ Dunning, L Wyatt, KL Sandford, E Sutherland, LE Riley, CV Walter, HN Windle, EC Andrews

Second Lieutenant Howe of Wellington

‘Gillie’ Howe represented Wellington in 1912 and 1914, playing five First Class and two ‘miscellaneous’ games for them. Two of his matches for Wellington were against the formidable 1914 Australian team, both at the Basin Reserve. He opened the batting in the first game, scoring 19 and 4 respectively. In the second innings he was dismissed by Warwick Armstrong, who took a remarkable 7 for 17 in a game that the tourists won by seven wickets. Howe would want to forget the second game where, in his only innings, he was dismissed for a duck in a drawn match. He finished the season for Wellington with an average of 15.44. As a wicketkeeper, Howe also claimed five catches and four stumpings. He was only 22 and, in those early months of 1914, appeared to be a young cricketer of great promise with a fine future in front of him.

Howe had played local cricket for The Rivals, Wellington East and, finally, for University. He has been described as a batsman who could score “pretty fast” once he had his eye in. But it was as a wicket keeper that he shone, possessing skills that suggested he may well have developed into something out of the ordinary. He “stood up well to the wicket” and was an agile catcher with soft hands and fast reflexes. What also remained in the minds of his acquaintances was Gillie’s friendliness to everyone coupled with his cheerful disposition.

Howe joined the War effort early. He was part of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force that took German Samoa in 1914 as a sergeant in the Field Artillery and embarked with them on August 15th of that year. On his return he discharged himself but, in 1916, he re-joined the New Zealand Field Artillery. Like many others, he trained at Trentham Camp (playing for their cricket team) and was commissioned there as a Second Lieutenant. He traveled to England, where he was at Sling Camp for a short time, and arrived at the front line on November 21st 1916. He was killed in action near Messines, France on January 10th 1917. Howe’s death was mentioned in Wisden, where he was described as a “left hand bat and a good wicket keeper”, providing further evidence of the promise he would never fulfill.

The Gilbert Howe memorial trophy, gifted by his mother, was awarded annually to the most improved cricket player in Wellington for more than twenty years after his death.

The Gilbert Howe Trophy, won in 1938-39 by Bill Rainbird.

The Gilbert Howe Trophy, won in 1938-39 by Bill Rainbird.

Gilbert Howe; b. August 6th 1891, Wellington, d. January 10th 1917, near Messines, France.

^BP

White Ferns & the Empire

On the 21st of January 1938, the largest group of New Zealand athletes to ever travel overseas assembled at Wellington’s Queen’s Wharf. In the harbour, the steamer Wanganella was being loaded in preparation for the 8pm sailing to Sydney. Australia was in the midst of celebrating its 150th anniversary and, in just a few days, the Empire Games would begin in Sydney. On Queen’s Wharf, athletic champions stood alongside the Governor General, cyclists and rowers compared training notes, and the women of the New Zealand cricket side prepared for their very first overseas tour. The significance of the occasion made this perhaps the most celebrated cricket team to leave New Zealand. The morning of departure saw the team enjoy morning tea hosted by Prime Minister Savage, followed by a civic farewell at Wellington’s town hall.

The 1938 White Ferns squad that toured to Sydney. L-R; I Johns, J Holmes, P Taylor, P Blackler, M Hollis, M Corby; Seated; B Ingram, I Pickering (C), D Simons (M), R Martin (VC), J Fowler; Front; D Hatcher, M Thomas.

The 1938 White Ferns squad that toured to Sydney.
L-R; I Johns, M Holmes, M Taylor, P Blackler, M Hollis, M Corby;
Seated; E Ingram, I Pickering (C), D Simons (M), R Martin (VC), J Fowler;
Front; D Hatcher, M Thomas.

The 13 members of that White Ferns side were bound for Sydney for a five match tour, highlighted by a 3-day match against New South Wales. Three years had passed since the White Ferns had made their Test debut, and it would be a further ten years before they played Test cricket again, making this tour vital to the continued development of the game. The importance of development was exemplified by the age of the team which included 15-year-old Ida Johns and 25-year-old manager Dot Simons. The team’s oldest members were just 26, although four players had featured against England in 1935, giving the team some much-needed experience.

The first match the tourists played was on board the Wanganella against members of the Empire Games’ team. After a couple of days of rough seas that left even the wrestling team absent at dinner, the cricketers “cleaned up” their shipboard opposition. The weather on the voyage across the Tasman would prove a sample of things to come as the team’s first few games in Sydney coincided with torrential rain. This resulted in the match against NSW Juniors abandoned with New Zealand in good shape for victory, while the marquee 3-day game against NSW became a 1-day game which New Zealand narrowly lost on the first innings. A further narrow loss to South Metropolitan was evened out by comfortable victories against North Metropolitan and Combined Country.

As with the New Zealanders side that toured England in 1927, the performances of this New Zealand team served to reinforce New Zealand’s growing skills on the cricket field. In fact, reports from the tour indicated that the Australians had expressed a serious interest in bringing their national team for a tour and Test matches against the White Ferns. Unfortunately, war would intervene and Australia would not visit until 1948 when their tour began against unusual opposition: Matamata.