County cricket was suspended between 1914-19 and at least 210 cricketers served in the First World War. To mark the 100-year anniversary of the Armistice, ECB commissioned cricket historian David Frith – founder editor of Wisden Cricket Monthly and author of more than 30 cricket books – to create a collection of the remarkable stories of the County players who fought in the First World War.
His feature, titled ‘County Cricketers and the 1914-18 War’ has been published on ECB.co.uk and tells some of the most poignant and heroic war stories from across the county game.
In addition, ECB and MCC have partnered with the charity Remembered on their nationwide project, There But Not There, to create a set of iconic images of a Tommy silhouette at Lord’s Cricket Ground.
There But Not There commemorates those who fought and died in the First World War and aims to educate all generations about why they made the ultimate sacrifice.
This week, three England cricket teams will also commemorate Armistice across the world with the Men in Sri Lanka, Women in West Indies and Lions in UAE.
Tom Harrison, ECB Chief Executive Officer, said:
“Cricket Remembers highlights the contribution made by people from cricket to the nation’s war effort.
“We can only imagine the courage of those who went to fight and it is important that we commemorate their sacrifice.
“Through this campaign, we hope all followers of cricket can join us in remembering those from the game who played their part in the First World War.”
David Frith’s piece recalls some the most remarkable stories from cricket in the World War I. Examples include Warwickshire cricketer Percy Jeeves, who was killed in France in 1916 but was forever immortalised by P.G. Wodehouse’s famous valet, Jeeves, in his bestselling books.
To support the campaign, ECB is inviting people to share their own stories of the contribution cricketers made to the First World War using the hashtag #CricketRemembers.
So in that spirit, my colleague Derbyshire reporter Huw Lloyd has contributed the photo he took of John E Raphael’s grave, which gives us the opportunity to tell the remarkable story of a relatively unremarkable cricketer.
Raphael played as a specialist batsman for Surrey, Oxford University, the MCC and several other first-class teams. He scored five centuries including 201 for Oxford against a formidable Yorkshire team that included Wilfred Rhodes. It remains the only double hundred made by an Oxford cricketer against Yorkshire.
That is only part of the story, however. Raphael also played rugby for England and for the British Lions.
Away from sport, he was a distiguished lawyer who was called to the Bar in 1908. He took a great interest in politics and stood, albeit unsuccessfully, as the Liberal candidate for Croydon.
The Jewish son of a multi-million pound financier, he was older than most of those who fought in the War, being 35 when he died of wounds suffered in 1917 at the Battle of Messines. He is buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery in Flanders.
Even there, the story does not end.
Raphael’s heartbroken mother Harriette visited his grave in 1929. Whilst there, she told the cemetery gardener, Walter Sutherland, that she wanted her ashes buried at the head of her son’s grave.
War graves rules banned this at the time, but Sutherland was so moved by her plea that, when he received her ashes two years later, he buried the urn as requested. One of the few people that he told was his son, George who later took over the gardening role at the cemetery.
George, now 92, says: “Whenever I worked near the Raphael grave, I would think of Harriette. What my father did meant she and her son could rest in peace together.”
So there it is, the story of John Raphael, just one of the many cricketers who gave their lives and who deserve to be remembered for the sacrifice that they made – #CricketRemembers.
There is more about the ECB initiative at: