Remembering the ACT Cricketers who Served

103 years ago the guns fell silent around the world and what was then known as the Great War or the War to end all Wars had come to a conclusion. Today we remember the five ACT cricketers who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the defence of their nation.

Cricket in the ACT has had a strong link with the armed forces. In 1916 it was reported that seven members and the scorer of the former Ainslie club had enlisted and either were serving at Gallipoli or in training camps.

ACT Cricketers have served in conflicts starting back to the Boer War through to Vietnam. Two players who later went on to play for the ACT served in the Boer War while another 29 served in World War I. 117 ACT Cricketers served in World War II, four served in Korea, one in Peace Keeping Forces and seven served in Vietnam.

A larger number of ACT 1st Grade cricketers also served in all conflicts including a significant number who played for the Royal Military College while they were part of the ACT 1st Grade competition.

Five ACT Cricketers paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving their nation. Four during World War II and one during the peacekeeping mission in Pakistan.

Mel Crombie

Melville Mahon Crombie was one of the first Canberrans to enlist in the Second World War. He was a qualified accountant who joined the Department of the Interior after gaining first-class honours in mathematics in his leaving certificate.

He was well known in Canberra cricket circles being both the secretary of the Northbourne Cricket Club and the assistant secretary of the ACT Cricket Association. He made his ACT debut in 1936/37 and played six times for the Territory including being a member of the 1938/39 Country Week squad.

On active service he was a member of the 2/19 Battalion after serving as a member of the 3rd Battalion Militia in Australia. After he escaped capture after the fall of Singapore but was later captured in Java. He was made a prisoner of war in Burma and passed away working on the Burma Railway in 1943.

William Worthy

William John Worthy made his ACT debut at the age of just 18 in 1934/35. Born in Yass in 1916, he played for Hall and Ainslie up until the suspension of the grade competition in 1939/40.

He was a bus driver in Canberra and enlisted in the Army in August 1940. He fought on the Kokoda Track with his battalion and rose to the rank of Corporal. Serving in the 3rd Australian Infantry Battalion in Papua New Guinea, he was killed on active service on 26 November 1942 when the Australian force attacked the Japanese stronghold of Gona in Papua.

He is buried in the Port Moresby (Bomana) War Cemetery. His twin brother, Leslie Charles Worthy had also died on active service in Papua New Guinea in March of 1942.

Edward Jones

Flight Sargent Edward Lloyd Jones died while flying a RAAF Boomerang operating out of the Strathpine airfield in southern Queensland. He crashed into the sea east of Caloundra on 10 November 1943. He was buried at the Lutwyche Cemetery in Brisbane.

Born in 1917, he played for the ACT in 1940/41 in the final match before representative matches were suspended for the rest of the war. He played for the Ainslie club in the grade competition.

He was formerly a member of the Parliamentary Hansard Staff in the Federal Parliament before moving to Hobart and was formerly a journalist with the Canberra Times and Wagga Advertiser.

Wally “Faf” Hall

Born in Footscray in 1917, Wally “Faf” Hall came to Canberra at the age of 10 when he moved to the capital in 1927 with his parents. His father was part of the Public Service Board on it’s relocation from Melbourne. He attended Telopea Park High School and was a gifted athlete while at and just after leaving school. On several occasions he ran 100 yards in just over 11 seconds at Manuka Oval and also represented the ACT National Football side in Melbourne on one occasion. He played cricket for the St Andrew’s Cricket Club in the sub-district side and from there was selected to play for the ACT on a single occasion in 1934 against Cooma in Cooma.

After he left school he joined the Commonwealth Bank and served in Canberra, Queanbeyan and Darwin. After which he enlisted in the Army in 1940 after being a member of the militia in Canberra after leaving school. He served in the 2/2 Australian Infantry Battalion embarking for the Middle East in 1941. He moved with the AIF to Papua where he saw action on the Owen Stanley Ranges on the Kokoda Track. He was killed during combat on 18 November 1942 and he is now buried in the Kokoda War Cemetery.

