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Biography
Herbert Ferdinand Woodgate
  • Born 28 February 1864 Hythe, Hampshire
  • Died MArch 1943, Chelsea
  • Educated Uppingham; Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst
  • Occupation Army Officer
  • Debut 8 August 1888 v Scotland at Rathmines
  • Cap Number 198
  • Style Right hand bat; right arm fast.
  • Teams Phoenix, Lyric Club

Herbert Woodgate was a good bowling all rounder who played for Ireland while stationed in the country as part of his military duties. He went on to have a distinguished military career serving in both the Boer and First World Wars, though he had some personal problems in between the two conflicts. His debut for Ireland, in 1888, came at Rathmines in the first ever match with Scotland, in which the hosts won a resounding innings victory. Herbert was accompanied by four other debutants, three of whom, Lowry Hamilton, Archie Penny and Frank Browning were to make valuable contributions to Irish matches in the future. The fourth, RH Fowler, Co Meath born, but, like Hebert a military man, played twice for Ireland and was to become our longest lived player, but is best recalled in cricket history for his son's deeds in the Eton v Harrow match of 1910.

Herbert did not make a significant contribution to Ireland's victory. Batting at 7, above Browning, Lowry Hamilton and his (Lowry's) brother Drummond, an Oxford Blue and fine left hander, he was bowled for 0 by George Robinson, whose only other match for Scotland had been against Yorkshire three weeks earlier. Herbert took one wicket, that of Captain W MacFarlan on his only appearance for his country. When Ireland took on I Zingari in Phoenix Park later in the summer, they did so at about half strength, as a number of the best players had sailed for Canada on the North American tour of 1888. Ireland did well to win by 34 runs and, had such awards been fashionable, Herbert would have been a strong candidate for man of the match.

Ireland were bowled out for 138 in their first innings, with Herbert contributing 14 at No 9, before being stumped by wicket keeper Burrows, another Army officer, off Lelewin Matthews, an Old Etonian as many IZ players were. Herbert then took charge with the ball. Even in the age of the four ball over, his figures of 30 - 15 - 49 - 5, suggest sustained accuracy and hostility. All his wickets were clean bowled - one with a slow leg break -, including those of two well known amateur batsmen, both former Blues, Henry Crawley and Arthur Ridley. Crawley was a member of a well known cricket family, seven of whom, over two generations gained Cambridge Blues. His nephew Aidan Crawley also found time to be a junior minister in both a Labour and a Conservative government, a BBC Panorama Reporter and Editor-in-Chief of ITN.

Having restricted the visitors' lead to 42, Herbert then saw Ireland crash to 82-7 before he joined Browning in an 8th wicket stand of 48, in which both men sensibly blended defence with aggression. When Browning was out, Herbert was joined by the tall and gangling figure of Archie Penny. Throwing caution to the winds, both men hit out, to add 37 in quick time. Penny continued to slog to good effect after Herbert was out for 37. When IZ batted again needing 154, Herbert dismissed opener Lancelot Sanderson but Penny and Thomas Perrot, playing his only match for Ireland, then bowled the hosts to a deserved, if hard earned victory.

Herbert's final match for Ireland came the following year against the touring Gentlemen of Philadelphia, in their second match of a long tour of Britain and Ireland. It was left drawn with the visitors on 199-6 chasing 295 to win. Again he made a useful contribution with the bat and was a force to be reckoned with the ball. Batting first Ireland were out for 206 with Edward Fitzgerald's 53 the top score. Hebert contributed a belligerent 19 at No 10, adding a much needed 44 for the 9th wicket with Jack Meldon, before being dismissed by slow left armer Henry Brown. He then took 4-53, bowling for most of the innings in tandem with the spinner RL Pike, who had 5-87. Two of Herbert's wickets were clean bowled, the others stumped by wicket keeper Fitzgerald, standing up as usual even to a bowler of Herbert's pace. One of these dismissals was Walter Clarke, top scorer with 53 and one of the most successful batsmen of the tour.

Herbert was posted away from Ireland shortly after the match, but was in England in 1892, when he appeared for the Lyric Club in a one day match v MCC. The Lyric had a good batting side including the mighty hitter CI Thornton, Lord Harris, autocrat of Lord's for many years, Billy Murdoch, the only Australian captain until Ricky Ponting to lost the Ashes twice in England, but, like "Punter" an outstanding batsman, and Billy Trumble, elder brother of the better known Hughie, a good all rounder who had played seven Tests for Australia. For all this talent they could muster only 135 runs, though Murdoch, by now settled in England and playing for Sussex, made 65. They were somewhat easily defeated as MCC had totalled 180. Herbert had a quiet match, contributing 3 with the bat and taking one wicket when he bowled Richard Manders, the former Dublin University captain and Ireland player, for 7.

No further record of Herbert's cricket has been seen but the rest of his life was not without incident. He was involved in some of the heaviest fighting of the Boer War, as were at least four other past or future Irish players. After returning home, he was put on the half pay list. This must have upset his finances somewhat for in 1903, he was declared bankrupt. Another reason for his bankruptcy may lie in his attempts to develop an automatic rifle. In 1892, together with William Griffiths, he produced the Griffiths-Woodgate Rifle, which was the World's first automatic version of such weapons, which had automatic loading as well as fire. It was trialed by the British Army but discounted on the grounds that the recoil was too heavy and the accuracy questionable. Undaunted Herbert continued to work on his invention, no doubt at considerable personal expense. In 1900 the Woodgate rifle appeared but had similar problems to its predecessor and had only semi automatic fire. Very few prototypes were made and it is doubtful if any still exist.

He is not to be found on the half pay list between 1904 and 1914. However at the outbreak of hostilities, he - in company, of course with a number of other retired officers, was recalled to the colours. He served throughout the war and beyond. For three years 1914 to 1917, he was in Africa, involved in the fighting in some of the German held territories today's Namibia and Uganda.

Throughout 1918, he served in France and then, the Armistice signed, and peace restored to the battered countryside of France and Belgium, found himself in Russia for most of 1919. This was an ill advised venture launched by the allies for a variety of reasons. It began after the Revolution, in an effort to overthrow Lenin to get Russia back into the War. Then it became an attempt to prevent arms given to the Tsarist and Provisional Governments from falling into Bolshevik hands as well as an attempt to prevent the Bolsheviks gaining control of the vast sums of money loaned to their predecessors. All these objectives failed, the troops, suffered from poor conditions and very few had hearts for the fight. No doubt Major Woodgate was, in company with almost all the others, happy to be withdrawn and return home.

Thereafter Herbert Ferdinand Woodgate presents a challenge to his would be biographer. He is to be found on the Reserve List of army officers as late as 1927, though by this time his rank appears as Lieutenant, but there are no further military references. Initial searches failed to reveal a date or place of death for him, though that shown here has now been discovered. However problems still remain as it is 13 months later than the one discovered in the Uppingham register. The official BMD record has been followed here, but we would be grateful for any further details in this matter or any other information about this very useful but also somewhat elusive cricketer, who also appears to have died intestate.

Edward Liddle, November 2009, updated April 2017

International Matches
View Match Ireland beat Scotland by an innings and 26 runs (2 Day, Rathmines, 8 August 1888)
View Match Ireland beat I Zingari by 35 runs (2 Day, Phoenix Park, 24 August 1888)
View Match Ireland drew with Philadelphia (2 Day, Phoenix Park, 4 July 1889)