ACT World War I Cricketers

As Remembrance Day draws closer and we remember the centenary of the end of World War I, the war to end all wars, the history of cricket in the Australian Capital Territory is intertwined with the military history of the region.

Although the FTCA (Federal Territory Cricket Association) was not formed until 1922, the 1914/15 season saw the start of the first organised cricket competition in the Canberra region, the Federal Cup. Seven teams competed in the competition – Ainslie, Brickbats, Canberra, Duntroon, Hall, Power House and Queanbeyan. Brickbats became Westridge in the FTCA competition and Power House became Eastlake. Ainslie, Canberra, Duntroon, Hall and Queanbeyan all continued on in the later Canberra competitions from 1919/20 onwards and then in the FTCA competition in 1922/23.

The Ainslie side won the competition but when war was declared, the competition was suspended as most sides struggled to get a side together especially the Duntroon side which was centred around the Royal Military College. In fact, even the mainly rural Ainslie side was unable to raise a side. It was reported that in late October 1915 “six of the eleven players who won the deciding game were now fighting on Gallipoli or getting in a bit of war practice in camp. Incidentally, the official scorer thought it his job to go with them and check the scalps.”

Although the first ACT (then Federal Territory) side was not formed until 1923, sides of the 1920s were filled with World War I veterans. 29 players who went on to play for the ACT served in various roles in World War I. Roles ranged from the infantry and machine gun battalions to different units such as the Camel Transport Corps, Australian Army Dental Corps and the Australian Flying Corps. They served in theatres ranging from Gallipoli to the Western Front, and to the Middle East with the Light Horse.

Some notable cricketers that served in WWI include:

  • John James who served with the Australian Army Medical Corps and later became an acclaimed surgeon who served Canberra from the 1920s to the 1960s and for whom John James Hospital was named for.
  • Ernest Corey who was the only person to be awarded the Military Medal on four occasions. His medals are on display at the Australian War Memorial.
  • Robert Nimmo who eventually became a member of the Australian General Staff in World War II and commanded the United Nations operation in disputed Kashmir.
  • Frank Kerr who was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship in 1913 to attend Oxford University and then enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1914 and saw action on the Western Front. He was awarded a DSO in 1915 for bravery and had previously played VFL football for University.
  • Ian Mackerras who went on to be one of Australia’s leading entomologists and helped reduced the amount of malaria infection in Australian soldiers in World War II.
  • Bill Tickner who went on to be the leading wicket taker in the history of ACT 1st Grade Cricket and for whom 5th Grade player of the season medal is named for.

A large number of those who served in World War I also took up service in World War II in various roles from the Volunteer Defence Corp to active service.

So as Remembrance Day draws near, we honour the following who served their country in World War I and went on to play for the ACT – Harrie Alderton, Edgar Barker, Sidney Begley, Jack Bradby, John Calthorpe, Glyn Cavanagh, Henry Clapson, Alfred Conron, Ernest Corey, William Cottingham, Fred Dawkins, Dr Rolland Fraser, Bill Graham, Eric Greville, Clarence Hincksman, Joseph Honeysett, Dr John James, Dr Frank Kerr, Ian Mackerras, Reg Maguire, Charles McFadyen, Edward Neilson, Robert Nimmo, George O’Neill, Ken Pickering, Ralph Rutledge, Fred Shoobert, Bill Tickner and Albert Wright.

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.”

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