Died in action, 1944

Hedley Verity

R C Robertson-Glasgow

(Born May 18, 1905; died of wounds received in action, July 31, 1943)

Hedley Verity, Captain, The Green Howards, died of wounds a prisoner of war in Italy on July 31, 1943, some two months after his thirty-eighth birthday. He had been reported wounded and missing, and the news of his death came on September 1, exactly four years after he had played his last match for Yorkshire and, at Hove, taken seven Sussex wickets for nine runs in one innings, which finished county cricket before the war.

He received his wounds in the Eighth Army's first attack on the German positions at Catania, in Sicily. Eye-witnesses, who were a few yards from Verity when he was hit, have told the story. The objective was a ridge with strong points and pillboxes. Behind a creeping barrage Verity led his company forward 700 yards. When the barrage ceased, they went on another 300 yards and neared the ridge, in darkness. As the men advanced, through corn two feet high, tracer-bullets swept into them. Then they wriggled through the corn, Verity encouraging them with "Keep going, keep going". The moon was at their back, and the enemy used mortar-fire, Very lights and fire-bombs, setting the corn alight. The strongest point appeared to be a farm-house, to the left of the ridge; so Verity sent one platoon round to take the farmhouse, while the other gave covering fire. The enemy fire increased, and, as they crept forward, Verity was hit in the chest. Keep going, he said, and get them out of that farm-house. When it was decided to withdraw, they last saw Verity lying on the ground, in front of the burning corn, his head supported by his batman, Pte. Thomas Reynoldson, of Bridlington. So, in the last grim game, Verity showed, as he was so sure to do, that rare courage which both calculates and inspires.

His Bowling Art

Judged by any standard, Verity was great bowler. Merely to watch him was to know that. The balance of the run up, the high ease of the left-handed action, the scrupulous length, the pensive variety, all proclaimed the master. He combined nature with art to a degree not equalled by any other English bowler of our time. He received a handsome legacy of skill and, by an application that verged on scientific research, turned it into a fortune. There have been bowlers who reached greatness without knowing, or, perhaps, caring to know just how or why; but Verity could analyse his own intentions without losing the joy of surprise and describe their effect without losing the company of a listener. He was the ever-learning professor, justly proud yet utterly humble.

In the matter of plain arithmetic, so often torn from its context to the confusion of judgment, Verity, by taking 1,956 wickets at 14.87 runs each in ten years of first-class cricket, showed by far the best average during this century. In the recorded history of cricket the only bowlers of this class with lower averages are: Alfred Shaw, 2,072 wickets at 11.97 each; Tom Emmett, 1,595 wickets at 13.43 each; George Lohmann, 1,841 wickets at 13.73 each; James Southerton, 1,744 wickets at 14.30 each. It might be argued that during the period 1854 to 1898, covered by the careers of these cricketers, pitches tended to give more help to the bowler than they did during Verity's time. Verity, I know, for one, would not have pressed such a claim in his own favour. He never dwelt on decimals; and, while he enjoyed personal triumph as much as the next man, that which absorbed his deepest interest was the proper issue of a Test match with Australia or of an up-and-down bout with Lancashire; and if, in his country's or county's struggle towards victory, he brought off some recondite plot for the confounding, of Bradman or McCabe or Ernest Tyldesley or Edward Paynter, well, then he was happy beyond computing.

Notable Feats

Yet his bowling achievements, pressed into but overflowing the ten years of his career, were so rich and various that they here demand some concentrated notice:--

He played in 40 Tests matches, taking 144 wickets at 24.37 runs each. He took 100 wickets in Test cricket in a shorter period than any other English bowler.

He is the only cricketer who has taken 14 wickets in a day in a Test match, this feat being performed against Australia at Lord's in the second Test, 1934. During this match, he took 15 wickets for 104 runs, thus sharing with Wilfred Rhodes, his Yorkshire predecessor, the honour of taking most wickets in an Englandv. Australia match.

Twice he took all 10 wickets in an innings; in 1931, against Warwickshire at Headingley, Leeds, for 36 runs in 18.4 (6-ball) overs, 6 maidens; in 1932, on the same ground, against Nottinghamshire, for 10 runs in 19.4 (6-ball) overs, 16 maidens--a world record in first-class cricket for the fewest number of runs conceded by a bowler taking all 10 wickets in an innings, and it included the hat-trick.

