Monthly Archives: September 2012

Stoke Mandeville Games 1951: First Signs of Internationalism

In 1951 the Games moved from a weekday to a weekend. This is possibly due to the increasing number of former patients who were successful in finding full-time work and, therefore, unable to attend the Games on a weekday1. Therefore, this year the Games were held on Saturday 28th July. Once again the number of competitors taking part almost doubled from 61 the previous year to 121 this year2.

Competing Organisations and Institutions

Chaseley Home, Eastbourne, Sussex

Duchess of Gloucester House, Isleworth, Middlesex

Spinal Injuries Unit, GeneralHospital, Hexham, Northumberland

Lyme Green Settlement, Macclesfield, Cheshire

National Spinal Injuries Unit, Stoke Mandeville

Stoke Mandeville ‘Old Boys’ living at home

Stoke Mandeville ‘Old Boys’ living at Kytes Settlement, Watford

National Spinal Injuries Unit, Stoke Mandeville (Ladies’ Team)

No. 3 PolishHospital, Penley, Denbighshire

Spinal Injuries Unit, PromenadeHospital, Southport, Lancashire

Star and Garter Home, Richmond, Surrey

Dr Guttmann’s wish that the Games should become international in nature took a small step towards reality with four individual international patients based at various units around the country coming to take part in the Games.

Individual International Patients

Emanuel Kanakakis (Greece/ Duchess of Gloucester House)

Pierre Ducher (France/ Star & Garter)

Charlene Todman (Australia/ Stoke Mandeville)

Un-named patient (Southern Rhodesia)3

Snooker made its first appearance at the Games taking the total number of sports to four. In addition there were two demonstrations throughout the day. The first was for club swinging. This was done by twenty Stoke Mandeville paraplegics in time to music. This first started out as an exercise class taken by two physiotherapists, Miss Wylde and Miss Saint, An excellent exercise for deriving balance the class was worked up into a show of rhythmical precision and demonstrated to those present at the Games4 

Sports:            Archery           Javelin             Netball                        Snooker

Demonstrations:        Club Swinging           Table Tennis

The table tennis demonstration was carried out by four patients from the Star and Garter Home – Syd Taylor, Doug Traverse, Pierre Doucher and Charlie Groves5. Although only a demonstration event it appears that the ‘winners’ of this demonstration were surprised to find at the prize giving ceremony that they too were to receive a prize for their efforts6.

As had occurred every year since the Games began in 1948 music for the day was supplied for the day by the Central Band of the R.A.F.7, based at nearby RAF Halton and conducted by Flight Lieutenant F.A. Gale their Director of Music3

Prize Winners


For the second year running the archery team award was a very close affair and for the second year running it was the team from Penley that just pipped the team from Star and Garter to the title.

1. Penley                       1417pts   

(W. Rykaczcwski, W. Ruszke, S. Nowak, P. Czajkowski)

2. Star & Garter          1405pts  

(P. Twiss, R. Head, A. Kimber, E. Oakey) 

Following the problems he had with his bow strings the previous year it appears Bill Pye of Chaseley was determined to make amends and did so in style taking the prize for the highest individual score for the second time in three years.

Highest Individual Score:       William J. Pye (Chaseley)             462pts

Highest Stoke Mandeville Individual Score:  Leslie Johnson    394pts

Amongst the ladies in the archery competition the Stoke Mandeville ladies were the highest placed ladies team and Rose Heath of Stoke Mandeville achieved the highest individual ladies score of the day. This was almost matched by Charlene Todman an Australian civilian patient at Stoke Mandeville finishing just four points adrift.

Highest Ladies Score

1. Rose Heath (Stoke Mandeville)                                                   341pts

2. Charlene Todman    (Stoke Mandeville/ Australia)             337pts

Best Ladies Team:      Stoke Mandeville

Best Gold of the day: Mr C. Basset (Hexham)

Javelin Throw

In the Javelin team event the team from Hexham beat the team from Stoke Mandeville by just 7 inches (about 18cms). The competition for the best individual throw of the day was not nearly so close with Dick Thompson from Hexham retaining the title he won last year by over a metre and adding over three metres to his effort of the previous year.

1. Dick Thompson (56ft 11in) & W. Chambers (32ft 9in) (Hexham)            89ft 8in

2. B. Reed (36ft 3in) & Leslie Johnson (52ft 10in) (Stoke Mandeville)        89ft 1in


For the fourth straight year the boys from Lyme Green Settlement proved their superiority on the netball court by thrashing the team from Duchess of Gloucester House 11-0 in the final. The Lyme Green team became known as ‘the Red Devils’ as they played in red Manchester United football shirts8 and were becoming as successful on the netball court as their namesakes were on the football pitch.

