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Field of Shadows: The English Cricket Tour of Nazi Germany 1937 By Dan Waddell

Release date: 28th May, 2015
Publisher: Corgi

List Price: £9.99
Our Price: £8.54
You Save: £1.45 (14%)
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Dan Waddell’s captivating, thoroughly entertaining and remarkably well-researched account of the 1937 tour to Germany by the Gentlemen of Worcester is now out in paperback. It would make a welcome addition to anyone’s sporting library.

When it comes to research, Waddell is a tenacious beast. Starting with the germ of an idea picked up from George Orwell, he tracks down James Coldham’s book, German Cricket: A Brief History before discovering that the Gentlemen of Worcester cricket club is still in existence (its secretary is BBC radio correspondent Phil Mackie), although details of the club’s 1937 tour to Nazi Germany are a little thin on the ground.

Unmoved by this, Waddell presses on, piecing together a cast of youths, eccentrics and aristocrats of whom PG Wodehouse would be proud as they head towards Berlin, a city teetering between the decadence of its pre-war Cabaret era and a considerably more sinister, fully-fledged war footing.

While the Nazis are, rightly, depicted as ruthless, not all Germans are tarred with the same brush. Felix Menzel, for instance, was a German who both made the tour possible and played himself, but the sense of impending doom is startlingly evident. One tourist wrote that “we could always hear the sound of machine guns” as not just the German capital but the whole nation was swamped with propaganda and aggressive, combative commentary on radio and at the cinema.

There is, of course, an easy contrast to make between the slightly diffident English gentlemen clad in cricketing whites and the brutal, callous, SS members donning their ubiquitous black uniforms. Explaining that some outrageous German appeals are ‘just not cricket’ would clearly have been a futile exercise: by 1937, the Nazis were interested in war and little else, particularly an English game.

Yet both sides were guilty of mixing politics and sport and although tour match accounts were conspicuous by their absence, this does not deter Waddell. He employs lashings of artistic licence to mix what documentary evidence he has to produce reports that make the reader wish he had been there.

It helps that Waddell is a keen amateur cricketer himself, a veteran of the annual club tour, but given the impressive volume of research he has undertaken, he never falls foul of turning this into a prolonged account of visits to nightclubs and encounters with the opposite sex.

It’s rare that a book focusing primarily on an sombre historic event can be funny and thoroughly engrossing at the same time, but Field Of Shadows certainly is.


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