Against Essex at Leyton, in 1933, he took 17 wickets in one day, a record shared only by C. Blythe and T. W. Goddard.

In each of his nine full English seasons he took at least 150 wickets, and he averaged 185 wickets a season; thrice consecutively (1935-36-37) he took over 200 wickets. His average ranged from 12.42 to 17.63. He headed the first-class English bowling averages in his first season ( 1930) and in his last ( 1939), and never came out lower than fifth.

How He Began

Verity was born at Headingley, but passed his twenty-fifth birthday before he played for Yorkshire, in 1930, the year that W. Rhodes retired. Some of his earlier seasons were spent in playing as an amateur for Rawdon in the Yorkshire Council; for Accrington in the Lancashire League; and for Middleton in the Central League. He was then, as always afterwards when allowed, an all-rounder. As a batsman, his height, reach, concentration and knowledge of what to avoid raised him distinctly from the ruck of mediocrity; but, whereas his bowling included grace, his batting had only style. The former was nature embellished by art; the latter was art improved by imitation.

As a bowler, Hedley Verity stands, and will stand, with his illustrious predecessors in the Yorkshire attack: Edmund Peate (1879-1887), Robert Peel (1882-1899), Wilfred Rhodes (1898-1930)--the dates indicate the time of their respective playing careers--but Verity was not a slow left-hander in the accepted sense, and he used to reject comparison with Rhodes so far as method was concerned, saying: both of us are left-handed and like taking wickets; let's leave it at that.

Verity's mean pace was what is called slow-medium; on fast pitches, often about medium; and he would send down an in-swinging yorker of an abrupt virulence not unworthy of George Hirst.

Naturally, on wet or crumbled or sticky pitches, he reduced pace and tossed the leg-spinner higher, but even here his variety of pace and of angle of delivery was remarkable. He was a born schemer; tireless, but never wild, in experiment; as sensitive in observation as a good host, or as an instrumentalist who spots a rival on the beat; the scholar who does not only dream, the inventor who can make it work.

Comparison of Giants

Just how good a bowler was he? In relation to rivals in his own craft but of an earlier day, such a question is useless except to amuse an idle hour or to excite an idle quarrel. We can only say that, in his own short time, he was the best of his kind. In England, day in and day out, he may never have quite touched the greatness of Robert Peel, Colin Blythe or Wilfred Rhodes. In Australia, neither in 1932-3 or 1936-7, did he perplex their batsmen quite as J. C. White perplexed them in 1928-29, but, as a workman-artist, he will take some beating. H. B. Cameron, that fine wicket-keeper -batsman of South Africa, playing against Yorkshire in 1935, hit him for three fours and three sixes in one over; but very rarely did a batsman survive a liberty taken with Verity. He had, besides, a wonderful skill in restoring the rabbits, early and with little inconvenience, to the hutch.

If a touchstone of Verity's greatness be needed, there is D. G. Bradman, the most inexorable scorer of runs that cricket has yet seen, whose Test match average against England stands at 91.42 in 46 innings. I think it was Verity who kept that average under 150. He was one of only three or four bowlers who came to the battle with Bradman on not unequal terms (haud impar congressus!); and Bradman was reported as saying: I think I know all about Clarrie ( Grimmett), but with Hedley I am never sure. You see, there's no breaking-point with him.

Beating the Best

Verity timed his blows. In the fifth Test match, at Sydney, early in 1933, Australia, 19 runs on the first innings, lost Victor Richardson for 0. Woodfull and Bradman added 115; Larwood, injured, had left the field--and that particular Larwood never came back--then Verity deceived Bradman in flight, bowled him for 71 and went on to take five for 33 in 19 overs and win the match. In the earlier Tests, amid the fast bowling and the clamour, not much had been heard of Verity, except as a rescuing batsman. But, when the last pinch came, there he was to relieve the weary line; very Yorkshire.

Verity never allowed the opinion that Bradman was less than a master on damaged pitches, refusing to stress the evidence of his own triumph at Lord's in 1934 ( Bradman c and b Verity 36; c Ames b Verity 13) and referring to Bradman's two innings of 59 and 43 in 1938 against Yorkshire at Sheffield. It was a pig of a pitch, he said, and he played me in the middle of the bat right through. Maybe Verity's opinion of Bradman was heightened by a natural generosity in its giver, but on this matter I think that Verity had reason to know best.

