Chapter Seven

Wartime Cricket

The 1939 season was concluded on the day prior to war being declared on Germany but, unlike the First World War, this war did not stop Lancashire League cricket. The engagement of professionals was suspended, otherwise it was business as usual. Obviously several of the amateurs were called up to serve in the armed forces whilst others were engaged in special duties. In between their respective actions some found time to play cricket. In the years 1940 to 1944, Nelson finished in 8th., 3rd., 6th., 10th., and 7th. respectively.

During those dark times one or two performances shone out like beacons. On 19th July 1941, Nelson entertained Burnley and making his debut for Nelson was 15 year old Roy Pickles. Nelson batted first and made 158 all out. Burnley struggled in reply but appeared to be holding out for a draw when, with 30 minutes remaining, Pickles was introduced into the attack with the score on 57 for 3. Young Roy performed the hat-trick in his third over and finished with a bowling analysis of 4 overs, 1 maiden, 7 runs, 5 wickets, as Burnley were dismissed for 67 with one minute to spare. Mr.E.Crabtree, League President, presented the match ball to Roy to mark his remarkable feat.

On 16th May 1942, at home to Bacup, Billy Windle (116 not out) and Harry Thomason (78 not out) made 204 for the opening partnership to create a new club record. In the very next match, away to Bacup on the 23rd May, the same two batsmen took Nelson's score to 107 for 0, Windle collecting 54 whilst Thomason made 50, before the innings was declared closed.

Then on 29th April 1944, Nelson were hosts to Accrington and batted first. They compiled 181 for 6 in 35 overs before declaring, Harry Thomason batting through the innings for an unbeaten 86. Accrington got off to a terrible start, losing their first four wickets for one run. They never recovered and were all out for 18 with Ralph Wood recording the fantastic figures of 5.1 overs, 4 maidens, 5 runs, 8 wickets (including the hat-trick in his third over). In the home fixture with Haslingden, W.E. Windle (82 not out) and H.Thomason (90 not out) produced an unbeaten opening stand of 176 before S. Aspden took 6 for 25 to help dismiss the opposition for 93.

The 1945 campaign saw the return of the professionals although the League did not make it compulsory for clubs to engage one. All but two, Church and Rishton, did and Nelson's choice was A.E. Nutter of Lancashire. Unfortunately the R.A.F. made several calls on his services and he was not available for a good many matches. However, he did show his undoubted talent in one match in particular. On 19th May he took all ten Lowerhouse wickets for 13 runs. Nevertheless he finished on the losing side as Nelson, needing 68 to win, were bowled out for 59.

That season was unique in regard to the points system. Two points were awarded for a win except where an all-amateur side defeated a side which included a professional. In such an event the reward was three points. Church became champions despite having won three less matches than the second placed team, East Lancashire. The leading positions were :-

The Championship returned to Nelson in 1946 with Albert Hartley as professional. In an early season encounter with Enfield as visitors to Seedhill, Nelson recorded their highest score against Enfield - 239 for 3 declared. An opening stand of exactly 100 between Winslow and Thomason put Nelson well on the way. Winslow was out for 41 but Thomason went on to score 96 and Johnny Greenwood added a quick 52 to enable the declaration. With Greenwood and professional Hartley both taking four wickets Enfield could only muster 134 before their final wicket fell.

One crucial victory that season came in the match at Lowerhouse on 8th June. Lowerhouse declared their innings closed at 185 for 4 after facing 47 overs. Winslow and Thomason put on 106 for the first wicket before the former went for 71. Johnny Greenwood then joined Thomason and pushed the score onto 186 without losing another wicket. The entire innings had taken only 31 overs.

Nelson finished in third place in 1947 and the high-light was yet another century opening partnership between Thomason and Winslow. They compiled 118 against Bacup before the former was out for 73. The following season saw Nelson come third again. Both Hawkwood and Winslow exceeded 700 runs whilst Cyril Duerden also passed the 500 mark. On 15 May 1948, at home to Accrington, Winslow (127 not out) and Hawkwood (60 not out) put on 129 for the third wicket, enabling Nelson to declare at 225 for 2. Accrington then succumbed for 98. One week later on Turf Moor, the same two batsmen opened Nelson's innings and Hawkwood was on 105 and Winslow on 87 when it was decided to close the innings at 198 for 0. Although Alec Birtwell did well to take 6 for 16, Burnley held out for a draw on 134 for 8.

Freddie Dowden, who had been the regular wicket-keeper for the First Eleven since 1927, retired in 1948 after obtaining 329 victims (213 caught and 116 stumped).

In 1949 the popular Australian, Jack Pettiford, came to Nelson and, whilst not helping the club to any honours, he impressed club members with his stylish batsmanship. He made the, then, second highest aggregate for a Nelson batsman - 866 runs. One match during that season deserves special mention. On 7th May when Enfield were the visitors to Seedhill, there were two century stands in the Nelson innings of 210 for 2 declared. Winslow (51) and Hawkwood (94 not out) made 101 for the first wicket and this was followed by a stand of 109 between Hawkwood and Pettiford (63). Enfield replied with 30 all out, Arthur Riley taking 5 for 15.

Pettiford scored another 860 runs in 1950 despite atrocious weather. 17 of Nelson's 26 fixtures ended in draws and a mid-table position was achieved again. Hawkwood scored 487 for an average of 40.58 whilst Winslow's 467 runs included another magnificent innings of 125 not out.