Adolf Hitler despised cricket, considering it un-German and decadent. And Berlin in 1937 was not a time to be going against the Fuhrer’s wishes. But hot on the heels of the 1936 Olympics, an enterprising cricket fanatic of enormous bravery, Felix Menzel, somehow persuaded his Nazi leaders to invite an English team to play his motley band of part-timers.
That team was the Gentlemen of Worcestershire, an ill-matched group of mavericks, minor nobility, ex-county cricketers, rich businessmen and callow schoolboys – led by former Worcestershire CC skipper Major Maurice Jewell. Ordered ‘not to lose’ by the MCC, Jewell and his men entered the 'Garden of Beasts' to play two unofficial Test matches against Germany.
Against a backdrop of repression, brutality and sporadic gunfire, the Gents battled searing August heat, matting pitches, the skill and cunning of Menzel, and opponents who didn't always adhere to the laws and spirit of the game. The tour culminated in a match at the very stadium which a year before had witnessed one of sport's greatest spectacles and a sinister public display of Nazi might.
Despite the shadow cast by the cataclysmic conflict that was shortly to engulf them, Dan Waddell's vivid and detailed account of the Gentlemen of Worcestershire's 1937 Berlin tour is a story of triumph: of civility over barbarity, of passion over indifference and hope over despair.