Archer Windsor-Clive played for Glmaorgan between 1908 and 1912 and, with Jack Brain moving into retirement, he was tipped by many as a future Glamorgan captain. Tragically, he was amongst the first British officers and the first prominent cricketer to lose their life in the Great War, with the third son of the Earl of Plymouth, being killed during the Battle of Mons during August 1914.
With his family based at St. Fagans Castle, young Archer and his brothers Other and Ivor appeared for the local team and were coached by the various professionals who the Earl employed to tend the Club’s wicket and work as gardeners on his spacious estate to the west of Cardiff. Born at Hewell Grange in Redditch, Worcestershire – the home of Lady Harriet Windsor – Archer attended Eton and made his debut for their XI in 1907, before the following year making a handsome 105 in the annual match against Winchester.
This century, together with some other decent innings for St. Fagans led to his inclusion in the Glamorgan side which met Monmouthshire at Cardiff Arms Park in early August 1908. The schoolboy though met with a modest debut at county level making 5 and 0 as Monmouthshire won by an innings. Further promising performances for Eton in 1909 saw Archer win selection again for Glamorgan against Cornwall at Swansea and against Nottinghamshire 2nd XI at the Arms Park.
During the Autumn of 1909, Archer went up to Cambridge and the following summer appeared in the Freshman’s Match where he took 7/49 with his left-arm medium-pace bowling, besides making 33 and 110 for the Perambulators against the Etceteras. He duly made his first-class debut for the University in early May against Essex, scoring 13 and 15, besides taking three wickets. He kept his place for the following match against Surrey, against whom he made 3 and 11, but as promising as these performances were, Archer failed to win a Blue and only made one further appearance that summer for the Light Blues, against Kent at Fenner’s.
In 1911 Archer again impressed in the early season trials, making 45 plus an unbeaten 80 in the Seniors Match, but again failed to win a regular place in the University XI, and instead won the first of two tennis Blues. He met with more success on the cricket field in 1912 appearing, in all, in four further matches for the University, but after bagging a pair against Sussex, the left-hander was overlooked for the Varsity Match and yet again missed out on a Blue. Lady luck was also not on his side when he appeared again for Glamorgan in August 1912 at the Arms Park against Surrey 2nd XI.
His call-up followed a decent series of scores for both St. Fagans and I Zingari, but after taking a wicket and making a catch, he did not get the chance to display his batting skills as rain washed out the rest of the contest. The following month Archer commenced his military career with the Coldstream Guards, serving as a Second-Lieutenant, and hoping to further develop his latent leadership skills as well as playing a decent standard of Services and club cricket. Indeed, during June 1914 Archer appeared for the Household Brigade against the Band of Brothers in their two-day match at Burton’s Court in Chelsea. He opened the batting, making 0 and 34, besides claiming three wickets in what tragically proved to be his last major game.
On 12 August 1914 Archer was amongst the first wave of British troops to head across to Channel to fight on foreign soil. As a Lieutenant in Number 2 Company of the 3rd Battalion he left Chelsea Barracks and travelled by train to Southampton before crossing with the other Guardsmen on the SS Cawdor Castle before proceeding on to Harveng where defensive positions were dug on 23 August. The following day, other troops in the British Expeditionary Force began their retreat from Mons, so half of Archer’s battalion were instructed to head back via Malgami to Landrecies where they were positioned as outposts in a bid to delay the advancing Germans.
Around dusk on that evening, a column was seen heading up the Le Quesnoy road, and an officer then appeared in French uniform, and speaking in French he announced that a large body of French troops were approaching, and added that he had come in advance to alert the 600 or so Coldstream Guards so that they did not fire on their allies by mistake. Sadly, it was a cruel trick as shortly afterwards, the column duly appeared, singing French songs and those at the front wearing French and Belgian uniforms.
But at the back were German troops, and they opened heavy fire on the Coldstream Guards, with Archer being struck by a shell as he and his men defended an important bridge. Archer never recovered from the awful wounds he sustained and was one of three Guardsmen to be killed in the initial skirmish. A further eighteen were wounded, whereas around 500 of the French and German troops were killed, and a further 2,000 wounded.
News of the death of the popular and much admired young gentlemen came as a huge shock to the residents of St. Fagans, and his many friends in both Cardiff and London. The Earl was mortified by the news of his death Three weeks later, the Earl chaired a packed public meeting held in the Queen’s Hall, London, attended mainly by members of the London Welsh as well as by David Lloyd George.
No direct reference was initially made to the poignant loss which the Earl had recently sustained, but the death of the Hon. Archer Windsor-Clive, was in everyone’s thoughts as the Earl addressed the meeting and spoke of the heavy sacrifices that would have to be endured in the maintenance of the honour of the nation. “We must learn,” he said, “to say the words of Mr Rudyard Kipling, and say it with deep conviction, “Who dies if England lives?” There was another moving moment towards the close of Lloyd George’s speech when he turned to the Earl and said “Some have already given their lives. Some have given more than their own lives – they have given the lives of those who are dear to them. I honour their courage, and may God be their comfort and their strength.”
Tears came into the eyes of the Earl as the audience spontaneously applauded. It was many weeks before the Earl got over the tragic loss, and contemporaries say that life was never the same either at the cricket club or in the House following Archer’s death, with his bedroom left untouched as a tribute to the loss of a favourite and favoured son.
WINDSOR-CLIVE, Hon. Archer.
Born – Hewell Grange, Redditch, 6 November 1890.
Died – Landrecies, France, 25 August 1914.
Batting and Fielding Record
Career Best Performances
Minor County Championship – 16 v Cornwall at St. Helen’s, Swansea, 1909 and 1/7 v Surrey 2nd XI at Cardiff Arms Park, 1912.
Minor County Friendly – 3 v Oxford Harlequins at Cardiff Arms Park, 1908.