Robert Nimmo

Robert Harold Nimmo was a member of the first ACT (then Federal Territory) side that played Cooma on Australia Day in 1923. He played for Duntroon in the initial grade competition.

He entered the Royal Military College at Duntroon in 1912 in the second intake. He was awarded the sword of honour as the top student in his intake. He landed on Gallipoli as a troop commander in May 1915 and was evacuated due to illness in August. He served throughout the Palestine campaign in a variety of command appointments.

He returned to Duntroon in 1920 was an instructor at the RMC. He also served in various command positions as a Lieutenant Colonel, Colonel and Brigadier in New Guinea. He was promoted to Major General after the War and appointed a CBE in 1950.

Nimmo died in his sleep of a heart attack in 1966 at Rawalpindi, Pakistan while he was acting as the Chief Military Observer to the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan. He had served in this role from 1950 until his death. He was buried in the ANZAC section of Mount Gravatt cemetery in Brisbane with full military and UN honours.

Manuka Oval History

Manuka Oval Timeline

  • 1924 – First recorded sporting event at Manuka Circle Park when Canberra played Duntroon in an Australian Football match. Canberra won 7-9-51 to Duntroon’s 3-8-24.
  • 1925 – Concept for Manuka Oval approved by Parliament.
  • 1927 – First Soccer match held at Manuka Oval between the Federal Capital Territory and members of the HMS Renown.
  • 1927 – First Rugby League match held at Manuka Oval when Federal Rovers played West Queanbeyan.
  • 1929 – Manuka Circle Park was transformed into a sports ground a fence was built around the ground.
  • 1930 – First cricket match held at the Oval when Dr Neil Blue’s XI played the Federal Capital Territory.
  • 1937 – Caretaker’s Cottage constructed.
  • 1938 – New Zealand All Blacks play a Canberra representative side in August.
  • 1945 – National Sheepdog trials held for the first time at the ground.
  • 1947 – Boxing and Wrestling bouts held at the ground.
  • 1948 – Great Britain Rugby League side played local side Group 8.
  • 1954 – 16,000 schoolchildren attended Manuka Oval for the visit of Queen Elizabeth II.
  • 1959 – Exhibition Tennis Matches played at the ground which included Lew Hoad and Ken Rosewall.
  • 1959 – 10,000 attend the Billy Graham Crusade at the ground.
  • 1962 – The original Bradman Pavilion was opened by Sir Donald Bradman at the Prime Minister’s XI match.
  • 1979 – ACT Administration decided to develop Manuka Oval primarily for cricket.
  • 1983 – The Jack Fingleton Scoreboard was relocated from the MCG and erected at the ground.
  • 1987 – Sir Robert Menzies Stand built.
  • 1988 – First Women’s One Day International held at the ground – Australia v New Zealand at the 1988 World Cup.
  • 1989 – Turf practice wickets laid outside of the Oval.
  • 1992 – Bob Hawke Stand built.
  • 1992 – First One Day International held at the ground during the World Cup.
  • 1996 – ACT Brumbies play a Super 12 match at the venue
  • 1998 – First AFL Premiership Match held at the venue when North Melbourne played Port Adelaide.
  • 2000 – The new Sir Donald Bradman Stand was completed.
  • 2001 – Canberra Raiders play a NRL match at the ground.
  • 2012 – Floodlights installed at the ground.
  • 2013 – New playing surface installed with improved drainage and irrigation.
  • 2015 – WBBL and Big Bash Finals held at the ground.
  • 2018 – New Media Centre finished.
  • 2019 – First Test Match held at the ground.

