WENDY ACRES has a battered telegram which was sent during the Second World War to her father, Jack. In big capitals, it reads: “ACCEPT NO OTHER OFFERS. ARRIVING TONIGHT. MANAGER YORKSHIRE CC.”

And so it suggests that even though Thirsk-born Jack was 32 when the war broke out in 1932, Yorkshire Cricket Club had finally woken up to his manifest talents with bat and ball and were dashing up to his home in Darlington to offer him a lucrative contract.

Could this really be true?

The Northern Echo: Jack Acres at the RA wicket at Brinkburn Road, Darlington

Jack Acres at the Brinkburn Road wicket


After Jack finished his education at the Darlington Technical College, he was apprenticed as joiner at Blackett’s the builders in Bondgate. On qualifying, he moved to the North of England School Furnishing Co. (NESCO) in Eastmount Road, which specialised in fitting out laboratories, libraries and churches and especially schools.

“When the Second World War broke out, all the young men in the drawing office were called up except Dad and the chief draughtsman,” says Wendy. “They spent the war designing easily portable furniture for use in the services.

“After about two years he was promoted to chief draughtsman.

“He was certainly kept busy. As well as long hours at work, he taught three evenings a week at the ‘Tech’, was on fire-watching rotas at work, at our church, in our road and he grew most of our vegetables in his allotment in Newton Lane.

“He still found time, however, to play cricket on Saturday afternoons for Darlington Railway Athletic and we lived less than 100 yards from the ground.”

Memories 625 three weeks ago told the story of the “RA” as it opened its 110th cricketing season on its Brinkburn Road ground. Scrapbooks, compiled in the first half of the 20th Century by RA stalwart Harold Harrow tell how during 1940, the RA played a couple of fund-raising friendlies against teams of soldiers stationed at Catterick Garrison.

But these were no ordinary soldiers. The scrapbook reveals that the first match was played in Catterick and the RA batted first and scored 122 all out. Yorkshire slow left arm bowler Hedley Verity, who had played in 40 Tests for England, took four wickets for 24 runs.

The Northern Echo: Herbert Sutcliffe

Then out strode the Catterick openers: Herbert Sutcliffe (above), of Yorkshire and England, and Len Hutton, one of the greatest batsmen of all time who would later be knighted for his services to cricket, also of Yorkshire and England.

The Northern Echo:

Cricket legend Len Hutton meets the Queen in 1952

“It was amusing to note world famous players like Sutcliffe and Hutton being just as anxious to ‘break their duck’ as the ordinary schoolboy,” said The Northern Echo. “This was the case at Catterick on Saturday when an eleven from this district met Darlington RA. Though Sutcliffe lost his wicket early, Hutton made a brilliant century after a skier to mid-off had been put on the floor when he was only 20.

“The RA put up a good show, but lost an interesting game.”

A repeat fixture was arranged against the RA 1st XI at Brinkburn Road for May 2, 1940, and although the scrapbook does not contain the scorecard, it does contain an Echo photo of captain Len Hutton arriving at the ground (below).

The Northern Echo: Sgt Len Hutton arrives at the RA ground on May 2, 1940, ahead of scoring his brilliant century for the Catterick XI

“Dad had not been picked for the RA 1st XI that day and was preparing to attend as a spectator when there was a ring at the front door bell. It was the RA club secretary, who said: “Jack, the visitors are a man short. Can you get your whites on and play for them?”

“So Dad did just that, he played for ‘Yorkshire’, although not in the accepted sense.

“Mum and I went to watch. I was given strict instructions to behave myself – I was about three at the time. Dad, as an unknown quantity, spent most of the match fielding on the outfield and did not get an opportunity to bat.

“And the telegram? Well, the lads in the School Furnishing Co office sent it as a joke. What gives it away is the name of the ‘office of despatch’ which was Darlington.”

Nevertheless, just sharing a field, just sharing a dressing room, with Sir Leonard Hutton, whose 364 against Australia in 1938 is still England’s highest individual Test score, is a story worth telegramming home about.

The Northern Echo:

THE RA scrapbook also includes a cutting from the Echo that tells that Hedley Verity (above) captained a Garrison XI that played against an “augmented Darlington side” at Feethams in front of a crowd of 2,000 – a collection raised £12 for the Red Cross and the sale of scorecards raised £9 “which will provide comforts for searchlight units”.

Sutcliffe again disappointed with the bat, run out for 10, but Verity – despite being classed primarily as a bowler as he took 1,956 wickets for Yorkshire and England at an average of 14.9 – top scored with 53. He also got two of the five Darlington wickets that had fallen when the match was declared a draw.

Leeds-born Verity was 34 when war broke out. He joined the Green Howards and was stationed at the Richmond depot where he trained new recruits. He was promoted to captain and sent to India and Persia, where his health deteriorated badly. He refused to be sent home, and joined the Allied invasion of Sicily.

On July 19, 1943, he led his men in an attack on enemy positions at Catania only to be hit in the chest by shrapnel. Badly wounded, he had to be left behind, with his men hearing his last order: “Keep going!”

He was captured, endured two operations before succumbing to his wounds on July 31.