Canadians who weren’t bowled over by cricket

Canadian soldiers braved the worst the trenches could throw at them  ­ — but found one thing about World War One hard to take: cricket!

By 1918, three large hotels and a hospital in Buxton were turned over to the rehabilitation of Canadian forces injured in the fighting, and sport played a great part in getting them back to fitness, research in advance of Buxton International Festival’s book programme has found.

The Buxton Canadians even raised a scratch baseball team which put up a very creditable fight against a tough American side, losing 3-1 in front of a crowd of 8,000 in Manchester.

And they also showed their mettle at cricket against Buxton CC, holding the more experienced side to a draw.

But Lieutenant R Matthews, writing in The Canadian Hospital News August 1918 edition, wished the Brits would get a move on and bring their national game up to date.

“We love the game, nearly as well as we love baseball, but Saturday’s game was typical of that slowness which to our minds spoils the game,” he wrote.

“Cricket really must get a hustle on if it wants to stand up against baseball as a Summer game. To put it mildly, more pep is required.”

The copy of The Canadian Hospital News was discovered by Cynthia Jennings , one of the Friends group which supports Buxton International Festival. She spotted it during her work as a volunteer at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery.

The Museum building itself was one of the hotels  — then called the Peak Hydro — requisitioned to house the Canadian soldiers, and the town was referred to as No 1 Canadian Discharge Depot in military circles.

The Festival will be featuring World War One and how its centenary was remembered when Jenny Waldman, who programmed the remarkable 14-18 NOW project of arts experiences across the UK, speaks about her project which involved more than 30 million people.

It was one of the largest public art projects ever, resulting in the creation of 350 million artworks, including painting, poetry and dance, as well as the amazing Peter Jackson film of soldiers’ reminiscences set against black-and-white footage which had been brought to new life in colour.

Unfortunately, not all of the Canadian soldiers who came to Buxton survived their wounds, as the town’s Commonwealth War Graves bear testimony.

Buxton Cemetery contains 54 scattered burials of the First World War, 29 of them Canadian. The cemetery also contains 22 Second World War burials, some of them servicemen from the RAF station that was at Harpur Hill at the time.

Buxton’s role in WW1 is explored in one of the Festival walks.

For more about Canadians in Buxton, go to discoverbuxton.co.uk

Jenny Waldman: 14-18 Now; Five Years of Extraordinary Art Experiences, The Palace Hotel, Buxton, July 15.

Pictured: Jenny Waldman, Buxton Hydro, now Buxton Museum; The Canadian Hospital News.