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Hayes Cricket Remembers

1 month ago By Harri Kallas

6 Hayes Players Perished in WW1

On Sunday November 11th we remember the ultimate sacrifice of those that served in the forces - this year more poignant as it is the 100th anniversary of the armistice that saw World War 1 come to an end in Europe.

Hayes Cricket will once again lay a wreath at the memorial outside St Mary's Church in Old Hayes, following the Remembrance Service.

All are welcome to attend the service, which commences at 10.30am.

Detailed below is an account of the visit to the Somme and Ypres Battlefields and Graves made by Hayes members a few years ago.

In 2011 a group of Hayes (Kent) Cricket Club members decided to make the journey to the 1st World War Battlefields of The Somme.

Together with a couple of friends, they set off to Albert, Northern France, a small French town in the heart of the Somme.

This was the first of four journeys made of the Somme and Ypres with the aim of visiting the grave and memorials commemorating the Hayes cricketers who had made the ultimate sacrifice and to pay respects on behalf of the cricket club. The members and friends who took part were:

Mike Askew, Nick Beavis, Andrew Jackson, Harri Kallas, Keith May, Jane May, Lyn Murphy, Steve Walker, Len Watkins, Jo Watkins, together with friends Sally Andrews, Brian Anton, Mick McLoughlin and Steve O’Doherty

No-one needs reminding of the destruction that occurred there during the Great War and six members of Hayes Cricket Club went to war never to return.

Pat Thompson, former President of Hayes Cricket, wrote a history of the club which was published in 1978 and in talking of the Hayes players he wrote:
“Of the team that played that 8th day of August 1914 Frank Marchant and Charles H. Wood, son of the Captain, would die in the war just starting, as would Fred Plant, H. Williams and H.W. Williams, and also of course, as already mentioned, the most talented cricketer to play for Hayes in the Edwardian era, A.A. Torrens.”

The Roll of Honour close to the changing rooms at the club lists these brave men and prior to our visits, we used the facilities provided by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and we were able to find their final resting places.

We detail below what we discovered about these brave cricketers.

Attwood Alfred Torrens a Major in the Royal Field Artillery was killed in action on the 8th of December 1916. He was the son of Captain Alfred and Mrs Torrens and lived at The Grove in Hayes. He was educated at Harrow and was on the Stock Exchange prior to the outbreak of War. He obtained a commission on 12th February 1915 and was promoted to a Major the following year. In writing of the death of Major Torrens, Brigadier-General R C Coates wrote: “The whole of the artillery of the division much feel his loss. He was an exceptionally popular officer both with his brother officers and the men”. Lieutenant Kobel wrote “His battery was being shelled and being uneasy about the safety of his men he went out to move them and was struck and killed instantaneously by a piece of shell. He was an excellent officer and very popular in the brigade. We all deplore his loss” One of his subalterns wrote “He was such a favourite with us all. I feel his loss very deeply. I have only been in his battery three months but they have been quite the happiest three months of my army life” A A Torrens had a brother who captained Hayes in 1922 and prior to his years of cricket at Hayes, Torrens played for the MCC and was part of the touring
party that visited New Zealand in 1905/06. His name also appears on the Roll of Honour at Lords Cricket Ground.

Like all the 120 cemeteries on the Somme, the one outside Pozieres was in immaculate condition. Tended by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission they remain a lasting tribute to the fallen.

The following day we paid our respects at the Cemetery at Heilly Station, the final resting place of Frank Marchant. Little more is known of Frank, other than he served in the Queens Own Royal West Kent Regiment and was killed whilst flying for the 3rd Squadron of the precursor to the RAF, the Royal Flying Corps. The grave had an inscription “I look for the life of the world to come” which is part of The Nicene Creed and is part of one of the most ancient prayers in Christianity

His grave was next to that of another airman killed the same day, so we assume they were flying together and were buried together. Flyers in the First World War had a life expectancy measured in days. We also held a moments silence at the grave and following Len’s reading of the exhortation, we laid a miniature cricket bat on behalf of the club.
The Cemetery in which we found Frank Marchant was outside the station in Heilly – this station was to where casualties on the Somme were evacuated, to await transport to hospitals in Boulogne or Le Touquet.

On a small field outside the station over 30,000 brave soldiers lay after the battle of the Somme commenced on July 1st 1916 and waited for their turn to board one of the, wholly inadequate, 4 or 5 trains sent to help them. 300 a day would perish before they were evacuated.

As an aside the station was only a few hundred yards away from where Captain Manfred Von Richthofen, otherwise known as the Red Baron, perished.

Harold D Williams a Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers, who died on 20th December 1920. Little more is known of Herbert’s fate, but as he is buried at St Mary's Church Graveyard in Hayes, we know he must have died as a result of his injuries.
We have located the grave and following a visit by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the headstone has been cleaned and has been added to a rota to ensure future cleaning.

As with all the graves we visited, we left a miniature cricket bat by the headstone. We spent a few moments reflecting on the sacrifice made and then Len Watkins would read the exhortation:

They shall grow not old,
As we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them,
Nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them

Fred George Plant A Second Lieutenant in the Royal West Surreys. He was killed in action on the first day of the most terrible battle at Loos, which commenced on the 25th September 1915. Like so many of the soldiers, his remains were never found and he is remembered at the Loos memorial. We know that Fred was the son of William Plant and lived in Courtland, Hayes.

The Loos Memorial commemorates 20,605 British officers and men who were killed from 25th September 1915 to the end of the war in November 1918 in the battle sector between the river Lys in French Flanders and the village of Grenay, near Lens, in Artois.

The Loos Memorial to the Missing forms the rear and the two sides of Dud Corner Cemetery. The thousands of names of the servicemen missing in action with no known grave are inscribed on 139 stone panels attached to these side and rear walls.
Herbert William Williams was a Seaman and was killed on 9th July 1917 when his ship HMS Vanguard was destroyed with the loss of nearly 900 men in an accidental explosion off Scapa Flow, in the Orkney Isles.

This was the worst loss to the Royal Navy by accident. We know Herbert left a wife, Lillian and lived in Mayes Cottage by Hayes Common.

Herbert is commemorated on at the Chatham Naval Memorial and we made a visit here to remember his sacrifice.

Our journey to visit the memorials concluded in October 2014 when we tracked down the final resting place of Charles Harald Wood.

Charles was a Second Lieutenant, 8th Battalion, King's Royal Rifle Corps and died on 25th August 1916 Age 21. He was the son of Charles Frederick Wood and Ellinor Appert Wood (nee Hoskier), of Puttenham Priory, Guildford.

During our visits to The Somme and Ypres we learnt a great deal about the sacrifices made by our former members – to visit the area now it is difficult to comprehend what occurred during the 1st World War. His grave bore the epitaph “God Loveth a Cheerful Giver” from 2 Corinthians 9:7, perhaps a sign of the character of Charles.

In Ypres, we paid our respects at The Menin Gate and also we learnt of the work of the English Church, St George’s Memorial Church.

To commemorate our visits we arranged for a plaque to be unveiled in honour of cricketers and at a service in May 2014, this plaque was dedicated.

Updated 12:53 - 14 Nov 2018 by Harri Kallas

Where next?

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