The second battle of Bullecourt started in France 100 years ago Wednesday. The first battle, on 11 April 1917, was “a disaster” according to the Australian War Memorial.
Despite this, a further attack across the same ground was ordered for 3 May. The Australians broke into and took part of the Hindenburg Line but no important strategic advantage was ever gained. In the two battles the AIF lost 10,000 men. One of these was Norman Callaway, who had just turned 21.
Callaway was a cricketer who had played just one first-class match for New South Wales. However, in his only innings during that match, he scored 207. That was the last first-class match for New South Wales until the War ended.
Callaway’s 207 was then a world record for a player making his first-class debut. It remains the record for New South Wales.
The match was against Queensland on the Sydney Cricket Ground. New South Wales had three players making their debut, William Cullen, J.L. ‘Lyall’ Wall and Norm Callaway. Callaway came in with New South Wales in trouble at 3-17.
“From the first ball he swung the bat with great power and precision at anything within striking distance and the ball hummed to all parts of the field at an extraordinary pace,” The Sydney Morning Herald recorded.
Callaway and opener, Frank Farrar (27), added 41 in 13 minutes, surviving a “red hot chance” when 39, reached 50 in 67 minutes, his century in 94 minutes and slowed down towards stumps when he was 125 not out of 4-228 after 130 minutes. He had been joined at 4-58 by Charlie Macartney and by stumps they had added 170 “at a clip which delighted everyone,” Sports paper Referee noted.
“And the strange part of the story is that the biffing and banging were not done by the little man of might [Macartney], but by the colt making his first appearance in first-class cricket”.
An unwell Macartney had been missed first ball in the slips and at stumps he was 58 not out.
The next day Callaway “immediately got busy”, but later, “for a quarter of an hour he got somewhat reckless, and was missed three times - at 163, 175 and 180 - deep at point, high at mid-off and wide at mid-on. However he settled down again”, said the Sunday Times.
Meanwhile, Macartney’s form “was of a high order, for he was hooking, driving and cutting, and making use of his feet in getting to the ball in the manner of his best” according to Referee.
He made 103 (155 minutes, 5 fours) and added 256 with Callaway before he was the fifth man out at 314. New South Wales added 146 runs in the pre-lunch session of the second day. Callaway reached 200 in 206 minutes and he was 201 not out of 5-374 at lunch. He fell in the second over after that interval, the sixth out at 387, having scored 207 (214 minutes, 26 fours).
Norm Callaway was born in Hay on 5 April 1896. He commenced his First Grade cricket with Paddington in 1913-14, making his debut on 27 September 1913, aged 17 years 175 days, and top-scored with 41 in Paddington’s innings of 218 against Gordon. Monty Noble (36) was the next best. Norm scored 578 runs in this season at an average of 41.28 with one century and three half-centuries.
His century, 137 not out against Middle Harbour on 18 October 1913 came in his third First Grade match. It contained 24 boundaries and was described in the Sunday Times as a “superb piece of batting throughout”.
He was selected in the New South Wales Colts’ team to play two matches against the Victorian Colts. In the first game at the Sydney Cricket Ground in December 1913, he made 14 and took 1-27 and 1-29. In the return match on the Melbourne Cricket Ground in January 1914, he made 129 (135 minutes, 21 fours) in the first innings and a ‘duck’ in the second innings.
Callaway joined Waverley in 1914-15 and was later selected for his first-class debut. With no first-class matches being played in 1915-16, his cricket was confined to first-grade matches with Waverley. He commenced with four consecutive half-centuries
After scores of 61 and 58 in his first two matches of that season, he scored 71 and 73 against Petersham. His batting in that match evoked the following description in the newspaper, The Mirror of Australia.
Callaway is a glorious batsman to watch, and is a coming world's player. He is the personification of confidence, and is like the late Victor Trumper in that he invariably attacks the bowling; and like the late great cricketer, he has also a beautiful swing, the bat generally describing three parts of a circle, and finishing well over the left shoulder. Callaway is a country lad (Hay).
He later scored 90, and two undefeated centuries, 101* against Paddington, and 103* against North Sydney, in consecutive innings. He finished his last match on 8 April 1916, having scored 705 runs for the season at 58.75.
According to the Nominal Roll, Callaway enlisted in the AIF on 27 June 1916 and left Australia on 7 October of that year on the HMAT Ceramic with the 19th Battalion.
The Sydney Sportsman carried the following article on the 25 April 1917:
N. Calloway (sic), the best bat in the Waverley team, left for the front early in October. He was looked upon as a likely man to become a champion batsman after his great score of 207 made for NSW v Queensland in February 1915. His batting was sadly missed by his club. May he return safe and sound at no distant date is the wish of his numerous friends and of Recorder [the paper’s cricket writer]
Sadly, it was not to be. He was killed in action just eight days later.
He was initially reported as missing in action and it was not until November that his death was confirmed to his relatives. The delay was due to confusion in the fog of war. A member of his battalion who knew him, reported that he was shot in the head while in a trench, and that he actually fell dead on top of him. However, another soldier who did not know him before the incident, claimed that he left the trench with Callaway and another soldier.
Little remains of Norm’s life.
He has no known grave.
Prior to leaving for France, Norm had lived with his parents at 22 Ebley Street, Waverley, now Bondi Junction. The houses in that street with odd numbers up to 19 are well preserved, however number 22, on the other side of the street, is now part of the site of an Office Works store.
His sacrifice is noted on the Australian War Memorial, Villiers-Bretonneux, France, where he is recognised as one of 10,885 Australians who were killed in France and who have no known grave.
His name can be found on Panel 88 in the Commemorative Area of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. His name is scheduled to be projected onto the exterior of the Hall of Memory on Friday, 5 May at 2.21am.
Norm is also listed on the Waverley Soldier’s Memorial 1914-1918, that stands in Waverley Park, Bondi.
Norm’s cricketing feats have been memorialised in the form of the Norman Callaway Medal. This medal was the initiative of West Wyalong cricket doyen John Scascighini. First struck for the 2007-08 season, it is awarded, in respect of Norm’s young age at his death, to the most outstanding under-21 cricketer in the Murrumbidgee Cricket Council, the area from which Norm came.