As an all-round fielder, Verity was no more than sound, but to his own bowling, or at backward point, he sometimes touched brilliance; and there sticks in the memory the catch that he made at Lord's in 1938, when McCabe cut one from Farnes crack from the bat's middle.

Opened England Batting

As a batsman for Yorkshire, Verity was mostly kept close to the extras. His build and reach suggested power and freedom, but it remained a suggestion; and he was analogous to those burly golfers who prod the tee-shot down the middle to a prim 180 yards. A casual observer might have mistaken Verity for Sutcliffe a little out of form, for he seemed to have caught something of that master's style and gesture, and, like Sutcliffe, he could be clean bowled in a manner that somehow exonerated the batsman from all guilt. He never quite brought off the double, though in 1936 he took 216 wickets and scored 855 runs. But he had the sovereign gift of batting to an occasion. In the 1936-37 visit to Australia, G. O. Allen could find no opening pair to stay together, so he sent in Verity with C. J. Barnett in the fourth Test, at Adelaide, and they put up partnerships of 53 and 45. Not much, perhaps; but the best till then. In all Test matches, his batting average was close on 21; nearly 3 units higher than his average in all first-class cricket.

Verity had the look and carriage of a man likely to do supremely well something that would need time and trouble. His dignity was not assumed; it was the natural reflection of mind and body harmonised and controlled. He was solid, conscientious, disciplined; and something far more. In all that he did, till his most gallant end, he showed the vital fire, and warmed others in its flame. To the spectator in the field he may have seemed, perhaps, a little stiff and aloof; but among a known company he revealed geniality, wit, and an unaffected kindness that will not be forgotten.

There was no breaking-point with Verity; and his last reported words: Keep going, were but a text on his short and splendid life.



1932-33 ( Australia)6984415.86
1932-33 ( New Zealand)64164.00
1933-34 ( India)1,1807815.12
1936 ( Jamaica)3601622.50
1936-37 ( Australia)1,0433827.44
1938-39 ( South Africa)9374719.93




Yorkshire (County Championship)17,2161,30413.20
Yorkshire (Others Matches)4,15025416.33
Tests (v. Australia)9303824.47
Tests (v. South Africa)2501220.83
Tests (v. West Indies)207923.00
Tests (v. New Zealand)166627.66
Tests (v. India)2281515.20
Gentlemen v. Players5152719.07
Other First-Class Matches1,1556717.23
Other First-Class Matches1,0156116.80
Other First-Class Matches3852813.75
Other First-Class Matches7935514.41
First-Class Matches3601622.50


10 for 36 Yorkshire v. Warwickshire, at Leeds 1931
10 for 10 Yorkshire v. Nottinghamshire, at Leeds 1932


9 for 60 Yorkshire v. Glamorgan, at Swansea 1930
9 for 44 Yorkshire v. Essex, at Leyton 1933
9 for 59 Yorkshire v. Kent, at Dover 1933
9 for 12 Yorkshire v. Kent, at Sheffield 1936
9 for 48 Yorkshire v. Essex, at Westcliff 1936
9 for 43 Yorkshire v. Warwickshire, at Leeds 1937
9 for 62 Yorkshire v. M.C.C., at Lord's 1939


8 for 33 Yorkshire v. Glamorgan, at Swansea 1931
8 for 39 Yorkshire v. Northamptonshire, at Northampton 1932
8 for 47 Yorkshire v. Essex, at Leyton 1933
8 for 43 England v. Australia, at Lord's 1934
8 for 28 Yorkshire v. Leicestershire, at Leeds 1935
8 for 56 Yorkshire v. Oxford University, at Oxford 1936
8 for 40 Yorkshire v. Worcestershire, at Stourbridge 1936
8 for 42 Yorkshire v. Nottinghamshire, at Bradford 1936
8 for 80 Yorkshire v. Sussex, at Eastbourne 1937
8 for 43 Yorkshire v. Middlesex, at Kennington Oval 1937
8 for 38 Yorkshire v. Leicestershire, at Hull 1939


