Born On This Day: 17th November

A new series from Hampshire Cricket historian Dave Allen marks the birthdays of notable and fondly remembered Hampshire cricketers

Today we mark the birthdays of two men who, in different ways were casualties of the two world wars in the 20th century.  

Pace bowler Hesketh Vernon Hesketh-Pritchard known as ‘Hex’ was born in India in 1876, He was a fast bowler who played in 60 first-class matches, taking 233 wickets at 23.45 each – 15 times taking five wickets in an innings, and four times 10 wickets in the match, but he was much more than that.

He played as an amateur and was also an explorer - in 1901, he went to Patagonia to report for the Daily Express on a search for the Giant Sloth - an author of ‘pulp’ fiction, was probably the best game shot in Britain, and during the war he went out to the Western Front and taught the British Army and some of their allies about sniping.

In 1904, he took 104 wickets in the season, although it was the following season when he recorded his best figures of 8-32 v Derbyshire – in another four Championship innings he took seven wickets. He played regularly in 1905, but thereafter very little until 1912, and there were just five Championship appearances in his last first-class season of 1913.

During the war, his efforts brought him a DSO and MC, but also gas, and the horrors which left him a changed man. He continued to write but there was little if any cricket, and when he died in June 1922 age 45 he was as surely a casualty of that terrible conflict as the men who died in battle.

John Blake, was born in Portsmouth in 1917. He was a right-handed batsman, who showed promise at Aldenham School and Cambridge University, although his first-class debut for the county at Worthing in June 1937 (age 19) pre-dated his University debut.

His main year with the student side was 1939 when he won his ‘blue’; scoring 23 in his team’s valiant effort to reach 430 to win – they lost by 45 runs. He played in 29 first-class matches, 15 for Cambridge University, averaging nearly 32 (HS 88 v MCC), although in his 14 matches for Hampshire, he was less successful, with a best of 48 v Somerset in a victory at Yeovil in 1938.

His final Championship match was at Canterbury in August 1939, and while he enjoyed little success at that level, he was still only 21, and clearly promising. A few months later, he enlisted in the Royal Marines and in 1943, joined No. 43 Royal Marines Commando, serving in Sicily, Anzio and then Yugoslavia.

In 1944, he was awarded the Military Cross for leading dangerous action while serving in Yugoslavia, but in another raid, shortly after, he was killed, and is buried in Belgrade War Cemetery. His younger brother, David, played for Hampshire after the war.

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Born On This Day: 3rd December

A new series from Hampshire Cricket historian Dave Allen marks the birthdays of notable and fondly remembered Hampshire cricketers