19: 21 September

AIF XI cafe monico 1
Invite to the A.I.F. XI held at Café Monico, Piccadilly Circus, Monday 15 September, 1919. Lords archive reference: MEN2. Image taken by Anthony Condon 2017.

Last Monday evening we were the guests at a representatively attended dinner at the Café Monico, Piccadilly Circus, with Messrs J. Wisden and Co. as hosts. In the company, which numbered about a hundred, were many who must be regarded as shining lights in the cricket world. The Rt. Hon. Lord Harris, who successfully captained England v. Australia in the first Test match in this country thirty-nine years ago, occupied the chair, having on his right the Colonial skipper (Mr H. L. Collins), the Hon. F. S. Jackson, M.P., Lord Burnham, Brig-Gen. C. H. Jess, C.M.G., D.S.O., Lt-Col. C. V. Watson, D.S.O., Lt-Col. T. S. Woodburn, C.B.E.; on his left Capt. P. F. Warner, Sir Jeremiah Colman (president Surrey County C.C.), Mr Howard Lacy (the Australian manager), Senator Pearce, Lt-Col. N. Marshall, D.S.O., Maj. S. A. Middleton, D.S.O., Capt. F. Angel, and Lt-Col. E. H. G. Clarke, M.C. Others present, in addition to the whole of the Australian team, were Col. Sir H. G. Norris, M.P., Rev F. H. Gillingham, Col. K. G. Brooke, Capt. S. D. Harrower, Lt-Col. C. S. Griffiths, M.C., Maj. Hon L. H. Tennyson, Maj. J. W. H. T. Douglas, Messrs R. H. Spooner, W. Findlay (secretary Surrey Co. C.C.), J. R. Mason, W. Hall, Lt-Col. L. H. W. Troughton, Messrs G. A. Fairbairn, T. Pawley, H. L. Wilson, F. S. Ashley-Cooper, H. V. L. Stanton (“Wanderer”), Maj. B. C. Hartley, Capt. N. E. Haig, Messrs J. N. Crawford, R. M. Bell, H. T. W. Hardinge, J. E. Woolley, G. Gunn, J. B. Hobbs, J. W. Hearne, E. H Hendren, etc. In the vice-chairs were Messrs E. A. Tilley, C. V. Paul, H. Noel Hoare, H. Brevett, and S. H. Pardon. Among those who were unavoidably absent were Gen. Sir W. R. Birdwood, Lord Hawke, and the Marquis Camden, the president of the M.C.C. (Right Hon H. W. Forster, M.P.), Messrs D. C. F. Burton, F. E. Lacey (secretary M.C.C.)monico 1The Australians’ Tour, The Sportsman (London), Tue 16 Sep 1919, p. 1., J. Shuter, S. M. J. Woods, C. H. B. Marsham, J. C. White, Oscar Asche, G. J. Hirst, and Dr Russell Bencraft.

After a smartly served repast the chairman, in submitting the Royal toast, referred to two incidents which had illustrated the hold the Monarchy happily held on the people. One was the remarkable display of enthusiasm outside Buckingham Palace on the night of Armistice Day, the other the reception which the Prince of Wales had found awaiting him in the Canadian DominionThe Australians’ Tour, The Sportsman (London), Tue 16 Sep 1919, p. 1..

