Kent Remembers: Eric Hatfeild

Tuesday 7th November 2023

Men’s First Team

Kent Remembers: Eric Hatfeild

Born: 11.3.1887, Hartsdown, Margate. Died: 21.9.1918, Hargicourt, France.
Kent 1910-1914.

Eric Hatfeild gained a great reputation as bowler at Eton. In four Eton v Harrow matches between 1903 and 1906 (his year as captain) he took 30 wickets at a cost of 13.80 each but never did anything remotely comparable in the first-class game.

At Oxford, despite performing competently in the 1907 Freshmen’s match, he played only once and bowled a mere four overs but eight for 52 in the 1908 Seniors’ match brought an extended run and a Blue.

Without doing anything outstanding with the ball he took 24 wickets (avge.23.30) but played a major role in Oxford’s victory with two displays of late order hitting (25 & 35*), the latter when his side were pressing for victory after heavy rain.

In his final year he played in five matches but found wickets hard to come by and was left out for Lord’s.

Hatfeild played twice for Kent in 1910 and from 1911 to the outbreak of war became more or less a regular member of the team in the early part of the season but never did enough to hold his place once the side was at full strength.

Of his 45 appearances for the county, only ten were after the end of June and he never played in Canterbury Cricket Week or indeed ever in a first-class match at St. Lawrence.

With Blythe, Woolley, Humphreys and Hardinge available, Kent hardly needed another left-arm spinner and Hatfeild’s main contribution was as a hard hitting, lower middle order batter.

Against Gloucestershire in 1911 he hit 74 out of 97 in 35 minutes with one six and 16 fours. In the same vein was his 50 out of 65 in 45 minutes v Essex at Gravesend in 1912.

According to Bob Arrowsmith in his Kent history, the main reason for Hatfeild’s presence was as a possible successor to Dillon as captain.

Times were changing and it was looking increasingly likely that Kent were going to have to appoint a captain who could not command a regular place on playing ability, as indeed they did by appointing Second Eleven skipper, and another Kent cricketer to perish in War, Lionel Troughton.

One of the few uncapped players to captain Kent, between 1912 and 1913 Hatfeild led the side on five occasions, winning four and drawing one. It seems possible that his attitude to cricket was thought too light-hearted for a regular captain.

Apart from his uninhibited approach to batting, once, playing early in his career against Band of Brothers for BaBees, the BB junior section, he bowled a currant bun to Lord Harris, an example of lèse-majesté eclipsing even the famous occasion when a brave Sussex gateman denied his Lordship, minus a ticket, entry to the Hastings ground.

In 1911/12 Hatfeild toured Argentina with an MCC team captained by Lord Hawke but despite claiming 52 wickets (avge.12.59) in all matches – four times five in an innings, once twelve in a match – and hitting 90 v The South on the Hurlingham Club ground, Buenos Aires, he was not selected for any of the three ‘Test’ matches.

In 1913 he was leading wicket taker (30 at 10.50) on an Incogniti tour of the USA.

In addition to Incogniti, in England his club cricket was for Band of Brothers, Free Foresters, Old Etonians, St. Lawrence and Wye College as well as occasionally for the Isle of Thanet. In 1914 he hit 137 for Band of Brothers v Old Etonians, the last century for BB prior to the outbreak of war.

The eldest son of Captain Charles Hatfeild DL, JP, King’s Dragoon Guards, of Hartsdown House, Eric Hatfeild was commissioned in the Royal East Kent Yeomanry in 1912. Mobilised on the outbreak of War, he served with his unit in Gallipoli with the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division from October 1915 to January 1916 when they were withdrawn to Egypt to form part of the 3rd Dismounted Brigade.

In February 1917 the unit was absorbed into the 4th Battalion, the Buffs, part of 230 Brigade, 74th (Yeomanry) Division and fought in Palestine.

Hatfeild was mentioned in despatches by the Expeditionary Force C in C, General Sir Archibald Murray. In May 1918 the Division landed in France where it fought for the remainder of the War.

He was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry shortly before his death near Cambrai.

On his death his estate was valued for probate at £8,9876 12s 9d His younger brother Major Herbert Seymour Hatfeild DL, JP was President of Kent from 1939 to 1945 and Chairman from 1946 to 1950.

Profile adapted from Derek Carlaw’s ‘Kent County Cricketers: A to Z, 1806-1914’

Previous profiles of Kent Cricketers that fell during both World Wars include:

Colin Blythe

Gerry Chalk

Arthur Du Boulay

Kenneth Hutchings

David Jennings

Lawrence Le Fleming

Geoffrey Legge

Lionel Troughton

George Whitehead