Hampshire Through The Decades: 1940s

Introducing a new weekly series from Hampshire Cricket historian, Dave Allen, as he remembers Hampshire's best moments from every decade since World War II

Hampshire Cricket's historian, Dave Allen, is back with a brand new series - Hampshire Through The Decades - as he looks at some of the best moments from Hampshire's history from each decade following the conclusion of the World War II. 

This week's first instalment sees him take a journey back to the late 1940s, as first-class cricket returned for the first time since 1939.

In many respects perhaps the most significant Hampshire match of the 1940s was the Championship game against Worcestershire at Southampton that started on Saturday 11 May 1946 and finished on the Tuesday with a Hampshire victory by 93 runs. It wasn’t the result, or individual performances that mattered, simply that twelve months after VE Day, Hampshire’s were playing first-class cricket again for the first time since late August 1939.

One of British heroes of the Second World War was of course Field Marshall Montgomery and almost exactly four years after D-Day, in mid-June 1948, Hampshire travelled to the Officers Club Services Ground, Aldershot to play two first-class matches against Cambridge University and the Combined Services in a week attended by the Field Marshall, who was photographed with the Hampshire team.

Hampshire had played three Championship matches at the ground in the early years of the century and there were a handful of first-class services matches there until 1964, but this would be Hampshire’s final week there – and on the face of it perhaps, not their most important matches even in that year, let alone the decade.

Yet we can see in those two friendly matches, three highly significant selections whose impact on the history of Hampshire cricket resonates even today in 2001, 60 years since Hampshire won the first of their two Championship titles. Hampshire came to the matches having won two and lost two of their first seven Championship games – and they had also been the only side to lead the all-conquering Australians on first innings.

They arrived in Aldershot from a defeat in Cardiff, and seven of that side – Arnold; Rogers; Howard & Gilbert Dawson; Hill; Bailey & captain Desmond Eagar. For the first game they added Army officer and recent POW Alan Waldron ‘guesting’ for two games as an amateur, plus experienced seamer George Heath, promising youngster Leo Harrison, and making his debut, pace bowler Derek Shackleton. For the second game, Heath was replaced by another debutant, all-rounder Jimmy Gray.

The first match against the students was drawn. Cambridge University included four players who would win England Test caps: JG Dewes; GHG Doggart; TE Bailey and DJ Insole while Derek Shackleton gave notice of the future with first innings figures of 23.4-5-47-3 including a familiar dismissal over the years when Dewes was caught by Harrison off his bowling.

In the second match – not least thanks to Shackleton’s 63 and Jimmy Gray’s 46 – Hampshire recovered from 15-4 to post 269, winning by an innings on a turning pitch (Gerry Hill 12-94).

For the Combined Services, Hampshire’s amateur Naval officer John Manners went cheaply both times as did the highly promising young batsman PBH May. He would go on to enjoy a fine career with Surrey & England – but while they did not yet know it, the three young men Shackleton, Gray and Harrison, also heralded a bright future for our county.

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