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Hesketh Vernon Hesketh-Prichard: big name, big man

I’m reading Peter Pan’s First XI by Kevin Telfer, which is a book about J.M.Barrie’s ‘celebrity’ cricket team, the Allahakbarries. A member of that literary team was Hesketh Vernon Hesketh-Prichard or – to give him all his titles – Major Hesketh Vernon Hesketh-Prichard, DSO, MC, FRGS, FZS.

Hesketh Vernon Hesketh-Prichard (1876-1922) was a remarkable man and a pretty good cricketer, but I cannot move past his name. How can you end up with a name like that?

Known has Hesketh Prichard to his friends, this man not only had a double-barreled name but led a double-barreled life. He was an author, a journalist, an explorer, a big-game hunter, a first-class cricketer and made a major contribution to Britain’s World War I effort by introducing effective sniping practices.

Working in tandem with his mother, he initially sold stories to magazines to begin his writing career and published a collection of ghost stories. Encouraged by Barrie and another friend, Arthur Conan Doyle, his first novel was A Modern Mercenary about a dashing diplomat.

His travels resulted in Where Black Rules White: A Journey Across and About Hayti and Through Trackless Labrador. In 1904, the mother-and-son writing team produced The Chronicles of Don Q., a set of short stories about a Spanish rogue. In 1913, he published November Joe about a Canadian crime-fighting hunter.

During World War I, Hesketh-Prichard, who was a talented marksmen, was shocked to discover how effective German snipers were at picking off Tommies and how ineffective the British were at sniping. His recommendations completely changed how the British defended themselves against sniping and sniped themselves. The introduction of bullets that would penetrate German armour, telescopic sights, marksmanship training and improved tench design to protect soldiers against sniping had huge impact. In 1920, he published a book called Sniping in France, which remains the textbook for people who do this sort of thing for a living.

When he wasn’t writing, traveling or fighting, Hesketh-Prichard played cricket at a very high level, and talked literature with Barrie and Conan Doyle.

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