On April 25 1915, ANZAC troops landed on Turkey’s Gallipoli Peninsula. Among the thousands of soldiers present that day were Alan Wallace, Nat Williams and Haami Grace. These three men came to Gallipoli from vastly different backgrounds but they shared one common bond; cricket.
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli, the New Zealand Cricket Museum is launching On A Foreign Field at the Basin Reserve. Centred on eleven New Zealand cricketers who went from heroes on the cricket field to heroes on the battlefield, On A Foreign Field highlights the impact that war had on our summer game.
Many cricketers took part in WWI, as the call of queen and country become louder than bat and ball. The players selected for On A Foreign Field cover New Zealand from Bluff to Auckland and each has a story that goes far beyond the game of cricket.
Barry Pateman, exhibition researcher, details the selection process for the eleven: “This wasn’t a particular easy or pleasant process. One felt a great sense of loss when a name was omitted from the eleven, combined with a determination not to let the man disappear from our history. Each of our eleven has their own story. The reckless gambler, the quiet hero, the steady hand, and we wanted to tell their story and, consequently, bring these men back alive as best we could.”
While the focus is on eleven men, many others involved in cricket are also represented and the role of the game in society is explored. Jamie Bell, New Zealand Cricket Museum Director, explains the important role women played in the game during WWI: “The first women’s interprovincial match wasn’t played in New Zealand until 1910 so there wasn’t a great deal of organised women’s cricket being played here prior to WWI. But, rather than stifling the game’s development, the war actually led women to becoming more involved in cricket and many clubs sprung up during the war years.
In fact, women were vital in keeping the game going which was something the sport’s administrators placed a high emphasis on.”
On A Foreign Field opens on ANZAC Day 2015. It is free and open to the public during the Basin Reserve’s open hours. The New Zealand Cricket Museum would like to thank the Wellington City Council for the support that made telling these stories a reality.