Saturday, 7 December 2013
Cricketers in Wartime - Major Robert "Bob" Crisp, D.S.O, M.C, 3rdRTR
This time, a look at another absolutely fascinating and amazingly colourful character, South Africa's Bob Crisp. He played Test cricket for his country nine times in the mid-thirties as a bowler, and for Worcestershire in England, where he turned in a pretty respectable bowling average. He's also the only bowler ever to take four wickets in four balls twice in first class cricket, and the only Test cricketer to have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro twice. (There's a part of me suspects that record won't stand for ever, given the number of charity climbs of the latter that happen of late, and the propensity for retired sportsmen to do charitable things, mind!)
According to the England keeper Godfrey Evans (to whom Crisp was apparently a hero for this) he was the first man to allegedly make 100 on a tour. That's 100 women. He was, by all accounts, a thorough womanising rogue, even at the age of 70+ when living alone on Crete!
However, as previously in this series, it's Crisp the soldier who interests us. He served in Greece and North Africa with the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment, where he was a troop commander. He had the dubious distinction of being busted down in rank and reinstated three times, and having six tanks destroyed from underneath him in 29 days in North Africa. He was decorated (though apparently Monty intervened to limit the awards he was giving, due to the issues with him being demoted!), and seriously wounded during the campaign.
He wrote two books about his service in 3rdRTR - one ("The Gods Were Neutral", about his service in Greece) seems to be only available second-hand [search link courtesy of the excellent used.addall.com which I thoroughly recommend for used book searches], but "Brazen Chariots", about his time in North Africa during Operation: Crusader, is widely considered to be among the best first-hand accounts of the period, and is readily available from Amazon. (I just ordered myself a copy!)
For more on the colourful life of Bob Crisp, there's a fascinating article, drawing heavily on interviews with his son, available on the Guardian's website.