Centre Court Fell Silent As World War One Stopped Play

Wimbledon Bio-Musical Will Follow In Wilfred Owen's Footsteps

As the Wimbledon tournament approaches now, exactly a hundred years since the outbreak of World War One, the only time play was suspended here was during 1915-18 due to the Great War.

One of the tournament's greatest champions was killed in action in France. New Zealander Tony Wilding (right) won the Wimbledon singles title for four straight years between 1910 and 1913. He joined the Marines in 1914 on the advice of Winston Churchill.

On May 2 1915, Wilding received notice of his promotion to captain. In his last letter dated May 8, he wrote: "For really the first time in seven and a half months I have a job on hand which is likely to end in gun, I, and the whole outfit being blown to hell. However if we succeed we will help our infantry no end."

The next day he was killed in action at 4.45pm during The Battle Of Aubers Ridge at Neuve-Chapelle, France, when a shell exploded on the roof of the dug-out he was sheltering in.

The War poet Wilfred Owen (left), who is the subject of the musical biography Bullets And Daffodils at The New Wimbledon Theatre next month, would have known the tennis courts well.

They are situated very close to Clement Road where Wilfred spent his summer holidays at his uncle’s house.

The production will feature a special tribute to Anthony Wilding especially for the Wimbledon performances, as they fall only two weeks before the tournament which was his life before the war took it.

It takes place on Monday and Tuesday June 9 and 10 at the New Wimbledon Theatre – 020 8545 7908.

May 16, 2014
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Anthony Wilding