War does not stop play     by      Rob Batiste   GEP    8th August 2020

In the Occupation years, opportunities to play cricket in the island were understandably limited – but as Rob Batiste finds out, the few players left here carried on for ‘morale and spirit’.

THE island’s elite cricketers have long played for the Rozel Shield and it is thanks to the trophy’s donor that we can get a snapshot of cricket during the Occupation period. Bonamy ‘Bonny’ Martel recalled those hard times on and off the wicket in 1977 for the 50th anniversary of the Guernsey Cricket League. ‘Not surprisingly, very little cricket was played in 1940 – the year that the German forces arrived: he wrote.

‘It was in the winter of 1940·41 that the few cricketers left decided to start playing again. ‘We had to find a field and at the time the Germans wanted all available land for cultivation. By now the Fort Field was already out of bounds. It left us with only KGV and the College Field.’ All clubs that played prior to the Occupation had been disbanded, so it was left to us to form new teams. We called them Western Rovers, YOB, Brighton Stragglers and GlCC Colts. They played Evening cricket at KGV starting at 6pm and playing until 9pm. ‘The first match was between Brighton Stragglers and Western Rovers on 23 July 1941, and other matches were played at this venue until 28 August that year when the Germans stopped us playing there. They wanted the field to build hut accommodation for their troops and workers.

In 1942 it was far from certain that the College Field would. be available because the Germans wanted it cultivated. This would have left us with no playing area at all, but after many meetings between the Farm Produce Board and the German officials, it was decided to leave the field as it was.’ In the same year, four new teams were formed, namely The Foresters, St Stephen’s, Casuals and Sarnian Club. We also played some afternoon matches such as Married v. Single and Country v. Town, etc.’ Nearly all these matches were umpired by Frank Mourant, Frank Langmead and Henry Rylatt, who died in December 1944.

‘The pitches were prepared by Charlie Gardner and Bill Allen. Bill was deported to Germany in 1940 but returned the following year.

‘During 1943 cricket equipment was getting very scarce, especially bats and balls, and it was left to cricket enthusiasts to seek equipment from islanders who might have any lying around.’ In the middle of the 1944 season some people thought that cricket might be too dangerous to continue because of RAF activity over Guernsey. However, we decided to continue, if only for the sake of morale and spirit, although some players did give up. ‘Attendances at afternoon matches were often quite large, including some interested German spectators. ‘On one occasion we had the unexpected visit of one of their officers who got so interested in the game that he encroached on to the pitch and stood his ground in the region of cover until a beautiful cover drive hit him on the knee. He went down as if he’d been shot and what he shouted in German was never known, but after a few minutes he stood up and hobbled away slowly, muttering to himself.’ There were other “attractions” during these games.
The Germans had a de-lousing tank at the College Field and they used to wash and sunbathe in the nude.’ Last, but not least, my wife [Marguerite] and other players’ wives and girlfriends formed a catering staff, and what a great job they did.

‘The meals for the holiday games were cooked near the sheds on a Guernsey Trepid with an open fire. The fuel used was sticks and furze, and the lunch was usually boiled potatoes, vegetables and salad.’ At the tea interval we had scones, made with wheat flour. We also had vinegar cake and to wash all this down we had either tea made with dried carrots or bramble leaves or coffee made with acorns.

‘There’s no doubt about it, we made friends, we enjoyed it and above all, we survived.’ The war over, Evening League cricket returned in 1946 and the side to beat were still Pilgrims, who won a hat-trick of titles. The Pilgrims team of the late 1940s contained such players as Hilary Rich, probably the best all-rounder of his time, John Martel, who possessed an impregnable defence, Laurie Guilbert, wicket-keeper and league secretary, Bertie Luckie, of the hit-outer get-out technique, and the veteran Alec Rose. The Optimists provided such players as the late Bob Hamon, a wicket-keeper who took every ball one-handed, Frank Stroobant, who when fielding other than to his own bowling took his hands away from every ball, Stan Ephgrave and George Sandercock, who loved bowling and batting. Pessimists, meanwhile, were both admired and disliked for introducing the run-saving field placings which are now common practice. The Occupation years provided one remarkable individual display, though, with Brighton Stragglers’ T. Dorrian taking all 11 wickets in an evening match against the Foresters. Yes, you read it right, all 11, not 10.

In the 12-a-side game at KGV, Dorrian produced figures of nine overs, three maidens, 11 for 21 – and his side still lost by two runs. In truth, Guernsey cricket was not up to much as it recovered from the war years and some fine Elizabethan talent that tragically did not survive it, players such as Willie Watling and Brian Rose.
Baseball, as opposed to softball which it eventually metamorphosed into, was the king of the Guernsey summer sports, and Jersey cricket was some way ahead of the Sarnians. Cricket seemed dull in the eyes of many and especially those who nightly popped up to Beau Sejour. But, finally, in 1949 and in an attempt to make for brighter, breezier evening cricket, the league opted to ditch the draw and make matches limited overs.

