When Harry Cave was selected to play Test cricket for New Zealand in 1949, he was fulfilling the promise of an entire family, a family who could’ve had a New Zealand representative a generation earlier if war had not intervened.
In the years before WWI, cricket in Wanganui was dominated by the Cave family; five brothers who all shared a passion for cricket and farming. When Taranaki and Wanganui combined to take on the Melbourne Cricket Club in 1900, Leonard, Ken and Henry took to the field while Wilfred and Arthur stood as umpires. Ken would go on to umpire New Zealand’s first Test in 1930, while Henry would see his son, Harry, represent New Zealand. The future was not so bright for Leonard, however.
In 1915, Leonard left the farm he was working with Henry and joined the 7th Reinforcements of the New Zealand Field Artillery. Embarking from Wellington in October 1915, Leonard’s service saw him stationed at the Somme in 1916 where he was wounded, leading to several months in a London hospital.
In 1917 he returned to action where, by October, he was stationed in Belgium. On October 18 1917, Leonard Philip Cave was killed during a German air raid. Leonard was often described as the best cricketer of the Cave brothers, in fact one report after his death noted that he was perhaps the best cricketer Wanganui had produced. All the potential that he held would eventually be fulfilled by his brother’s son, Harry.
Like his father and Leonard before him, Harry took up farming with his brother, Tom. This relationship allowed Harry to take time off to pursue his cricketing ambitions, which lead to Harry winning the Hawke Cup with Wanganui, the Plunket Shield with Central Districts, the New Zealand Cricket Almanack Player of the Year award, and the New Zealand Test captaincy.
But Harry Cave’s legacy goes far beyond his achievements on the pitch. The New Zealand Cricket Museum archive contains letters, photographs, diaries and mementos of Harry’s life and cricketing career. While they contain every detail of what it was like to be a touring amateur sportsman in the 1940s & 50s, they also highlight the dedication and sacrifice required to be a farmer and a family man at a time when a tour to the UK meant months overseas.
Best of all, everything is in his own words.