Cricket and the First World War

IWM Q 32270 A game of cricket being played by British troops in Salonika.

IWM Q 32270 A game of cricket being played by British troops in Salonika.

One of the highlights of this year’s summer of sport is the Ashes test series between England and Australia. From 1914 many countries cancelled first-class cricket matches for the duration of the war, and hundreds of players instead enlisted in the armed forces. Here are the stories of English batsman Joseph William Henry Makepeace and Australian player Jack Morrison Gregory

 

  • Before the war

Joseph Makepeace, known as Harry, was born in Middlesbrough, Yorkshire, in 1881. In the first decade of the twentieth century, he played cricket for Lancashire, was part of the England football team, and also played for Everton Football Club.

Jack Gregory was born in Sydney, Australia, in 1895, into a well-known cricketing family. He showed talent as a hurdler at school, and just before the war was a player in the North Sydney Cricket Club.

 

  • Wartime service
Art.IWM PST 12226 Australian recruitment poster.

Art.IWM PST 12226 Australian recruitment poster.

At the age of 20, Jack enlisted as a Gunner in the Australian Imperial Force, before becoming a Bombardier with the Field Artillery Brigade on 1 April 1916. In December of that year, he was sent to France and continued to rise through the ranks to Sergeant. In the final year of the war, Jack was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, and shortly after the Armistice accompanied the Australian cricket team on their tour to South Africa.

Meanwhile, Harry enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps on 19 July 1916. This became the Royal Air Force on 1 April 1918. He initially served as a Second Class Air Mechanic, but like Jack rose through the ranks and was promoted to Flight Clerk. He was discharged on 30 April 1920, which meant that he was able to take part in the first post-war Ashes test series.

 

  • 1920 Ashes
Jack Gregory - image in the public domain

Jack Gregory – image in the public domain

 

Jack Gregory returned home to Australia in December 1919 and in 1920, he played a key role in successfully retaking the Ashes from England.  One of the players that he faced was Harry Makepeace, who also excelled when he made a century at Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Both men continued to play cricket and other sports afterwards. Harry passed away in Cheshire in 1952, and Jack died in Bega, New South Wales in 1973.

 

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