17 for 91 Yorkshire v. Essex, at Leyton 1933


15 for 104 England v. Australia, at Lord's 1934
15 for 38 Yorkshire v. Warwickshire, at Bradford 1936
15 for 129 Yorkshire v. Oxford University, at Oxford 1936
15 for 100 Yorkshire v. Essex, at Westcliff 1936


14 for 54 Yorkshire v. Glamorgan, at Swansea 1930
14 for 83 Yorkshire v. West Indies, at Harrogate 1933
14 for 78 Yorkshire v. Hampshire, at Hull 1935
14 for 132 Yorkshire v. Sussex, at Eastbourne 1937
14 for 92 Yorkshire v. Warwickshire, at Leeds 1937
14 for 68 Yorkshire v. Glamorgan, at Bradford 1939


13 for 83 Yorkshire v. Hampshire, at Bournemouth 1930
13 for 97 Yorkshire v. Warwickshire, at Leeds 1931
13 for 145 Yorkshire v. Sussex, at Hove 1931
13 for 102 Yorkshire v. Northamptonshire, at Leeds 1933
13 for 97 Yorkshire v. Leicestershire, at Leeds 1935
13 for 107 Yorkshire v. Hampshire, at Portsmouth 1935
13 for 88 Yorkshire v. Worcestershire, at Stourbridge 1936


12 for 117 Yorkshire v. Glamorgan, at Swansea 1930
12 for 74 Yorkshire v. Nottinghamshire, at Leeds 1932
12 for 53 Yorkshire v. Derbyshire, at Hull 1933
12 for 137 Yorkshire v. Kent, at Dover 1933
12 for 96 Yorkshire v. M.C.C., at Lord's 1935
12 for 114 Yorkshire v. Leicestershire, at Hull 1939
12 for 85 Yorkshire v. M.C.C., at Lord's 1939


11 for 69 Yorkshire v. Derbyshire, at Leeds 1932
11 for 74 Yorkshire v. Essex, at Dewsbury 1933
11 for 92 Yorkshire v. Middlesex, at Lord's 1933
11 for 153 England v. India, at Madras 1933-34
11 for 73 Yorkshire v. Middlesex, at Leeds 1935
11 for 111 Yorkshire v. Glamorgan, at Swansea 1936
11 for 90 Yorkshire v. Nottinghamshire, at Bradford 1936
11 for 181 Yorkshire v. M.C.C., at Scarborough 1937
11 for 88 Yorkshire v. Cambridge University, at Cambridge 1938
11 for 66 M.C.C. v. Griqualand West, at Kimberley 1938-39



InningsNot OutsRunsHighest InningsAverage
1932-33 ( Australia)17330054*21.42
1932-33 ( New Zealand)(did not bat)
1933-34 ( India)18438491*27.42
1936 ( Jamaica)4019510148.75
1938-39 ( South Africa)1222453924.50
Complete Batting Figures4151065,60310118.13


In all Yorkshire matches Verity scored 3,883 runs, average 17.89.

InningsNot OutsRunsHighest InningsAverage

In all Yorkshire matches Verity scored 3,883 runs, average 17.89.


1. During his career (1930-39) Hedley Verity took 1,956 wickets at a cost of 14.87 runs apiece; scored 5,603 runs, average 18.13; and made 238 catches.

2. Verity played in 40 Test matches, taking 144 wickets for 24.37 runs each, and scoring 669 runs at an average of 20.90.

3. Verity took 100 wickets in Test cricket in a shorter period than any other English bowler.

4. He is the only cricketer who has taken 14 wickets in a day in a Test match, this feat being accomplished against Australia at Lord's in 1934. During this match he took 15 wickets for 104 runs, thus sharing with Wilfred Rhodes, his Yorkshire predecessor, the honour of taking most wickets in an England v. Australia match.

5. Twice Verity took all ten wickets in an innings. His 10 wickets for 10 runs for Yorkshire against Nottinghamshire at Leeds in 1932 is a world record for the fewest number of runs conceded by a bowler taking 10 wickets, and it included the hat-trick. Full analysis was 19.4-16-10-10. In his last three overs he took seven wickets for three runs. The next best average recorded for 10 wickets is 10 for 18 runs by G. Geary for Leicestershire against Glamorgan at Pontypridd in 1929. In seven other innings Verity took nine wickets.

6. Against Essex at Leyton in 1933, 17 wickets fell to him in one day--a record shared with Colin Blythe and Tom Goddard.

