Captain Anthony Wilding – Wimbledon champion, killed in action 9 May 1915

Captain Anthony Wilding was the first and – so far – the only New Zealander to win a Wimbledon championship.

anthony-wilding
Anthony Frederick Wilding. Making New Zealand :Negatives and prints from the Making New Zealand Centennial collection. Ref: MNZ-0971-1/4-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23104417

His record in the International Tennis Hall of Fame reads:

Career Achievements

Top Ranking

World No. 1 (1911)

Grand Slam Results
11-time major champion and 4-time finalist

Olympics

Bronze Medal in Men’s Indoor Singles at the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games

Davis Cup

Member of the Australasian Davis Cup Team 1905-1909, 1914

Member of the Australasian Championship Davis Cup Team 1907-1909, 1914

In 1913, while dominating Wimbledon, Wilding won world titles on clay (World Hard Court Championships), grass (World Lawn Tennis Championships) and wood (World Covered Court Championship).

The ‘dashing’ sportsman

Tennis had been a sport for ‘wealthy gentlemen’, but Anthony Wilding helped it gain greater popularity through his dedication to training and fitness. Former world heavyweight boxing champion Bob

Fitzsimmons – another New Zealander – advised him on his fitness regime so that he ran two or three times a week, skipped, and went for brisk walks, as well as playing tennis. He was much fitter than his opponents, and neither smoked nor drank alcohol (which was unusual for the time).

Described as ‘dashing’ Tony Wilding had the female spectators swooning because of his ‘manly brand of tennis’. He was reported as tall and fair, as well as ‘handsome, chivalrous and was always on the lookout for adventure’.

Early Life

Anthony Frederick Wilding on a motorcycle.
Anthony Frederick Wilding on a motorcycle. Taken at Off to John O’Groats from Land’s End. Ref: 1/2-049754-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22429379

Wilding was born at Opawa on October 31, 1883, one of five children of Frederick and Julia Wilding. Frederick Wilding played cricket for New Zealand, was a good horseman, footballer, athlete and oarsman. Sporting interests were strongly encouraged at the family home, Fownhope, and Anthony’s sister Cora was also well-known in Christchurch circles as an artist and founder of the Sunlight League of New Zealand. Young Tony excelled at swimming, shooting, riding and cricket, but once he started at Cambridge University in 1902 he became a dedicated tennis player.

Wilding in Europe

Wilding qualified for the New Zealand bar, but didn’t work as a lawyer, preferring to motorcycle around Europe, playing in the great tennis tournaments of the Riviera, Germany, Serbia, Hungary, Sweden and Norway. Shortly before the first world war he became a pilot.

When war broke out the British-based Wilding joined the Royal Marines, rising to the rank of captain in the Armoured Car Division, where his pre-war experience of driving in Europe was valued. He was killed aged 31 during the Battle of Aubers Ridge at Neuve Chapelle in northern France, and is buried in Rue-des-Berceaux military cemetery at Pas-de-Calais, France.

The home of Canterbury tennis is, of course, Wilding Park.

World War I soldiers, including Anthony Wilding, in an armoured Rolls Royce car, Dunkirk, France. Ref: 1/2-049756-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22325181
World War I soldiers, including Anthony Wilding, in an armoured Rolls Royce car, Dunkirk, France. Ref: 1/2-049756-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22325181

More readingCover of Anthony Wilding: A sporting life

2 thoughts on “Captain Anthony Wilding – Wimbledon champion, killed in action 9 May 1915

  1. Sarndra 9 May 2016 / 5:32 pm

    People leave ‘footprints’ everywhere.
    Last year when I was in the UK i toured a National Trust property in Derbyshire…Calke Abbey (if you can – do visit, it’s simply amazing and totally ‘unstately’!).

    There on a dresser in one of the dilapidated rooms was a signed photograph of Anthony Wilding. I did a double take when i saw it. The visitor guide promptly went on to tell me about how Anthony was from Australia and was friends of the owners of Calke Abbey when he was alive. I certainly put that visitor host in the picture! Adding that i had also taken care of Anthony medals (War and Tennis) when they eventually came under our care at Canterbury Museum back circa 2005.

    https://flic.kr/p/u8Kigx – the photograph

    As an aside. Anthony’s parents Julia and Frederick are buried in Bromley Cemetery. Their headstone suffered damage like many others in the earthquakes. Only Julia’s name is on the headstone which features musical notes.
    https://flic.kr/p/iWbZPb and https://flic.kr/p/iWbZqf
    Anthony’s grandfather (Julia’s father) was at one time the Mayor of Hereford, England.

    • Mo-mo 10 May 2016 / 8:54 am

      Wow. Thanks for the added info (and links), and I’m glad you put that guide straight!

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