Most cricket archives record 289 first class cricketers who were killed in World War 1. However research over the last year has confirmed the identity of GF Macnamara who is, of course, the 290th.
George Frederick Macnamara
Born: June 1893 Dublin
Died: 18 August 1916 near Loos France
Educated: The Oratory School; New College, Oxford
Occupation: Army officer at time of death
Debut: 10 July 1913 Raeburn Place, Edinburgh
Cap Number: 290
Right hand batsman, medium pace hand unknown
Teams: New College Oxford, Leinster
NB: This player has, previously, been incorrectly identified as SF Macnamara (1880-1913). There is no doubt that this was incorrect and that the cricketer whose details follow has now been correctly identified.
George Macnamara was a good all round sportsman. An upper order batsman in the classical mould, he was also a useful medium pacer and, at school, a fine tennis player, but, arguably, his best game was football at which he excelled during both his School and University days.
He was one of the six children of Richard and Mary Macnamara, Richard being a prosperous solicitor, able not only to send at least one son - he had three - to an English boarding school but also maintain a household in 1911 including four servants and a governess for his eight year old daughter.
Oratory, always one of Britain's leading Catholic Public Schools, was then situated not in its present Oxfordshire setting, but in suburban Birmingham at Edgbaston. Its most important cricket match of the year was that against Beaumont College, indeed, having been first played in 1867 and moved to Lord's in 1926, it remained so until Beaumont closed in 1967. However in the three years from 1908 in which George played, he missed the 1909 match, it was held at Oxford University College grounds. His first appearance was at Queen's College in a match left drawn, heavily in Oratory's favour. Batting at No 8, he was bowled for 9 by Beaumont's opening bowler William Thompson, who was to die three years later. There was some Irish interest in the Beaumont side with the batting opened by William Mooney, later to tour the USA and Canada with Frank Browning's Irish side in 1909, as well as Frank Considine, son of one former Irish cricketer and nephew of two others. The Beaumont XI also included TJA O'Brien, son of Sir Timothy and a highly promising batsman. When the clouds of war rolled away, he, like George and at least one other member of the Oratory side, opening batsman George French, would not be there to resume his game. Nor would two of French's four brothers, all of whom also played for Oratory 1st XI.
By 1910 the match had moved to the Jesus College ground and George had moved to No 1 in the order. Unfortunately his form did not improve as he was out for 7. However, despite a fifty from O'Brien, Oratory were victorious. 1911 however saw George in fine form throughout the season. He hit a career best 118 against local rivals King Edward's, Birmingham and then, still at the Jesus ground, took a leading part in a convincing win over Beaumont. Opening both the bowling and batting, he began by taking 2/39, helping to put Beaumont out for 178. Then he put their attack to the sword, batting magnificently to score an undefeated 108 and see his side to victory by 8 wickets.
He was equally, if not more, effective on the football field. Always playing in the forward line, the traditional 5-3-2-1 formation being in use, he was the School 1st XI's leading goal scorer, once netting five against City of Birmingham Police. Football rather than cricket was his main claim to sporting fame while at Oxford after he entered New College in the Michaelmas Term of 1911. He played cricket for the College, but there is no sign of his having been considered for University trial. However the winter game was a different matter. In his final season 1913-14, he made the University side as a half back and was awarded his half Blue ( football not then being considered worthy of a full one) for the match against Cambridge in February which the Light Blues won 2-1. Football, College cricket and military activities in the University Officers' Training Corps must have kept George from his books for much of the time. He graduated in 1914, but had only a 4th class History Degree to show for his efforts.
His one match for Ireland came against Scotland at the Raeburn Place ground in July 1913. He had shown his all round talents when available for Leinster in University vacations and was one of four substitutes called late into the team for this match. The side was led by WP (Pat) Hone whose delayed second innings declaration, probably condemned the match to a draw as Scotland, set 387 to win, finished on 246-8. He could not, however, have been accused of selfish captaincy as he was on 92*. George had quite a good debut and it was unfortunate for him that Ireland had no other fixtures that season. Ireland began by scoring 224, at 7 George who together with Gus Kelly gave the innings some much needed impetus, making 30 out of the 64 added while he was at the wicket. He was ninth out being dismissed lbw. He then opened the Irish bowling with Kelly but bowled only 9 overs taking 0-28 as the Scots also made 224. Ireland with Hone and Cyril Bateman - another who was destined not to survive the coming conflict - well to the fore responded with 386/5 before the declaration. Promoted to No 6 with quick runs needed George made 21 out of a 5th wicket stand of 61 with his captain. He bowled four wicketless overs in Scotland's second innings. Hone thought it a most enjoyable match, It is to be hoped that George agreed and had good memories to sustain him through the dark days which lay ahead.
George was commissioned as Second Lieutenant (on probation) in the 4th Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in August 1915, having already, of course, had some basic military training in the Oxford University OTC. The following April his rank was confirmed and shortly afterwards he was promoted to Acting Lieutenant. He had since his commission, though officially in the 4th, been attached to the 8th Battalion of the RDF, which became heavily involved in the Battle of the Somme. The New College records state that his death, in action, occurred " near Loos". Irish troops were, at the time, involved in defending the Loos Salient, though the 8th were also involved in heavy fighting around Ginchy, a key point in the Battle of the Somme.
George Frederick Macnamara was one of thousands of young men whose lives were cruelly cut short by "The War to end all Wars." There is no knowing what he and they might have achieved both on sports' fields and in the wider world had events taken a different course. His grave may be found in the Philisophe British Cemetery at Mazingarbe in the Pas de Calais, along with 1995 other First world War dead, 277 of whom are unidentified.
Wisden, during the First World War years, has almost countless obituaries of young men who died in the conflict, some who had done little more than play cricket for their House XI at public school. However George's name is not to be found among them, nor for that matter are those of the French brothers. A Major George Macnamara, a regular army officer aged 27, Dublin born and whose home was in Co Clare is included. He is listed as having played "regimental cricket" and was killed in 1917. As far as I am aware he had no connection with the subject of this biography.
NB I am greatly indebted to Dora Nash, Archivist of The Oratory School and Jennifer Thorp, Archivist of New College, Oxford for their considerable help with details of George's School and University careers.