Cecil Abercrombie was born in 1886 in India. A capped rugby player for Scotland, he played one year (1913) in the County Cricket Championship for Hampshire. 13 total matches. That year he scored three hundreds including a high of 165 against Essex. In those thirteen first class matches, at the age of 28, he scored 936 runs. He also played three first class matches for the Royal Navy.
In 1914, he shipped off to War.
In May of 1916, not two years removed from his accomplishments on the cricket field, he was killed while serving aboard the HMS Defence – along with every other man on board.
His remains, and the remains of nearly 900 of his brothers in arms, still sit at the bottom of the North Sea.
The HMS Defence, a Minotaur class armored cruiser, was commissioned in 1909 and transferred to the Grand Fleet in January of 1915.
In May of 1916, the Defence, serving in the Grand Fleet as part of the Battle of Jutland in the North Sea, was struck by German artillery. One salvo caused an explosion in her rear armory, and the ensuing fire sunk the vessel to the bottom of the sea.
As mentioned earlier, none of the nearly 900 crew survived.
The Battle of Jutland was fought over naval control of the North Sea over two days in 1916. The battle is named after Jutland, Denmark, which is near where the majority of the fighting took place, and it was largest naval battle during the war.
It involved 250 ships (151 from the United Kingdom including Australia and Canada, and 99 from Germany). There were more than 6,000 killed on the Allied side, and more than 2500 on the German side. Most of them are buried in watery graves. The UK lost 14 vessels, the Germans 12.
175,600 in total tonnage and 8,500 souls sent to the bottom of the North Sea over two days in the spring of 1916.
The result of the battle was “tactically inconclusive.”
And that’s thing about World War One. There are no Trafalgars, no Waterloos, no Gettysburgs, no Battle of Midways…the decisive victories were few and far between. So many lives were lost – entire generations – and yet so often the lines held, and held, and held.
I hate to say those brave young men and women died in vain – but it is hard not to.
One of those young men was Cecil Abercrombie, cricketer. Hopefully by writing about him today, in 2013, 97 years after his death, I have given his legacy a little bit of an extension into our century, thereby keeping his name and his accomplishments alive.
Men and women might die in vain in war, but that does not mean they should be forgotten.
And so in that spirit: Cheers to Cecil Abercrombie: first class rugby player, first class cricketer, and sailor aboard the HMS Defence.