7. Verity started County Championship cricket at Hull on May 31, 1930, against Leicestershire, taking in the match eight wickets, four for 15 runs in the second innings; and finished at Hove on September 1, 1939, the last day of county cricket before war began, with this remarkable analysis: 6-1-9-7. His first-class debut for Yorkshire was in a friendly against Sussex on May 21, 1930.

8. In each of his nine full English seasons he took at lest 150 wickets, and his average was 185 wickets per season; three times consecutively he took over 200 wickets in a season (1935-36-37).

9. In each of his ten seasons of first-class cricket Verity's average ranged form 12.42 to 17.63, in 1930 and 1934 respectively. He headed the English bowling averages in his first season, a feat which he accomplished again in 1939, and he never came out lower than fifth, twice being second, five times third, and once fifth. In his nine full English seasons his wickets ranged form 150 to 216.

10. In 1936, Verity took his 100th wicket in first-class cricket as early as June 19--a record for a Yorkshireman, though J. T. Hearne ( Middlesex) in 1896 took his 100th wicket on June 12. In 1931, C. W. L. Parker ( Gloucestershire) equalled this, and next day A. P. Freeman (Kent) completed 100 wickets.

11. Verity bowled 766 balls in two innings at Durban in the final Test match against South Africa in March, 1939--a record number of balls by one bowler in a match. This match was the longest ever played--drawn after ten days.

12. Verity scored only one century in first-class cricket--for Yorkshire against Jamaica at Sabina Park, Jamaica, in 1936

13. At Adelaide, in January 1937, he opened the batting with C. J. Barnett, and scored 19 out of 53 for the first wicket, the best start to an innings for England in the first four Tests of that rubber.

14. Verity's best all-round season was in 1936, when he took his greatest number of wickets, 216; and made his highest aggregate of runs, 855.

15. During Verity's ten years Yorkshire won the County Championship seven times; in six of these seasons Brian Sellers led the team.

The Best Bowler this Century

According to the list in 1940 Wisden of bowlers who have taken 1,500 wickets, Hedley Verity, with 1,956 wickets in ten years at 14.87 each, showed by far the best average during this century, and in the history of cricket the only bowlers of this class showing lower averages are:--

  • Alfred Shaw, 2,072 wickets at 11.97 in 34 years.
  • Tom Emmett, 1,595 wickets at 13.43 in 23 years.
  • George Lonmann, 1,841 wickets at 13.73 in 15 years.
  • James Southerton, 1,744 wickets at 14.30 in 22 years.

As the careers of these four famous professionals extended from the year 1854, when Shaw began, to 1898, when Lohmann finished, their remarkable records were achieved during an era when bowlers received far more help from the pitches than was the case during the period in which Verity earned such great reward for his skill.

Four Great Yorkshiremen

Of slow left-handers comparable with Verity as England players, his three predecessors of similar type in the Yorkshire eleven stand out:--

  • Edmund Peate (1879 to 1887), 1,063 wickets at 13.86.
  • Robert Peel (1882 to 1899), 1,754 wickets at 16.21.
  • Wilfred Rhodes (1898 to 1930), 4,188 wickets at 16.71.
  • Hedley Verity (1930 to 1939), 1,956 wickets at 14.87.

These four Yorkshiremen excelled through a period of sixty-one years.

Other Notable Exponents

Other slow left-handers of this category in chronological order have been:--

  • John Briggs, Lancashire (1879 to 1900), 2,200 wickets at 16.10.
  • Colin Blythe, Kent, killed in the last war on November 8, 1917, aged 38 (1899 to 1914), 2,506 wickets at 16.81.
  • C. W. L. Parker, Gloucestershire (1903 to 1935), 3,278 wickets at 19.48.
  • Frank E. Woolley, Kent (1906 to 1938), 2,068 wickets at 19.86.
  • J. C. White, Somerset (1909 to 1937), 2,358 wickets at 18.56.

An Australian Appreciation


The present war has already taken heavy toll of gallant men who, after faithfully serving their countries on the cricket field in peace-time, have laid down their lives for a greater cause. Of those who have fallen Hedley Verity was perhaps the most illustrious and from the Dominion of Australia I feel it my sad duty to join with cricketers of the Motherland in expressing sorrow that we shall not again see him on our playing fields.

