It takes a certain amount of courage to face a fast bowler on the cricket pitch but in the history of the game, only one man has received a medal for bravery on the field of play. He was Major Douglas Alexander Brett MC 1st Royal Battalion (Light Infantry), 9th Jat Regiment, Indian Army and he was awarded the Empire Gallantry Medal, later officially exchanged for the George Cross.
It was towards the end of the Chittagong Uprising of 1930-34, just 10 days before the leader of the rebels, Surya Sen was hanged. The Hindu terrorists were armed and extremely active, but the town was famous for its cricket and the British had no intention of letting anything or anyone deprive them of a game. The terrorists had other ideas. At teatime on Sunday January 7, 1934 about 50 European players and spectators, including women and children, were in the tea tent chatting and taking refreshment.
Major Douglas Alexander Brett.
At about 5.30 pm an attack was suddenly made upon them by four youths armed with a revolver and seven bombs. As The London Gazette reported: “The group of Europeans was collected under a shamiana (tent) on a hillock. Two of the assailants came out from behind a small bungalow and, running towards the Europeans, threw one bomb each. Both the bombs, fortunately, failed to explode. One of these assailants, who was armed with a revolver, ran on fast towards the Europeans, firing his revolver rapidly as he went.
Major Brett, who at the time was unarmed, rushed at this man, grappled with him, and brought him to the ground, holding the man’s right arm with the revolver firmly against the ground. Other Europeans came to his assistance, and the assailant was secured. Major Brett displayed great gallantry and quickness in thus grappling, unarmed, with the terrorist.”
Fellow cricketer Captain Richard Deedes of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry was similarly awarded for the same incident, overpowering his assailant in the car park after the fleeing terrorist was tripped up by a chauffeur.
The Medals of Major Douglas Alexander Brett.
Major Brett’s medal group, with associated dress miniatures and riband bar, is expected to sell for up to £ 20,000 in a sale of War Medals, Orders and Decorations by specialist auctioneers Morton & Eden in London on Thursday 10 June.
The Chittagong Team.
With the medals is a photograph showing the Chittagong team, taken at their Christmas Day match in 1933 eight days before the attack. Brett and his wife can be seen sitting in the front row at bottom left. The little girl in the middle was a Miss Muffet Williams (later Mrs. Durnford), then aged five, sitting next to her mother. Her father, the District Commissioner, is standing right at the back, in the shadows, behind the others.
Mrs. Durnford, now aged 82, has a clear recollection of the events. She said: “I remember being in Chittagong when I was about five on the day that Colonel Douglas Brett won his medal. It was a cricket match, I think it was a Sunday afternoon, and the target was obviously to kill as many people as possible but also to get hold of my father who was the District Commissioner; he was in the Indian Civil Service.
I remember my mother picking me up and running and leaving me in a little shed and rescuing two or three other women. I remember seeing one of the Bengal terrorists running away, I remember him very vividly; he had a red puggery on his head and he was firing a revolver at us as he went away. It was all over very quickly. Subsequently, the terrorists were captured and it was my father’s job – he was the judge and he actually sentenced them to death.”
Douglas Alexander Brett was born in Cookham, Berkshire, on October 4, 1896. During the Great War, he served with the Royal West Kent Regt. in France and Belgium where he was wounded and where he was awarded the M.C. for gallantry in leading a raiding party. On July 13, 1918, he joined the Indian Army as a Lieutenant, being promoted to Captain the following year. In the 1930s, he had attained the rank of Major and he was awarded the OBE in 1941 for his service as secretary to the Governor of the United Provinces. During the Second World War he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1942. From 1943-44, he was Military Secretary to General Sir George Gifford and from 1945-46, Controller of Headquarters of SE Asia Command under Mountbatten. He retired from the Indian Army on October 1, 1946 as a Colonel. In 1947, he and his family moved to Kenya where he became managing director of Safariland, Kenya’s oldest safari business, and from 1956-57 managing director of White Hunters Ltd. He returned to England on his retirement and died at Chichester on December 1, 1963.