When Hitler Played Cricket…

19 March 2010

Until today I had not known that Adolf Hitler played cricket. Once. Apparently. This is, actually, reassuring since it seems that cricket found him out and, as it is wont to do, smoked out the essential elements of Hitler’s character. Ben Macintyre has the story:

Adolf Hitler played cricket. He raised his own cricket team to play some British prisoners of war during the First World War, then declared the sport “unmanly” and tried to rewrite the laws of the game.

The Führer’s First XI sounds like a Spike Milligan joke, but this small nugget of history is true. In all the millions of words written about Hitler, his telling brush with cricket seems to have escaped the attention of historians.


[…]“He had come to them [the British POWs] one day and asked whether he might watch an eleven of cricket at play so as to become initiated into the mysteries of our national game,” writes Locker- Lampson. “They welcomed him, of course, and wrote out the rules for him in the best British sport-loving spirit.”

According to Locker-Lampson, Hitler returned a few days later, having assembled his own team, and challenged the British to a “friendly match”. As Simpson points out, Locker-Lampson infuriatingly failed to inform his readers who won, but we can assume that the British POWs thrashed Hitler’s XI, because he immediately declared the game insufficiently violent for German Fascists.

Hitler, it seems, had an ulterior motive for wanting to play the game: “He desired to study it as a possible medium for the training of troops off duty and in times of peace.” He also wanted the game to be Nazified.

“He had conned over [sic] the laws of cricket, which he considered good enough no doubt for pleasure-loving English people. But he proposed entirely altering them for the serious- minded Teuton.” Specifically, he “advocated the withdrawal of the use of pads. These artificial ‘bolsters’ he dismissed as unmanly and un-German . . . in the end he also recommended a bigger and harder ball.”


Of course, one could argue that this shows that Hitler was, as ever, harking back to an imagined golden age in which the game was played on the South Downs in rustic fashion by shepherds armed with crooks and were accompanied by Valkyries singing Wagner and all the rest of it. But I think there’s no need to be quite so charitable and it remains the case, I believe, that, Lord Harris and DR Jardine* notwithstanding, there is something about the game that dictators cannot properly appreciate.

*A hero, incidentally, if a slightly chilling one.

[Hat-tip: Norm]


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  • rndtechnologies786

    Nice blog.

  • daniel maris

    On the subject of AH, and in the context of the Catholic Church’s current troubles, one wonders whether Hitler’s experiences as an altar boy may have altered the course of his life. He was a good pupil at school until about the time he became an altar boy. Then his performance fell away markedly. He certainly had it in for the Church and fully intended to destroy it after (presumed) victory in the war. It could explain his sexual difficulties.

    Well, it’s one more theory for the pile.

  • Peter Crawford

    19th March today. Give it another twelve days and try again.

    By the way all accounts suggest that the young Adolf Hitler was a sound and brave soldier. No evidence of Jew-hatred either. Life is strange.

  • Beefeater

    No pads. Bigger, harder ball. No bat. Crawl off when out.

  • New Ball Please

    Perhaps this is more than a fascinating footnote in history. Could the cricketing Corporal have rejected another protective item as ‘unmanly’ with tragic rather than merely ironic consequences?

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