They fell with their faces to the foe: honouring the game's heroes of the Great War

Roland Boys Bradford VC became the youngest general in the British Army 10 days before his death at Cambrai

The slaughter inflicted upon a young generation of Britons during the First World War can rarely have been more clearly illustrated than in the fate of the 1914 cricket team at Oakham School. A new book, Wisden on the Great War*, relates how five of the 11 boys perished in the conflict.

Their names read like a roll call of death: Douglas Hall, aged 21, killed in 1916; William Hill (22), died of wounds as a prisoner of war five days before the Armistice; James Atter (19), killed 1916; Herbert Wait (19), killed 1917.

That is only the back row. The dates and ages act as a cruel reminder of a game obsessed by statistics. One of the survivors, Percy Chapman, would go on to captain England at The Oval in 1926 when they regained the Ashes for the first time since the advent of war.

This is one of many fascinating discoveries made by Andrew Renshaw. Taking the 1,788 obituaries listed in the Wisden Cricketers' Almanack during the war years, he has verified the entries with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and added copious material – including the discovery that three of the casualties listed did not die after all.

Alongside Colin Blythe, one of the greatest bowlers of his era, who was hit by a shell near Passchendaele in 1917, there is Rupert Brooke, who "had gained considerable reputation as a poet" and whose main claim to fame in Wisden was to have topped the bowling averages at Rugby School in 1906; George Llewellyn Davies, one of five brothers "adopted" by JM Barrie who were to form the inspiration for Peter Pan; and Percy Jeeves, the Warwickshire all-rounder who so impressed PG Wodehouse in a county match that he named Bertie Wooster's valet after him.

In The Wisden Book of Cricketers' Lives, editor Benny Green complained that most of the Great War obituaries "hardly belong in a record book whose avowed intent is to record the feats and fates of first-class cricketers". And yet it is with these lesser mortals, lads barely out of school who never got to live their lives, that the real interest lies after Renshaw's estimable research.

Take, for example, Roland Boys Bradford, who became the youngest general in the British Army 10 days before his death at Cambrai, aged 25. He had been awarded the Victoria Cross at the Somme, and we also learn that his brother George won a VC too, in a naval engagement at Zeebrugge. They are the only siblings to both receive the accolade in the First World War; a third brother, James, won the Military Cross, and a fourth, Tommie, received the Distinguished Service Order – he was the only one to survive the war.

Tommie was the real cricketer among them, and in 1911 he hit a double century in an hour and a half with 17 sixes, a record score in the Durham Senior League. He died aged 80 without receiving an obituary in Wisden. Thanks to Renshaw's scholarship we will remember him and his three ill-fated brothers in arms.

Then there is Harold Forster, whose death was missed by Wisden but Renshaw has unearthed him – one of 89 new obituaries among the 289 first-class cricketers who died – as the player with the most awards for gallantry (DSO and Bar, MC and Bar). Wisden's omission of his feats even extended to his performance on the field: on his debut for Hampshire against MCC at Lord's, he took nine wickets in the match but was not mentioned in their report.

The wartime Wisdens sold surprisingly well given the lack of actual cricket they contained – county cricket was abandoned just before the end of the 1914 season – and they have since become rare and very valuable.

One of the final entries concerns Reginald Edwards, who died in 1925 of complications from a severe gas attack. During an expedition to Russia he lost all his baggage apart from his collection of Wisdens, "which accompanied him on all his travels". Clearly whoever relieved him of his burdens had no idea how much his little brown books were worth.

* Published in hardback by John Wisden & Co, £40

News
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drink
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits