War & Peace

War & Peace_1981 Centenary Season

Brentwood 1st XI 1937-38 (the author is on the left standing, and Howard Wilkins is seated centre).

On September 2nd 1939, the club played its last peacetime match for nearly 6 years, against Chingford. For various reasons we had not a very strong side out, and made only about 80, which in the opinion of most of the Chingford batsmen was far from being enough to give them any trouble. However, they were all out for 23, R. LUNDMAN, a temperamental fast bowler encouraged by a brilliant catch in the slips off his first ball, taking 9 for 18 and T. MADDEN bowling unchanged at the other end for 1 wicket for 3 runs. Five and a half years later on V.E. day + 1 we played Hutton and in a low scoring game reflecting the celebrations of the day before we put them out for 39, which was a few less than we had made.

In between these two events the club had a few problems, none of which proved insoluble, and managed to keep going throughout the war, even adding a few Sunday fixtures to the list. A lot of credit is due to L. DENNIS, who acted for sometime as team secretary, fixture secretary and odd job man. Our thanks also to Mrs. Horne-Payne, then owner of the ground, who was an understanding landlord when times were hard.

The man-power available varied, but there was a nucleus of older players such as J. DOBSON and C. MORTLOCK, together with a diminishing number of younger people whom the government were not ready to unleash on the unsuspecting Germans, people on leave and refugees from other clubs which had gone into a state of temporary inactivity. One of our most welcome guests for half a season while he was waiting to be called up for the RAF was KEN FARNES who on his day was the fastest bowler in England and who in the last match but one of the 1939 season had done the hat-trick for Essex against Nottinghamshire. Being essentially a kind-hearted person, he did not bowl flat out in his matches for Brentwood, except on one occasion when a visiting batsman incautiously remarked that he did not think the bowling was particularly fast. The result was that first slip found himself fielding somewhere near the pavilion steps, and the batsman soon decided to get to the other end and get out. Many of the regular fixtures remained, and gaps were filled up with games against Walthamstow, Hale End, Fords, Marconis, and the Metropolitan Police, Hendon. Travel was not easy, not only through shortage of petrol, but also through the existence of "restricted" areas such as Southend. At one time for some reason unknown, Brentwood was declared "restricted", so that one year we had to play our home match against Ilford on a works ground at Dagenham, which was apparently not important enough to be closed off. There was little direct interference from the Germans: on the first day of the Battle of Britain we had to suspend play for a time when square leg, half asleep as usual, made a valiant but fortunately (and typically) unsuccessful attempt to catch a large piece of shrapnel; and towards the end of the war 13 players and two umpires had to fling themselves to earth when a flying bomb cut out over the Romford Brewery Ground. The Brentwood School pavilion was hit by an oil bomb, and although the school fire party put the flames out, the building collapsed through shock and old age.

One problem which was out of our control was the shortage of beer, which became increasingly troublesome as time went on. Ilford was a particularly drought-ridden area, and as we played them on Whit Monday and August Bank Holiday, there were three successive years when we returned home thirsty.

The beginning of the war marked the end of the career of Mr. Joslin and his horse, and amateur and often unskilled labour had to take their place. For some time the National Fire Service, under the direction of L. Deasley did a reasonable job though towards the end of the war it became a matter of some importance to win the toss.

In the total absence of score-books an accurate record of what took place on the field is impossible, but it is fairly safe to guess that of the 120 or so matches played, some were won, some lost and some drawn. Two matches against Wanstead stick in the memory - the first we won off the last ball by means of a six hit by D. BANKS, the second we won by 1 run after their last wicket had put on nearly 50 runs. Our umpire got the last wicket, l.b.w., and there was some dissent, almost certainly unjustified. In a game against Shenfield E. MISKIN and R. HEWETSON our opening batsmen put on 180 - then a record opening stand (subsequently surpassed, I think, by C. EDGSON and E. CROOK). The next time we played them we were 3 down for 0 runs after the first over. In a Sunday game against an Army side whose ambition rather exceeded their ability both our opening bowlers did the hat-trick. At this distance of time all the games seem to have been enjoyable and gave pleasure and relaxation to a number of players, spectators (far more numerous than they are today) and to one anonymous gentleman who broke into our changing-room at Ilford while we were fielding, and borrowed money and other valuables from everyone except the writer of this article, who fortunately had a cast iron alibi.

JOE HODGSON has been a member of Brentwood C.C. for 46 years. He played for the Club for 21 years from 1935-56 and, as will be realised from his article, was one of the staunch members who helped the Club to continue through the years of the Second World War. In his playing days he was, he says, a bowler far too often underestimated by his captains. Since his retirement, he has taken steps to ensure that nobody ever again underestimates him by installing himself as a Life Vice-President of the Club, Chairman of the County Ground Club and President of the Old Brentwoods C.C. Young cricketers in the town are considered to have come of age not so much by when they scored their maiden 50 but rather by when they first became the butt of Joe's abrasive wit. 

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