by Anthony Condon and John Broom

Published by:
Pitch Publishing
9 Donnington Park, 85 Birdham Road,
Chichester, West Sussex PO20 7AJ


Copies can be purchased from:

Pages: 352

MRP: £25.00

I am happy to accept that I had never heard about the subject of this book, a tour of England, South Africa and Australia by an Australian Imperial Forces team in 1919.

It is easy to see how World War I ravaged many areas of civilian life and cricket may not have been seen as one of the highest priorities. Many lives were lost, including cricketers, both international and at lower levels. Some who survived the war were past their best four years later and financial issues were other problem areas for clubs rebuilding after the years of inaction on the cricket pitch. It is easy to forget that, when the path was finally clear again, the governing body was acutely aware and disinclined to resume Tests so quickly against Australia being uncertain about the strength of a side playing their opponents.

Bear in mind also that by the end of the war, the only Test-playing nations were England, Australia and South Africa. Which is where the Australian Imperial Forces team comes on to the scene. When the picture on the war front became slightly brighter later on, a tour by serving Australian military was mooted. As the book recounts, there were many hiccups along the way but eventually the tour by these gallant men took place and it is no exaggeration to say that their presence in England in 1919 - as evidenced by the vast crowds who flocked to see them - reignited the joy of watching cricket after the war years.

Some of the Australian squad will be recognisable including Herbie Collins, Charlie Kellaway, Bert Oldfield and "Nip" Pellew but others will be more anonymous. Dr. Anthony Condon and Dr. John Broom have done a fantastic job in revisiting this very important tour and piecing it together from available records and sources.

Tours even forty years ago used to be pretty extensive and today's versions bear little resemblance to their predecessors. Read From Darkness into Light and one will see just how many games the AIF played in all parts of the United Kingdom. Travel was by train and sea back to Australia, when after this lengthy trip, they were finally repatriated with their families.

Both of the good doctor authors have their own historical interests which adds to this fascinating book. Each of the cricketers who toured deserves recognition for the good which they provided and so readers will find out more about these players, both on the field and their military service. I was also interested to read about their religious facets which presumably came from Dr. John Broom who has written a book about Christianity in the British Armed Services in both wars.

I am not always an avid reader of a book's Contents page but this section of From Darkness into Light is certainly worthwhile looking at first. One will notice that the Introduction lasts for almost 100 pages. No, it is not a typing error: in fact, it covers many areas before and during the tour's inception and, when finally the reader reaches, if you like, Chapter 1 and coverage of the games, there is very much more of historical interest aside from the match accounts. For anyone like myself who is guilty at times of flitting through Introductions, it is wise in From Darkness into Light to spend more time on this one!

The authors have also done well to find some photographs of the tour. There is so much of interest in this book and I feel rather ashamed at not knowing of this tour. If we are thankful to the AIF for keeping cricket going, we should be equally grateful to Drs. Anthony Condon and John Booth for bringing this historical story into our orbit for, like me, the first time or for those who are more familiar with it.