Carl Blad captain of GICC after the war

TEAM OF THE DECADE

  1. C. J. Cowling
  2. L. C. Guilbert (w/k)
  3. A. M. Hunter
  4. J. A. Martel
  5. M. C. Alien
  6. H. Rich
  7. L. L. McKane
  8. C. Wood
  9. G. Sandercock
  10. R. C. Hotton
  11. J. H. Martel

Notes: Optimists paceman George Sandercock was a bowler of some pace, ‘Chipper’ Wood expert in bowling medium- paced off-breaks. Hilary Rich was the side’s bowling all-rounder, Johnny Martel the batting all-rounder and in the absence of the now UK-based Howard Stone, another hard-hitting OE in Alan Hunter had filled that void. M. C. Alien (Mac) was a fine batsman also, but by the end of the decade had moved to Jersey.

A College in exile mourns a cricket institution          by Rob Batiste          GEP    2020

AFTER the glories of the 1930s came the pain and long exile from home- spun cricket In the ’40s.And while the boys’ beloved College Field saw no schoolboy action for many summers, the agonies of exile was made worse by the death, in 1943, of the man who, until Jack Reddish’s arrival at the school, had done more than anyone to take cricket forward at the College: one E. B. ‘Bruggy’ Waite.

He was games master during the cricket seasons for the greater part of his years of service and in this sphere his personality found a wider scope. The Elizabethan magazine laid this tribute: ‘In his younger days he was a wonderful bowler and no mean performer with the bat. In fact, there was little about the theory, practice, or records of the game that he did not know.’ This knowledge, keenness, and experience soon bore fruit for it was he who produced the College cricket giants, the Blads and others, who raised the standard of the School cricket to heights it had never previously attained.

‘The Jersey matches became landmarks in Guernsey life, and E.B.W.” was a characteristic figure on these and other occasions at the College Field where devotees of the game were always to be found when matches took place. His genial personality formed part of the setting which many of us can recall so well. Exhorting. encouraging, excusing, he would frequently be heard to say: “After all they are only boys,” or, “You cannot put old heads on young shoulders,” etc., etc. ‘Casual visitors to the field, as well as regular supporters, came under his care and solicitude; he would with great charm invite “them to the pavilion to partake of tea, or even send it to them, and all were made to feel that they were welcome guests”.

Cricket had gone on for Elizabeth, albeit from their temporary Derbyshire base.

It was the era that produced two more future Island cricketers in Vernon Collenette and Alan Hunter, although Guernsey folk got to see very little of them until their school days were done. In 1942, Collenette captained ‘one of the most successful Elizabeth sides have enjoyed for a long time,’ noted the school magazine. And in Collenette they had an ‘excellent bat and not afraid to hit the ball’. One of the younger members of his side was a very promising little leg-break bowler by the name of Hunter who would develop into a fine opening bat. Elizabeth returned to their College Field home in 1946where they again enjoyed a full programme, shy of the Jersey leg of the Victoria challenge, the brown caps’ ground being still out of use the first year after the war.

Victoria had also clearly forgotten how to bat. Chasing just 76 to overturn Elizabeth’s poor first innings, they slipped to 54 all out, Paul Sullivan’s medium-pacers accounting for seven visiting batsmen. His 7 for 26 that day only marginally bettered the bowling performance of David Glyn Davies a year later, the all-rounder and winner of the bowling belt three years in succession, taking 7 for 40 as well as a vital 35 batting at seven. Other notable College cricketers of the decade included the 1947captain and opening bowler John Bichard, of whom his coach wrote: ‘A good fast bowler, who can occasionally break them back or make them swing away. When he gains more control, does not try to bowl too fast and bowls to his field rather than relying on short bumpers, will do well.’ Sadly, for Island cricket, following his graduation in Southampton he headed to Sarnia in Canada where he became president of the Samia CC over there.

Then there was Rex Champion, ‘a greatly improved wicket-keeper’ who also produced a swashbuckling half-century in Jersey as Elizabeth were given just two hours to chase down 156, and the fast bowler Vince Chapell who would go onto represent the full Island side.

That same 1949 side of Davies and Chapell also featured someone who you would have loved to hear tales of big-hitting – one B. Sloggett – and talking of players who like to hit the ball hard, these were important development years for Dick Vaudin, who like Hunter would become a feared foe of the Caesareans on the football fields.

COLLEGE TEAM OF THE DECADE

  1. Alan Hunter
  2. Rob Marquis
  3. Dick Vaudin
  4. Rex Champion
  5. Vemon Collenette
  6. David Davies
  7. Paul Sullivan
  8. John Bichard
  9. Vince Chapell
  10. Richard C. Hotton
  11. Campbell Baxter