Lyme Green     11

(S. Laing, G. Swindlehurst, J. Hooker, F. Smith, R. Newman)                      

Duchess of Gloucester House     0

(J. Thompson, M. Sheedy, G. Todd, A. Grafton, T. Maxwell)    


Like most of the events at the Games in 1951 the snooker competition was not decided until the very last ball with Johnny Harbron of the Duchess of Gloucester house winning the event on the black ball5 

1. Johnny Harbron (Duchess of Gloucester House)

2. Len Boyle (Stoke Mandeville)  

Table Tennis (Demonstration)

As described above the table tennis event was merely a demonstration of the Game by four patients of the Star and Garter home. However, the ‘winners’ are recorded and even though this was only a demonstration they did still apparently receive prizes for their efforts.

 Singles:            Pierre Ducher (Star & Gater/ France)

Doubles:          Pierre Ducher & Charlie Groves (Star and Garter)

Guests of Honour.

Guests of honour at this year’s Games were George Isaacs, the Minister for Pensions, who presented the prizes, and Sir Arton Wilson, the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions who had also attended with his wife the previous year.

In concluding the day Dr Guttmann thanked all the competitors ‘for their splendid performances, as they have given again a shining example of the modern conception of rehabilitation3’.

1. The Cord, 1949, Report from Chaseley, Vol. 2(4); p. 25-26.

2. The Cord, 1951, Festival of Sport, 1951, Vol. 4(4); p. 12-14.

3. Bucks Advertiser & Aylesbury News, 1951, The “Red Devils” Shone In Wheelchair Olympiad, Friday 3rd August; p. 15.

4. The Cord, 1951, Stoke Mandeville Calling, Vol. 4(4); p. 9-10.

5. Star & Garter Magazine, 1951, Stoke Mandeville Sports Day, October; p. 16-18.

6. The Cord, 1951, News from the Star and Garter, Vol. 4(4); p.11.

7. Bucks Herald, 1951, Hospital’s Sports Day, Friday 3rd August; p. 6.

8. Harriman, M, 1967, Bring me my bow, Victor Gollancz Ltd; London, p.98.


Stoke Mandeville 1950: Javelin thrown into the sporting mix

The third Stoke Mandeville Games took place on Thursday 27th July, 1950. The number of competitors almost doubled from the previous year with 611,2 sportsmen and women taking part from ten competing institutions and organisations. Hexham, Southport and Wharncliffe competed at the Games for the first time. Javelin throwing was added to the programme for the first time taking the total number of sports to three.

Competing Institutions and Organisations3

Chaseley Home, Eastbourne, Sussex

Spinal Injuries Unit, GeneralHospital, Hexham, Northumberland

Lyme Green Settlement, Macclesfield, Cheshire

National Spinal Injuries Unit, Stoke Mandeville

Stoke Mandeville ‘Old Boys’ living at Kytes Settlement, Watford

No. 3 PolishHospital, Penley, Denbighshire

Spinal Injuries Unit, PromenadeHospital, Southport, Lancashire

Star and Garter Home, Richmond, Surrey

WharncliffeHospital, Sheffield

Stoke Mandeville Old Boys living at home (including Duchess of Gloucester House)

Sports:            Archery           Javelin             Netball

At the opening ceremony Dr Guttmann declared that he had travelled to various parts of the world over the previous year and that ‘amongst the British medical and social achievements the introduction of sport for the disabled, and in particular the paralysed, has aroused the greatest interest and respect and even enthusiasm4.’ The increased size of the Games obviously necessitated a great deal of behind-the-scenes preparation and Dr Guttmann was quick to thank Dora Bell, Joan Scruton and Charlie Atkinson, who as well as helping prepare for the event, also did a number of vital jobs on the day such as checking archery scores (Joan) and refereeing all the netball games (Charlie)3.

