Chapter Fifteen……….1919 and after The dead with charity enclosed with clay

Two neatly-dressed women sat talking in a railway carriage.   “Jack is coming home tonight!   Poor boy, he’ll be tired.   I am going to have the kettle ready and give him a warm welcome with Rowntrees Cocoa.”   This newspaper advertisement showed cosy disregard for Jack’s plight.   He was returning from war mentally scarred, physically exhausted.   In days to come Jack would meet pals who were shell-shocked, blinded and crippled.  Three-quarters of a million of his contemporaries, a third of all men aged 20 to 24 in 1914, were dead.

Due time was accorded to elevate the fallen on monuments raised in the towns and villages of their mortal existence.

I, that on my familiar hill,

Saw with uncomprehending eyes

A hundred of thy sunsets spill

Their fresh and sanguine sacrifice,

Ere the sun swings his noonday sword,

Must say good-bye to all of this – [1]

Solemnities over, cricketers gradually gravitated to the field.   Of seventy-nine South Shields’ members who went to war, 19 did not return.   Long-serving treasurer Tom Wilson’s £1,000 legacy provided almost half the cost of purchasing the ground as memorial to the fallen.   Prince Consort Road triggered nightmare flash-backs to the Somme.   The ground was a battlefield in miniature, gashed with trenches and scarred with barbed-wire.   North Durham had to wait three years for War Office settlement before reconstruction could begin.   Park Drive was in good trim but few West Hartlepool cricketers had been liberated owing to inadequacies in the demobilisation process.

Those who despaired of seeing cricket again were soon assured of its existence.   Order of a sort was restored.   NYSD and NWD recommenced, DSL operated on a per-centage basis without pros and no trophy was awarded.   Insurmountable difficulties prevented a start in TSL.   Some grounds were still in possession of the military, the secretary was not demobbed and failure to up-date club officials and addresses caused further administrative problems.

Dressing-rooms resembled the out-patients’ ward of an infirmary.   A wound in Albert Howell’s back could cradle a cricket ball.   Fred Lincoln batted for Horden minus his left arm.   Tom Howarth was in poor health after Army service and did not resume at Medomsley until 1921.   A surprising number of clubs were able to parade most pre-war players.   On the one hand this was re-assuring.   On the other it magnified the silent void left by Flanders fallen.

An Arctic blizzard provided familiar welcome to a new season.   One other incident caused no surprise.   His suspension lifted as a token of peace, ‘Kellett’ Kirtley appealed for a stumping without removing a bail.   Cricket was back in Durham.

[1] Lieut. W. N. Hodgson, MC (ex-Durham School, who died at the Battle of the Somme) : Before Action

Chapter 16

Chapter 14

%d bloggers like this: