OBITUARY written by Mike Spurrier for the ‘Wicket Maiden Quarterly’.
Michael St John PACKE was the 4th son of Lieut Colonel EC PACKE of Great Glen Hall, LEICESTERSHIRE, a very keen cricketer, three of whose sons CWC, R.J. and M St. J., who all played for the County in the 1930’s. Over a hundred years before in 1820 three earlier PACKE brothers, one of whom had been wounded at the battle of WATERLOO, and another who was the great grandfather of them had played together for the LEICESTERSHIRE Gentlemen against LEICESTER New Club on the St MARGARET’s Pasture Ground, which is still a major sporting venue today.
M. St. J. Packe was born at EASTBOURNE on 21 August 1916, when his father was serving on the Staff in FRANCE. Educated at WELLINGTON College he was three years in the XI being Captain in 1934. He was also in the hockey side, a game at which he later earned his ‘Blue’ at CAMBRIDGE. His batting at school hardly foreshadowed his potential as a County batsman/near ‘Blue’, 543 runs in 30 innings, with a top score of 70 and an average of 20.8. At the crease he was an aggressive free scoring batsman and had a variety of strokes with a penchant for fierce driving and pulling. In the field he was both energetic and alert.
In August 1933, with still another year at WELLINGTON to go, he played in two matches for the LEICESETRSHIRE Gentlemen scoring 36* against the Free Foresters and 19 & 60 against the ETON Ramblers, being caught out by his brother C.W.C. in the latter match. All three brothers played in both games, R.J. and M. St. J. for the Gentlemen and C.W.C. for the Free Foresters and the ETON Ramblers for whom he scored 135.
Going up to MAGDELENE College CAMBRIDGE to read History, he scored 9 & 45 in the Freshmans Match. Later on he scored 100 (retired) for the PERAMBULATORS against the ETCETERAS. This performance gained him a place in the University side against ESSEX. He made 69 on his 1st class debut, taking part in a stand of 101 with WILF WOOLER. He scored 14 in the 2nd innings and 2 in his only other match against the Free Foresters. Playing in six games for LEICESTERSHIRE during the vacation, he scored a brilliant 118 against GLAMORGAN on the County ground when runs were badly needed and 72 against NOTTS at TRENT BRIDGE.
Concentrating on his studies at CAMBRIDGE in 1937 he only played in the PERAMBULATORS v ETCETERA’s game scoring 26 & 4*. In his 7 matches for the County he was less successful than the previous year, 123 runs only with a top score of 47 against YORKS, whose leading bowler was Len Hutton with a match analysis of 10/101.
During the winter he got his hockey ‘Blue’ showing great pace and sending in some sharp centres from his position on the left wing. The Varsity match was drawn 1-1, but the TIMES hockey correspondent suggested in his report that had some of his centres been better picked up CAMBRIDGE might well have won.
The start of the 1938 season found him with a good chance of gaining a ‘Blue’. At first all went well, with 5 & 59 in the Seniors Match and a useful 46 against YORKSHIRE and 33 & 56 in his best style in an hour, including 10 x 4’s against NORTHANTS and three 4’s in succession of WARD against the AUSTRALIANS. But, perhaps in the words of the TIMES correspondents, “he tended to be too anxious to force the pace”, or was it an unfortunate error in the match with the ARMY, for sadly his ‘Blue’ was to elude him. Fielding out as 12th man to a fearsome century by his brother C.W.C. 176 at a run a minute including 29 x 4’s he had dropped him off an easy chance on the square leg boundary when he was in the 60’s. After all the CAMBRIDGE Captain Norman YARDLEY was a Yorkshireman, “where they don’t play cricket for fun”. In fact M. St. J. had made 215* the previous day for the LEICESTERSHIRE Gentlemen against Magdelene College, having been dropped on several occasions.
