Second-Lieutenant Major William Booth
Born. 10 December 1886, Pudsey, Yorkshire, England.
Died. 1 July 1916, near La Cigny, France.
The period between 1914 and 1919 robbed Yorkshire cricket of two of its finest all-round prospects. Alonzo Drake was one, the other was Major (his Christian name, not army rank) William Booth. A fine punishing batsman. Booth was also a tall medium fast bowler who was in his prime as a cricketer when the Great War broke out in 1914.
Born in Pudsey, West Yorkshire, England, he schooled at Fulneck and although he lived close to the Pudsey Britannia Cricket ground he played his early cricket with Pudsey St Lawrence. He moved to Wath, South Yorkshire, CC in the winter of 1908/09 when work took him to a local colliery in South Yorkshire. By then he had already represented Yorkshire at first-class level although it took him a further two years to cement a regular place.
His batting first grabbed the headlines in 1911 with a double century at Worcester, which prompted one Yorkshire newspaper scribe to comment:
"the ease with which he made his runs was astonishing. Few finer examples of off-driving and square cutting can have been seen..."
As a bowler he possessed a free, natural action and his height enabled him to extract considerable bounce as many county sides found to their cost, particularly in the three seasons immediately before the war when he captured over 100 wickets per summer. His best return for Yorkshire came in 1913 with 167 wickets: 181 in all first-class matches and 1,228 runs ensured the double and a place on the MCC tour of South Africa that winter.
England, who's bowling was led by S.F. Barnes (49 wickets in four tests), won the rubber 4-0. Booth played in the first test at Durban and the fifth at Port Elizabeth, scoring 46 runs and taking seven wickets in the two matches. He returned home to find himself selected as one of Wisden's five cricketers of the year in the 1914 edition.
In the later part of the 1914 season he formed a deadly combination with his county bowling colleague Drake, together they bowled unchanged against Gloucestershire at Bristol (Booth's match figures 12 for 89), and against Somerset at Weston-supermare where Booth played a supporting role (five for 77 in the match) to Drake who became Yorkshire's first bowler to capture all ten wickets in an innings. When the premature close to the season came following the outbreak of war. Booth had 157 first class wickets at an average of 17.85. Drake (a heavy smoker) was twice rejected by the army following the outbreak of war, His health continued to decline and before cricket commenced again in 1919 he had died.
Major Booth was killed in action whilst serving as a 2nd Lieutenant in the West Yorkshire Regiment in France having joined up alongside his fellow Yorkshire colleagues Dolphin and Roy Kilner. Yorkshire's proud President Lord Hawke summed up the county's loss:
"England lost one of the most promising and charming young cricketers it was ever my lot to meet".