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The Coming Storm

Title: The Coming Storm
Authors: Nigel McCrery
Publisher: Pen & Sword Books
Released: 2017
ISBN: 9781526706959
Pages: 333

The outbreak of World War Two forced cricket players to swap their whites for military uniforms to serve their countries. Among them were promising young players who had only just played a couple of first-class games, as well as established Test match players. In total, 152 first-class cricketers were killed during World War Two. Each man's fate has now been revealed in Nigel McCrery's poignant new book "The coming storm".

Nigel McCrery (1953) is a British historian. He started his career as a police officer, but was forced to retire with an injury. He then joined the BBC's drama department. He was the researcher on the award winning series "Our Friends in the North" and then went on to become the screenwriter of e.g. "Silent Witness" and "New Tricks". He has also written several crime novels. He then took up a project to write a memorial book for each year of World War One, to commemorate its 100th anniversary. He wanted to focus on personal stories and decided to choose sportsmen. As he loved cricket he wrote about cricketers ("Final wicket"), followed by books about rugbyers, Olympians, rowers and footballers. "The coming storm" is his first book on sportsmen killed in World War Two. A second book, "The final scrum", is due to be published next year.

This book is a bundling of biographies on the 152 first-class players. These biographies cover each man’s youth, education and pre-war cricketing career, as well as information on their service during the war and how they died. Each biography is concluded with the player’s career batting, bowling and fielding statistics. Nearly every biography is illustrated with a personal photo and many of them are provided with team photos of cricket teams as well. At the end of the book all 152 players are listed by club and country.

McCrery has done an impressive job, writing 152 biographies, which are all thoroughly researched. There will have been enough information on the well-known Test match players or the higher ranked servicemen. Captain Hedley Verity (1st Battalion Yorkshire Regiment) had, for instance, played 378 first-class matches - of which 40 Test matches for England – and was one of the best-known cricketers of his time. Another example is Air Vice Marshal Charles Blount, who was the commanding officer of the air component of the British Expeditionary Force. But many others had only played a single or a handful of games and they also have got very detailed biographies. They otherwise might have remained anonymous.

There wasn’t a book on cricketers who were killed in World War Two yet, so McCrery’s book has definitely covered an unknown part of history. However, with such a specific subject, the book will only be of interest to a certain group of readers. You’ll need to have some knowledge of cricket, otherwise big parts of the biographies might be too detailed. Besides that, the bundling of biographies make it more of a reference book. A history of the game of cricket during the war can be read between the lines, but has not been the main aim of the author. He wanted to – as he stated it – ‘put flesh on the bones of the lost’, which he has done very well.

Rating: Very good


Article by:
Pieter Schlebaum
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