Edgbaston Priory Club marks the centenary of the Armistice ending World War One, remembering the service of the clubs and the losses of its Members and their families during the previous four years’ fighting.
Edgbaston Priory Club was then still two closely-linked clubs – Edgbaston Cricket and Lawn Tennis Club and Priory Lawn Tennis Club – and both gave over their facilities and finances to serve the war effort. All fixtures were cancelled, along with the subscriptions of fighting men; grounds staff were released to work on the home front in farming, pigs were kept in the pavilion at Edgbaston and at one stage the club considered turning all the grounds over to grow crops.
Of course, many of the gentlemen players served on the front, and like so many of their generation, some never returned. The centenary is the time to pay tribute to their service and that of millions of others.
One of the first to volunteer was Edgbaston member, Captain H.G. Nevile, who died in the 1915 Gallipoli campaign but whose loss, like that of many other fighting men, was not confirmed until the following year.
In February 1916, Lieutenant Harold Bache was killed in action. As well as being holder of Edgbaston’s Deykin Cup, Bache played cricket for Worcestershire and football for West Bromwich Albion and England. He was 26 when shot by a sniper in France returning from an attempt to capture a trench.
During the 1916 Somme offensive, Edgbaston member Cornelius Vincent Suckling, a Lieutenant with the Royal Warwickshire regiment, was killed on 17th July in an attack on Ovillers-la-Boiselle aged 32. Suckling’s body was never found.
Best-known amongst recruits from the Priory were the sons of jeweller Arthur Alabaster, all five of whom won commissions in the army. Clifford Alabaster left his work in the family firm which still runs in the Jewellery Quarter, and on the committee of the Priory Club, to fight in France in February 1916. Serving as a Lieutenant with the Royal Warwickshire 5th Battalion, Frederick died of wounds received in action exactly six months later on 25th August.
As the war entered its last year, Edgbaston’s Members continued to make the ultimate sacrifice. The deaths of Douglas Lunt and Neville Miller were recorded with regret in the Annual Report of 1917. Others were simply and tragically entered in the Membership register as “killed.”
The Edgbaston and Priory Clubs resumed full activity slowly after the Armistice in a world, changed forever in many ways, which would never forget the bravery and selflessness of the Members who had served and especially of those who did not return.
Dr Matt Cole Club Historian