Lord Harris then rose gain to propose the toast of the evening, “The Australian Cricket Team,” coupled with the name of their captain Mr H. L. Collins. He stated that the tourists had done better than they probably ever anticipated, and the captain doubtless had not a little to do with the success of the tour. The occasion was absolutely unique, such an XI had never toured England before–an XI of cricketing soldiers. Their hosts had probably a two-fold object in view. He expressed in feeling terms one, viz., the debt of gratitude we owed to the Australian Army, and regretted that General Birdwood had been unable to attend and state the facts of its heroism from personal experiences. Those who served with them knew; those who regretted they were not young enough to serve, so nevertheless looked upon them as comrades, and recognised the invaluable services they had rendered. In addition, their hosts doubtless desired to do homage to the success of a team that not only did not pose as being representative of Australia, but not even of the Australian Army, several of whose best players had returned “home”–if that was the correct term to employ. They had been an idea on their part at first only to meet the amateurs of the counties; it was as well such view was altered, for they would never have been got out. They had added to the interest in a season of experimental cricket, over which the authorities had been apprehensive, happily unnecessarily. In conclusion, he referred to the value of cricket as cementing the bond of Union between the Mother Country and the Colonies. The Australians’ Tour, The Sportsman (London), Tue 16 Sep 1919, p. 1.

The team would carry away with them the most kindly recollections of their tour, any success achieved in which was largely due to the unselfish spirit of the side who worked as a team and not for themselves The Australians’ Tour, The Sportsman (London), Tue 16 Sep 1919, p. 1.. Captain Warner added his need of praise to the Australian team not only for the good cricket they played, but they were a team of thorough sportsmenThe Australians’ Tour, The Sportsman (London), Tue 16 Sep 1919, p. 1.. The Imperial Orchestra played during the dinner, and an excellent musical entertainment was contributed to by Miss Annie Beatle, Messrs Robert Pitt, Edward Dykes, Langton Merke, and “Jock Walker,” with Mr Douglas Rogers at the piano. It was a memorable and most enjoyable gatheringThe Australians’ Tour, The Sportsman (London), Tue 16 Sep 1919, p. 1..

The Australian Military authorities are to be congratulated on the successful tour of the A.I.F. Eleven, and English cricketers are indebted to them for stepping into the breach when the negotiations for a representative Australian side came to nothingA Review of the Season IV, The Times (London), Wed Sep 24 1919, p. 5.. The team made friends wherever they went and were very popular, as indeed they deserved to be, for they are an extremely nice lot of men who play the game enthusiasticallyA Review of the Season IV, The Times (London), Wed Sep 24 1919, p. 5..

Finally it was time to board the AscaniusJosiah Barnes, PB0127, Troops on board HMAT Ascanius, 1916, photograph, https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C387213 to South Africa, from where I am writing this final note before handing it on to a friend from The Sportsman to distribute. The “witching hour” is not a convenient time for attending at a London terminus to bid bon voyage, and it is no surprise to find the cricket community conspicuous by absence. Yet there is a goodly gathering of personal friends, and much cheeriness. Some of the travellers had been on a pleasure bent till the last, and came straight from the theatre; while Ernie Cameron busied himself with the safe storage of the baggageAnent Australian Cricket, The Journal (SA), Fri 14 Nov 1919, p. 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article213268710 . The bustle attendant on departure is not the most convenient time for interviewing, but my friend is perservering with a chat with the skipper conducted through the window of the compartment. We are anticipating with pleasure our visit to South Africa, which would have been out of the question but for the guarantee by Sir Abe Bailey and the fact that they were able to make the voyage by troopship. This will probably be the means also by which we will complete the journey home, a certain number of South Africans being sent to the Cape and their berths then utilized by the cricketers. This might involve a slightly longer stay in South Africa, but we hope to be back in Australia before the close of the year. At this point we can say nothing definite as to the programme, though we expect to play about 10 matchesAnent Australian Cricket, The Journal (SA), Fri 14 Nov 1919, p. 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article213268710 . It would be an excellent idea if on our arrival home they could tackle the Rest of Australia in (say) a series of three games. Such a step would prove most interesting and especially valuable in event of a team for England materializing next yearAnent Australian Cricket, The Journal (SA), Fri 14 Nov 1919, p. 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article213268710 .

My weekly reports will cease for a time while we sail, but I look forward to sharing with you all the excitement of our African tour post haste.

The following images were all taken by Anthony Condon in 2017 from the Lord’s archive MEN2.

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