Former Gazette editor Andrew Renshaw releases book on cricketers killed during First World War

Basingstoke Gazette: Andrew Renshaw with a copy of his book Buy this photo Andrew Renshaw with a copy of his book

A PROMINENT Winchfield villager has completed a four-year labour of love by updating a record of cricketers who died during the First World War.

Andrew Renshaw, chairman of Winchfield Parish Council and former editor of The Gazette, has penned Wisden on the Great War: The Lives of Cricket’s Fallen 1914-1918.

Wisden Cricketers’ Alamanack, a compilation of playing statistics, has been published every year since 1864, but during the First World War, with county cricket abandoned, editions were filled with soldiers’ obituaries.

Mr Renshaw, who is president of Eversley Cricket Club, started the project four years ago after buying a 1912 Wisden, which contained an inscription written by the father of a man who died on July 20, 1916, having been injured at the Battle of the Somme.

After looking into the details of this man’s life, he looked into the other cricketers who died, including the 289 who had played first-class cricket.

Mr Renshaw said: “I started with volumes full of lists and obituaries, many of them schoolboys who went from the playing fields to the battlefields.”

But with more research, Mr Renshaw found many of the details listed in the war-time editions were incorrect. There were cases of mistaken identity – and three men even survived their obituaries. Mr Renshaw said: “Wisden took a lot of its information from The Times. I do not think the newspaper was to blame, but Wisden could not keep track of everyone, and errors crept in. Now, almost 100 years later, they are going to be corrected.”

The book lists 1,800 men whose records have all been verified and updated.

Among the more local soldiers was Cecil Bodington, who played 10 times for Hampshire County Cricket Club. He was the son of the vicar of the village, and was killed in action in 1917.

Another vicar, The Reverend Thomas Belcher, at Bramley, lost three sons in the war. One of his sons Gordon, who played once for Hampshire, was killed in 1915 after winning the Military Cross.

The book is available on Amazon and through most bookshops.

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