“I knew him well and loved him. He… never sulked, or got peevish over small things (as so many of us do at times),and he had the soundest, well-balanced mind I have been in contact with. His reasons for what he did were always pretty rational. His straightforwardness, and, I might say, boldness, got him usually what he wanted.”
Scroll down the Roll of Honour at Wimbledon and somewhere near the bottom you’ll see the name A.F. Wilding appear four times between 1910 and 1913.
But the very next year Anthony Wilding played his last Wimbledon.
He didn’t win that year… he was runner-up to Australia's Norman Brookes.
Only a few weeks later war broke out and Wilding signed up to the Royal Marines.
But his ability to drive (which was then a skill only a few people had) and his familiarity of the area led him into the Intelligence Corps, where he was tasked with driving along the German frontlines gathering information.
It took him six months to become a lieutenant, at which point he was given charge of the Armoured Car Division of the Royal Naval Air Service, where he commanded 30 troops.
Many of the vehicles had been donated following a request by the Royal Navy for ‘50 gentlemen… to bring their own cars and place them at the disposal of the Admiralty.’
By March 1915 Wilding was operating Rolls Royce armoured cars under the Duke of Westminster.
This unusual military lifestyle was a far cry from anything Tony Wilding had experienced before as the son of a wealthy New Zealand lawyer who was educated at Cambridge.
Only a year after he graduated, in 1906, Wilding had made a name for himself as a tennis legend after winning 23 singles titles in just one year.
Before long he'd befriended Herbert Asquith’s daughter, was giving tennis tips to Lord Balfour and became engaged to American silent-screen star Maxine Elliott.
Despite his sporting ability and his celebrity status, his friends praised his affable personality too...
His boldness, and the boldness of his troops. was tested on May 9th 1915 when his armoured car unit fired on the Germans at Aubers Ridge for over 10 hours.
Stepping away from the noise and the heat of battle, Wilding (a captain by now) took a break in a nearby dug-out. Fifteen minutes later a shell struck its roof and he died.
That year, in 1915, nobody won Wimbledon. The championships didn’t resume until 1919 when Norman Brookes, who had spent the war with the Red Cross in Egypt, was runner-up.