08 November 2017

Casualties of Passchendaele: Serjeant Colin Blythe

During the two world wars cricketers from all over the world redirected their sporting energies and passion towards the war effort. A huge number of them were never to return, including twenty-one Test players. Colin Blythe, was one of the most distinguished cricketers to die in the First World War.

Serjeant Colin Blythe

12th Bn. King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry

Died: 8 November 1917

Aged: 38

Born in Deptford in May 1879, Colin Blythe, also known as Charlie Blythe, was an English First-class cricketer who played for Kent County Cricket Club as a slow-left-arm bowler.

His career record in first-class cricket was phenomenal – 2,503 wickets at an average of 16.81 – and 17 of those were taken in a single day when he destroyed Northamptonshire with figures of 10 for 30 and 7 for 18. In 19 Tests he took exactly 100 wickets at 18.63.  

Colin enlisted in August 1914, attained the rank of sergeant and in September 1917, while on attachment to the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, faced the horrors of the Battle of Passchendaele as an engineer working on a military railway line. Less than seven weeks later, on 8 November, he was killed by a German shell, not far from where he lies buried in Oxford Road Cemetery, Belgium.

In choosing the words which form the epitaph on the headstone of his grave, Colin Blythe’s widow proudly proclaimed his sporting eminence – In loving memory of my dear husband, the Kent & England cricketer.