The Scene: A heaving unsettled sea, and away over to the western horizon an angry yellow sun is setting clearly below a forbidding bank of the blackest of wind charged clouds.
Extract from Whispers From The Fleet by Rear-Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock, KCVO, CB. 1908
The above words almost describe the prelude to the Battle of Coronel, a naval battle fought between British and German forces on 1st November 1914 off the coast of Chile. This has a link to a previous blog – about HMS Gloucester and her involvement in the pursuit of the German warships Goeben and Breslau. Although these incidents may appear unrelated, they are not, for the first actually had a direct bearing on the latter.
Britain’s decision to declare war against Germany in August 1914 would have an impact on every aspect of life in Gloucestershire, including its iconic sports.
In 1914 W G Grace was 64 years old and in July he played his last game of cricket, scoring 69 not out for Eltham. A month later he sent a letter to the Sportsman suggesting that the county cricket season should be closed: “it is not fitting at a time like this that able-bodied men should be playing day after day, and pleasure-seekers look on…I should like to see all first-class cricketers of suitable age set a good example, and come to the aid of their country in its hour of need.” The letter was published on 27 August, and had its desired effect.
At Gloucestershire Archives we have millions of documents concerning our county’s heritage but one of our most curious possessions is not a document but a wooden door hung on a wall!
We inherited this when we moved into our present building, the old Kingsholm Council School and what makes it special is that it comes from HMS Gloucester – a Town class light cruiser built in 1909 and the eighth warship to bear the name of our city.
As we reach the 100th anniversary of Britain’s involvement in WW1, it is interesting to reflect that this door was involved in one of the first naval actions of that war, the chase of the German cruisers SMS¹ Goeben and SMS Breslau, which were then at large in the Mediterranean.