Alan Marshal was born in Warwick on June 12, 1883, later moving to Brisbane with his parents. His earliest memory of playing cricket was with his two brothers outside their house in Gladstone Road, South Brisbane. His passion for the game continued as he played for South Brisbane State School and Brisbane Grammar School. He developed into an all-rounder – a hard hitting middle order batsman and pace bowler. Standing at 6 foot 2 inches (188 cm), he used his height to his advantage when bowling. Marshal progressed to club cricket playing for South Brisbane and later with Paddington in Sydney. In April 1904 he made his debut for Queensland against New South Wales at the Brisbane Cricket Ground (Gabba). In 1905 he left for England where he played with various teams before qualifying for Surrey. During this time Marshal received great acclaim and success, scoring over 1000 runs each season for Surrey between 1907 and 1909.
In 1908, England wicket-keeper Dick Lilley praised the Queenslander during his stint with county side Surrey – “Marshal is a fine all-round player, and as a batsman he reminds me in style and method of Australia’s great batsman, Victor Trumper… besides being a fine hitter, [he] also possesses a sound defence, and is most attractive to watch, for apart from being merely a forcing batsman, he has an easy, graceful style, and can play well all round the wicket”. Marshal also drew the admiration of the legendary W.G.Grace – “Since he arrived in England he has come on wonderfully, and is now one of the most promising all-round young cricketers we have had for years”. Grace also likened Marshal to Victor Trumper.
Marshal’s performances for Surrey were officially recognised in 1909 when he was proclaimed by Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack as one of their five cricketers of the year, along side his Surrey team mate Jack Hobbs, who later became one of cricket’s greatest batsmen. Sadly Marshal’s stint with Surrey ended acrimoniously in 1910 after falling foul of the club who terminated his contract.
Marshal returned to Australia and continued to play for Queensland until the outbreak of the Great War. He enlisted in Brisbane on October 19, 1914, as a private with the 15th Battalion AIF and saw action at Gallipoli. In July of 1915 Marshal was diagnosed with enteric fever and admitted to a military hospital at Imtarf, Malta, where he subsequently died on July 23.
Marshal’s war dossier (digitised by National Archives of Australia) makes for interesting reading. It appears Marshal was frequently absent from parade or roll call. At the Broadmeadows Military Camp in Victoria in November 1914 he was absent without leave twice. While stationed at Heliopolis, Egypt in February 1915 he was again absent from parade over two consecutive days.
The dossier also contains a letter from Marshal’s widowed mother who writes that the cable she received reporting her son’s death referred only to A. Marshall. She both objects to her son’s name being mispelled (Marshall rather than Marshal), “…my son’s name is Alan Marshal. A name that ought to be well known as he was famous both in England and Australia as a brilliant cricketer”, and displays her desperate hope that it may be a case of mistaken identity – “In the cable I received they say A Marshall died of enteric fever how am I to know if this is my son or not.”
Alan Marshal was buried at Pieta Military Cemetery in Malta. Australian and UK newspapers carried the news that the talented cricketer was dead. Marshal’s story is just one of many; young men with promising lives and careers ahead of them tragically cut short by the Great War.
First class career – Batting
Matches – 119 / Innings – 198 / Not Out – 13 / Runs – 5177 / Highest Score – 176 /Average – 27.98 /100s: 8 /50s: 31
First class career – Bowling
Balls – 5355 / Maidens – 203 / Runs – 2718 / Wickets – 119 / Best Bowling – 7 for 41 / Average – 22.84 /7 times took 5 wickets during an innings and once took 10 wickets in a match
Which Anzac stories are important to retell, and how will a new generation of Australians identify with them? Join us on October 13-14 for the next Q ANZAC 100: Memories for a New Generation symposium, How we remember, as we discuss the theme of commemoration and remembering.
Myles Sinnamon – Project Coordinator, State Library of Queensland