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Dan Waddell
Field of Shadows book cover

Field of Shadows

The true story of a moment of sporting history, when an English cricket team took on Nazi Germany in the months leading up to WWII.
The account of the Gentlemen of Worcestershire’s cricket tour of Berlin in August 1937 is a tale of triumph, of civility over barbarity and hope over despair, but also of the enduring beauty and calm of cricket set in contrast to the fear and brutality of a regime gearing up for war.

Berlin 1937: Hitler viewed cricket as a decadent and un-German sport. But somehow, fanatical cricket lover Felix Menzel persuaded the Nazi leaders to invite a crack English side to play his modest band of part time cricketers.
The Gentlemen of Worcestershire were the ill-matched group of Englishmen who were to go out to Berlin, led by former Worcestershire County Cricket Club captain Maurice Jewell, and ordered ‘not to lose’ by the MCC.

Jewell’s side played three unofficial Test matches against a backdrop of repression, brutality and rising tensions, but despite the shadow being cast by the cataclysmic events which were to follow, the tour proved to be a memorable and remarkable experience for the Englishmen and their German counterparts. It was ten days in which, for those taking part, the politics and tensions faded into the background, and the world was once more a place of sporting passion and good natured camaraderie.

‘Cricket is a spell; whatever our worries, whatever ails us, it all recedes when we’re on the pitch. Standing there, with the sun on your back, watching this occasionally thrilling, sometimes dull, always compelling game unfold in front of you, the world and its problems can seem a million miles away.’ Two years later and many of those involved in the series were engulfed by war. Men such as Captain Robin Whetherly, who served as a special ops agent, and the heroic Peter Huntington-Whiteley, great-great uncle of model Rosie, who led the secret assault unit created by Ian Fleming.

Perhaps most remarkable of all was Felix Menzel, a cricket obsessive for the ages. A man who risked life and limb to play cricket under the Nazis and, when the war was done, wandered from the rubble of Berlin with the surviving members of his team to ask a group of astonished English soldiers for a game.

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