Prize Winners


After two straight years of victory in the archery team event the Star and Garter team of Don Goodman, Robert Head, Jock Kimber and Ernie Oakey failed to make it three in a row by the narrowest of margins. The Polish ex-servicemen from Penley had obviously been practicing hard back home in Denbighshire as they managed to take the overall team prize by just one point

1. Penley                            1338pts  

(W. Rykaczcwski, W. Ruszke, S. Nowak, K. Charlanowicz)

2. Star & Garter              1337pts  

(D. Goodman, R. Head, A. Kimber, E. Oakey)

3. Stoke Mandeville     1228pts

4. Chaseley                      1064pts

Highest Individual Score

The battle for the highest individual score of the day is possibly what settled the team result with Ritold Ruszke from Penley beating Ernie Oakey from Star and Garter by just four points. Last year’s individual winner, Bill Pye from Chaseley, apparently had severe problems with his bow strings early on in the tournament3. Highest individual ladies score of the day was even closer than the overall team event, with Marie Mahon and Robin Imray, both of Stoke Mandeville, tied on 182 points. Marie Mahon was given the nod, however, based on some kind of count back system that is not outlined in the records.

1. Witold Ruszke (Penley)                    404pts

2. Ernie Oakey (Star &Garter)            400pts

Highest Individual Ladies Score

1. Marie Mahon (Stoke Mandeville)               182pts

2. Robin Imray (Stoke Mandeville)                182pts

Highest Stoke Mandeville Score:       Jesse J. Cox     370pts 

Javelin Throw

Margaret Harriman (nee Webb) claims in her autobiography that she, along with an un-named male paraplegic were the first to try out Dr Guttmann’s new idea for a sport – javelin throwing. Under the guidance of Thomas ‘Q’ Hill, who apparently stood waving his handkerchief and shouting ‘hit my handkerchief’ the two of them tried out what was to become the newest sport in the Games some months later5.

Although Dr Guttmann claimed at the prize giving that the development of technique for paraplegic throwers was still experimental the sport still proved popular with those competitors present3. Although there was a prize for the best individual throw of the day, which went to Dick Thompson from Hexham, the main competition was for the combined distance of a two-member team. This went to John Cain and Joe Thompson from Stoke Mandeville.

1. J. Cain & J. Thompson (Stoke Mandeville)             80ft 3.5ins

2. K. Charylanowicz & W. Rykaczcwski (Penley)      76ft 2in 

Best Individual Throw: D. Thompson (Hexham)       46ft 1in


In a repeat of the previous years final Lyme Green were matched up against Stoke Mandeville. At half time, with Lyme Green three goals up it looked as if they were cruising towards retaining the trophy they had won the previous year. Stoke Mandeville were in no mood to concede so easily and started the second half at break neck speed and quickly pulled back two goals. However, despite two Stoke Mandeville shots teetering on the rim of the net before falling agonising the wrong way in the final few minutes, all their effort was to no avail and Lyme Green retained the trophy in a hard fought match3.

Lyme Green                        3

 (A. Smith, A. Leonard, J. Hooker, G. Swindlehurst, W. Shiel)

Stoke Mandeville             2

(J. Cain, G. Todd, J. Thatcher, R. Todd, S. Buckingham)

On retaining the netball trophy for the second year, news of their victory was, quite literally, sent winging its way back to Lyme Green Settlement attached to the legs of homing pigeons that they had brought with them from Macclesfield3.

Guests of Honour.

The prize giving was attended by Sir Arton Wilson, Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions, and his wife Lady Wilson, who distributed the prizes. Also in attendance was Dr Rees, Director General of Medical Services of the Ministry of Pensions. Also in attendance on the day were the Beverley Sisters, who were in England for a short London season before returning to America. In the evening they sang to the patients in the wards6. Dr Guttmann concluded the prize giving by stating that he hoped it might be possible to add swimming to the programme the following year and also that teams from abroad might be able to take part3.

1. The Cord, 1951, Festival of Sport, 1951, Vol. 4(4); p. 12-14.

2. Bucks Advertiser & Aylesbury News, 1951, The “Red Devils” Shone in Wheelchair Olympiad, Friday 3rd August, p. 15.

3. The Cord, 1950, Festival of Sport, 1950 StokeMandevilleHospital, Vol. 3(4), p.19-25.

4. Bucks Advertiser and Aylesbury News, The Wheelchair Men in World Games?, Friday 4th August, p.9.

5. Harriman, M, 1967, Bring me my bow, Victor Gollancz Ltd; London, p. 95.

6. Bucks Herald, 1950, Paraplegics Show Skill, Friday 4th August, p. 3.

Stoke Mandeville 1949: The Paraplegic ‘Olympic Games’ of the Future.

I’ve noticed an increasing number of search terms that lead to views of my blog at regarding results from Stoke Mandeville Games between 1948 and 1959 so I’ve decided to post the results and descriptions of these Games here over the coming weeks.

