Remembrance Sunday has added poignancy for Rye Cricket Club

The headstone of former Rye cricketer Charles Pepper
The headstone of former Rye cricketer Charles Pepper

There is the added poignancy this Remembrance Sunday, 100 years on from November 11, 1918, of remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Rye Cricket Club has cause to remember a player who made the ultimate sacrifice, but one tinged with extraordinary sadness and irony.

On September 17, 1917 at Paschendale, Sergeant Bill Pepper, aged 42, of the Notts and Derbyshire, Sherwood Foresters Regiment, was killed by a shell. He was buried at La Clytte Military Cemetery.

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He had enlisted in 1914, and was part of the first wave of troops to travel to France at the start of the First World War in 1914.

Charles Pepper’s connection to Rye Cricket Club was formed in 1895. At the age of 18, he was an outstanding young cricketer.

The famous England cricketer, Arthur Shrewsbury, provided a link to Rye Cricket Club’s president, Lord Sheffield, through their joint activities running celebrity cricket matches, which included W. G. Grace, and a tour to Australia which led to Australia’s premier cricket tournament, The Sheffield Shield.

In the 1895 and 1896 seasons as Rye’s professional, Charles Pepper made an immediate impact, taking 100 wickets with his leg spin and scoring 506 runs in 1896.

At the end of season AGM, chairman Reginald Blomfield proposed the health of Charles, saying, “They could have not have had a better, for he was an excellent cricketer, and a first rate sportsman…..and he had been cheerful and hardworking.”

In the following seasons, Charles played for Nottinghamshire CCC, Bedfordshire, and club sides in Brechin, Darlington, Kendall and Burton. He also played football for Notts County.

The story of Charles has great poignancy because he lies in a grave near Ypres, the headstone of which, and the Cross of Sacrifice marking the cemetery, were both designed by Blomfield, the Rye CC chairman who 20 years earlier had praised Charles as a Rye cricketer.