The term over having taken a 1st in History he then spent a year in EGYPT, before returning to ENGLAND in late May 1939, to take over the LEICESTERSHIRE captaincy from C.S. DEMPSTER. His cricket, however, had started in April when he had scored 109 (2 x 6’s, & 14 x 4’s) for the GEZIRA Sporting Club against Hubert MARTINEAU’s Water Martins, taking part in a stand of 203 in 80 mins with the Welsh schoolteacher from LLANELLY Dick PARKHOUSE. This earned him a place in the ALL EGYPT side for the 1st ‘Test’ in which he scored 20 & 29, while PARKHOUSE scored another century. LEICESTERSHIRE in fact had a most disheartening season ending at the foot of the table with just one win. Nevertheless PACKE often smote with cheefull vigour with a half-century against WORCESTERSHIRE and 44 out of a total of 103 against YORKS and also held some sharp catches.
Having joined the RASC as a category ‘B’ Supplementary Reservist in 1936, he actually received his mobilisation order on the field of play in the match against DERBYSHIRE on the 1 September.
He was soon in France with the BEF and in May 1940 was one of the fortunate ones who got back through DUNKIRK [more likely CHERBOURG]. After a spell as an Instructor at an OCTU he volunteered for parachute training and on its completion took over command of the RASC Company in 1 Airborne Division, which took part in the [ITALIAN] landings. When the Division returned to U.K. he was promoted Lieut Colonel and took over as CRASC.
At ARNHEM, where his 2 i/c was the future KENT Captain, David CLARK, sadly to be taken prisoner, the RASC had a most unhappy and frustrating time. Due to the Division having been unable to capture many of the pre-planned supply dropping zones many of the supply drops fell in enemy held territory and his unit lost many men killed, wounded and captured in attempting to get in at least some of the supplies. As the situation became steadily worse the ammunition dump caught fire with PACKE’s H.Q. merely a slit-trench being located between the 3” Mortar stack and the small arms. In addition his supply Jeeps were knocked out one by one, until there were none left. Finally he led out personally what were left of his men across country through enemy territory to the RHINE. Even then their problems were not over, their boat ran out of fuel and got caught in the cross current, there being no paddles, they had to use their rifle butts to finally conquer the current and reach the other side.
For his services at ARNHEM he was awarded the NETHERLANDS Bronze Cross, his citation, drafted by Maj-Gen URQUHART in October, shortly after their return stating inter alia,
“Lieut Col PACKE so directed and organised the collection, that in spite of very heavy enemy fire and the extremely difficult conditions, the majority of the supplies that were dropped in or near the Div area were brought in and distributed. This officer was constantly under fire . . . . . and his determination to carry out his task . . . . . was a stirring example to those under his command”.
Afterwards he served in NORWAY and GERMANY before being demobilised.
The war over he married an American lady from PENNSYLVANIA and settled in ALDERNEY. There he divided his time between running a very successful market garden and writing history. John ARLOTT, whom he befriended on his early visits to the island, described his well planned life as follows. “In the morning he worked in his market garden . . . . at mid day he showered, had two pints of beer with his lunch and settled down to write for the afternoon . . . . at seven o’clock he finished that work, poured himself and his wife a glass of sherry and took a relaxed dinner, often with friends”.
He wrote several books which reflected considerable scholarship and an immaculate style. A semi-autobiographical novel on his war experiences, an authoritive work on the life of John Stuart MILL, “The Bombs of ORSINI”, and at the time of his death he had completed the first two volumes of a life of EDWARD III. He also compiled “The ALDERNEY Story 1939 – 1945”, from personal accounts and contemporary documents. While his wife was unfailing in her work to improve the ALDERNEY Library. In 1957 he was appointed a Jurat becoming Chairman of the Court in 1965.
Nor was cricket neglected. As captain of the ALDERNEY Cricket Club he did much to stimulate its growth and development. Although he had hardly bowled in 1st Class or Club cricket he found himself suddenly able to put himself on to bowl and successfully break stubborn partnerships.
He died in the MIGNOT Memorial Hospital, ALDERNEY on the 20th December 1978 aged 62.
A tribute to him in the GUERNSEY Evening Press & Star ended with these words, “His passing will leave a gap in ALDERNEY that cannot be filled. He will long be remembered with respect and affection”.
He played in forty one 1st class matches (35 for LEICS & 6 for CAMBRIDGE University) and scored 1151 runs with one century and 4 x 50’s, took one wicket, Arthur WOOD of YORKSHIRE for 14 runs and held 30 catches.