Manuka Oval Trivia

  • Manuka Oval was originally called Blandfordia Recreation Reserve and then called Manuka Circle Park which was an open field.
  • Manuka Oval was only developed as an interim ground pending the development of a National Oval. This Oval was to be developed between Northbourne Avenue and Black Mountain, roughly around where the CSIRO and Barry Drive is now. Construction of the National Oval was started in October 1927 but the Great Depression put a hold on the development as well as many other pieces of construction in the capital. Construction restarted on a “National Sports Ground” in 1937 where members of the FCT Cricket Association and the visiting English side were to plant a tree to commemorate their visit. World War II then stopped the construction again and then the area was acquired by the fledgling Australian National University.
  • The Jack Fingleton Scoreboard at Manuka Oval was acquired from the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1982 by the Department of the Capital Territory in 1982. The scoreboard was dedicated by the Governor-General, Sir Ninian Stephen on January 24, 1983 during a match between the ACT and the touring New Zealanders. The scoreboard was resurrected and transported to Manuka Oval for the cost of $110,000 after it was decommissioned at the Melbourne Cricket Ground following the installation of the first electronic scoreboard. It was originally built in 1907 and was initially located at the eastern end of the MCG at a total cost of 852 pounds. The scoreboard was dismantled in January 1982 and then transported to Canberra. The scoreboard has three floors, connected by a staircase and a number changing system featuring a handle driving a bicycle chain around a sprocket that turned over numbers on a fabric roll.
  • Manuka Oval has hosted 1 Test Match, 10 Men’s One Day Internationals including 4 World Cup Matches, 8 Women’s One Day Internationals including 1 World Cup Match, 2 Men’s Twenty20 Internationals, 14 Women’s T20 Internationals including 5 World Cup Matches, 11 First-Class Matches, 26 List A Matches, 21 Twenty20 Matches, 5 Youth Test Matches, 1 Youth ODI Match, 3 Women’s First-Class Matches, 41 Women’s List A Matches, and 39 Women’s Twenty20 Matches.
  • Manuka Oval is the 118th International Test Match Venue and the 11th Test Match Venue in Australia. The ACT is the final Australian state or territory to host a Test Match.
  • Manuka Oval is the 95th International Male ODI Venue and the 12th Male ODI Venue in Australia.
  • Manuka Oval is the 67th International Female ODI Venue and the 8th Female ODI Venue in Australia.
  • Manuka Oval is the 134th International Male T20 International Venue and the 11th Male T20I Venue in Australia.
  • The field size is 167.5m x 138.2m

Highest Manuka Oval Match Attendances

  1. PM’s XI v West Indies (22/1/1985)             15,807
  2. PM’s XI v West Indies (24/1/1984)             14,484
  3. PM’s XI v New Zealand (22/1/1986)          12,700
  4. PM’s XI v England (10/11/2006)                 11,859
  5. Big Bash League Final (28/1/2015)            11,837
  6. Thunder v Hurricanes (9/2/2019)              11,557
  7. Australia v West Indies (6/2/2013)            11,548
  8. Australia v Sri Lanka (2/2/2019)                 11,388
  9. Thunder v Renegades (24/1/2018)            11,319
  10. PM’s XI v India (28/1/2004)                         11,300
  11. PM’s XI v M.C.C. (6/2/1963)                        11,000
  12. Afghanistan v Bangladesh (18/2/2015)     10,972
  13. PM’s XI v England (14/1/2014)                    10,939
  14. Australia v India (20/1/2016)                      10,922
  15. PM’s XI v West Indies (12/12/1996)          10,843
  16. Australia v South Africa (19/11/2014)       10,583
  17. PM’s XI v West Indies (7/12/2000)             10,498
  18. PM’s XI v West Indies (18/2/1961)             10,000

Manuka Oval Curators

  1. 1930-1940 – Mr McFurland
  2. 1940-1948 – Bill Tickner
  3. 1948-1962 – Jack Plummer
  4. 1962-1984 – Jim Thompson
  5. 1984-1990 – Ron Winter
  6. 1990-1994 – Richard Winter
  7. 1994-2004 – Greg Brearley
  8. 2004-2008 – Marcus Pamplin
  9. 2008-2021 – Brad van Dam
  10. 2021-Current – Tom Fahey