It could truthfully be claimed that Hedley Verity was one of the greatest if not THE greatest left-hand bowler of all time. Most certainly he could lay just claim to that honour during the 1918-1939 period. No doubt his Yorkshire environment was of great asssistance for left-hand bowling seems to be in the blood of Yorkshiremen. It is one of their traditions and inalienable rights to possess the secrets of the art.

Although not a young man from a cricketing standpoint when the call came, Verity was little if any beyond the zenith of his powers. He was always such a keen student of the game, and his bowling was of such a type, that brains and experience played a greater part in his successes than natural genius.

Although opposed to him in many Tests, I could never claim to have completely fathomed his strategy, for it was never static nor mechanical.

Naturally he achieved his most notable successes when wickets were damp. Nobody privileged to witness that famous Test at Lord's in 1934 (least of all the Australian batsmen) will forget a performance to which even the statistics could not do justice. But it would be ungenerous to suggest that he needed assistance from the wicket, as his successful Australian tours will confirm. The ordinary left-hander who lacks the vicious unorthodox finger-spin of the Fleetwood-Smith variety, needs uncommon ability to achieve even moderate success in Australia, yet Verity was the foundation stone of England's bowling in both countries during this era.

Apart from his special department of the game, Verity could also claim to be a remarkably efficient fieldsman close to the wicket where safe hands and courage are greater attributes than agility. Add this to the fact that once he opened a Test match innings for England, not without success, and we have a fairly general picture of a really fine player.

Those of us who played against this swarthy, capless champion (I never remember having seen him wear a cap) probably appreciated his indomitable fighting spirit even more than his own colleagues. We knew, when war came, that he would plainly see his duty in the same way as he reagrded it his duty to win cricket matches for Yorkshire no less than England.

During our association together I cannot recall having heard Verity utter a word of complaint or criticism. If reports of his final sacrifice be correct, and I believe they are, he maintained this example right to the end.

His life, his skill, his service all merited the highest honour, and with great sorrow I unhesitatingly pay humble tribute to his memory.



My association with Hedley began during my first game for Yorkshire second eleven at Middlesborough in 1930. Being new to that type of cricket, I kept a watchful eye on what was going on and the fellows with whom I was playing. Our "skipper", Brigadier R. C. Chichester-Constable, D. S. O., duly introduced me to all the team , and my first imnpressions of Hedley were that he was a very quiet type of man who did not say very much but had a great sense of humour.

At that time he played for the first eleven when Rhodes was not available, and at the end of the season he topped the English bowling averages. There was nothing in his conversation to lead anyone into thinking that he had ever played for the first team. However, as the game progressed I kept my eye on him and found him to be quite casual about everything he did. There was no fuss; he just got on with the game. An occasional appeal to the umpire; if it was refused he made no signs whatsoever as to what he thought about it.

I came away from that game thinking that there was a man who would not be driven by anyone into doing anything that he did not want to do, and how true that turned out to be. When I became "skipper" of the first eleven I found that Hedley would work hard all day and every day in his own little way, no fuss or hurry or rush. If you studied his bowling action closely, that gave you an insight to his character - steady even, coupled with determination.

I look back upon my cricketing days with Hedley and find that he never really changed from the Hedley I first met at Middlesborough on that June day. His advice was sound and good. He was prepared to sit and talk with anyone on most subjects, and of course, like most of us, would talk cricket all day and night. His bowling always improved, and, as we all know, he played for England so often that he became an automatic choice like Hobbs and Sutcliffe in their day.

His character and disposition never changed amidst all his many triumphs; he just remained Hedley Verity. On many occasions, in order to win a match, I turned to him and said "Well Hedley, everything depends on you." That was sufficient; although he might be very tired indeed, his determination to help the side win was something to wonder at. If I had given him a direct order, a lot of that determination would not have come to the fore. It was not his nature to be ordered about, although he never gave any outward sign of resentment. His answer was to keep going along in his own sweet way. He knew what he could do and what he could not do.

Hedley lost his life playing a game of war, and I can guarantee that as he lay wounded on the battlefield in Sicily the grim determination to go forward prevailed more than ever before. His death draws a line under his name and the finish to a remarkable cricket career. England and Yorkshire lose a great player and I a great friend. I feel honoured to have met and played with him.

© John Wisden & Co