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Recruits to the Royal Sussex Regiment parade on the County Ground outfield in 1914

Sussex's Lost Heroes

Throwback Thursday


Sussex's Lost Heroes

This Sunday, Sussex will honour the ten players and one member of staff who were killed in action on the battlefields of Europe.

A commemorative plaque will be unveiled at lunch time on the first day of the LV=County Championship match against Northamptonshire in time to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War in August.

Sussex historian Roger Packham spent many hours trawling through minute details in books and newspaper archives to find out more about the players who made the ultimate sacrifice.

They include Lewes-born bowler Ken Woodroffe, who took 6 for 43 just before the War before being being killed in action at Neuve Chapelle in 1915. Ken's brother, Sidney was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery in Belgium in the same year.

Also being remembered is Ernest Relf, one of three brothers who played for Sussex. His brother Albert went on to play 500 games for Sussex and 13 Tests and was one of the best all-rounders in Sussex's history.

Wicketkeeper Arthur Lang was killed in action in France in 1915. There is surviving film footage of wicketkeeper Arthur Lang playing for the county at the Horsham cricket weekend in 1913 showing him coming down the pavilion steps.

Jack Nason was killed in action in Belgium. As a 17-year-old he scored a half-century for Sussex.

In all, eight Sussex players and secretary Francis Oddie were killed during the Great War, and two players lost their lives during the Second World War.

Roger Packham said: "There were nine who were killed in the First World War but there were others who were badly injured or had hair-raising experiences who won't be on the memorial but who will be in the book."

Elias "Patsy" Hendren

Patsy’s Hat

Throwback Thursday


Patsy's Hat

From Test match level right down to under-8s enjoying their first taste of cricket, protective helmets have been part and parcel of cricket for more than three decades now.

But the origins of wearing something to protect the skull go back to the pre-War era and a player synonymous with Middlesex but with strong Sussex links as well.

Patsy Hendren was one of the great pre-War batsman, playing in 51 Tests and scoring more than 60,000 runs in his career including a staggering 177 centuries.

He was also something of a character, who would liven up games going nowhere with imaginative declarations or bowling changes.

Patsy – his real name was Elias but he was called Patsy because of his Irish ancestry – was also astute in recognising, unlike some of his peers, that a cricket ball on the head could hurt. Or rather, his wife did.

In 1933 Hendren caused something of a sensation at Lord’s when he came out to bat against the West Indies' fast bowlers Constantine and Martindale in a Test match wearing a special cap.

Made by his wife, this cap had three peaks, two of which covered the ears and temples, and was lined with sponge rubber.

Two years earlier Hendren had been struck on the head by a bouncer and wanted extra protection. He said that wearing the special cap – it could hardly be described as a helmet – also allowed him to play the hook and pull shots with more confidence.

Hendren retired and turned to cricket coaching, first at Harrow School and then for four years after the War at Hove. The late Jack Oakes, who played for Sussex between 1937-51, remembers a happy-go-lucky character that enjoyed passing on his knowledge to young players: “Patsy coming to Sussex was a great boost for the county. He helped a lot of the youngsters after the War and was always smiling and joking.”

Hendren returned to Middlesex to become the county’s scorer and died in 1962.

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