Dr Guttmann’s ‘Grand Festival of Paraplegic Sport’, as the second incarnation of the Games were described in The Cord1, were held on Wednesday, 27th July 1949. Building upon much hard work done by Dr Guttmann, his staff and the impact of various stoke Mandeville patients moving to other spinal units around the country and taking their new found enthusiasm for sport with them the number of teams entered rose to seven2. These were as follows:

Stoke Mandeville

Stoke Mandeville Ladies

Stoke Mandeville Old Boys living at home

Chaseley Home, Eastbourne, Sussex

Lyme Green Settlement, Macclesfield, Cheshire

No. 3 Polish Hospital, Penley, Denbighshire

Star and Garter Home, Richmond, Surrey

A grand total of thirty seven individuals took part in these Games3 and with the exception of the archers from the Polish Hospital at Penley every competitor had, at some time, been a patient of Dr Guttmann4.  With the possible exception of the Polish competitors from Penley, who it is currently impossible to know whether they were British residents, these Games saw the participation of the first identifiable ‘international’ patient – Emanuel Kanakakis, competing for Chaseley, but actually a Greek citizen5,6. In addition to a repeat of the previous year’s archery competition ‘net-ball’ was added to the programme for these Games. This was a kind of hybrid of netball and basketball played in wheelchairs and using netball posts for goals. A total of six teams entered the archery competition7 and three teams were entered for the net-ball competition2 as follows:

Archery                                                                                   Net-ball

Stoke Mandeville                                                                  Stoke Mandeville

Stoke Mandeville Ladies                                                    Lyme Green

Stoke Mandeville Old Boys living at home                Chaseley


Star and Garter


The day began at 9.30am with a speech of welcome and encouragement from Dr Guttmann, followed by an explanation of the rules from Miss Bell, who was in charge of the physiotherapists at Stoke Mandeville8 and Quartermaster Sergeant Instructor Thomas Hill, better known as ‘Q’, who was seconded to the Spinal Centre from the army. His job was to improve the physical condition of patients who could still walk in order that they could be returned to their army units9. Once the explanations were over competition in both the archery and the net-ball commenced with the 50 yard and 40 yard distances of a Columbia round being shot in the archery and each of the net-ball teams playing each other to decide who would play-off in the final after lunch. Competition in the archery commenced at around 10am with the Star and Garter team going into lunch with a small lead. Once again the archery was officiated by Frank Bilson, Champion Archer of England. The results of the mornings net-ball matches, which were all refereed by Charlie Atkinson, a physiotherapist who went on to play a major part in the development of sport for the disabled10, were as follows:

Lyme Green beat Stoke Mandeville (6-3)

Stoke Mandeville beat Chaseley (4-0)

Lyme Green beat Chaseley11

Lyme Green and Stoke Mandeville, therefore, progressed to that afternoon’s final and in front of an appreciative crowd Lyme Green went on to beat Stoke Mandeville 4-2 in a game lasting thirty minutes. The winning Lyme Green Squad consisted of Ginger Swindlehurst, Arthur Smith, Sam Laing, Jimmy Hooker, Jim Chadwick, Owen Leonard and Ronnie Brooks12. It should be pointed out that Stoke Mandeville were the only side to field a woman in their team, 21 year old Margaret Webb, who apparently put in a fine performance ‘among nine burly men’4. Under her married name of Margaret Harriman she went on to compete for Rhodesia and then South Africa, winning medals in for different sports.

In the afternoon the final round of the archery over 30 yards also took place and despite some fine individual shooting by Bill Pye of Chaseley, who had apparently recently recovered from a serious illness, it was not enough to prevent the Star and Garter team, lead by Peter Twiss with 390 points, from retaining the title they had captured the previous year. The team consisted of Peter Twiss, Henry Tomlinson, Dennis Goodman and Robert Head5.

At the close of competition all the athletes and guests were provided with tea in the Sister’s Dining Room. Amongst the guests were Alderman J. Holland (Mayor of Aylesbury) and his wife, Sir Francis Prideaux (Director General of the Ministry of Pensions), Miss EE Warr (Matron, Royal Bucks Hospital), the Right Honourable AH Marquand (Minister of Pensions) and Miss M. Cox (Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Pensions). It was Miss Cox who went on to present the prizes of Cups and medals to each of the winners, the medals themselves having been designed and made by the patients attending the precision engineering class at the hospital, some of whom, such as Betty Green, had taken part in the days sports activities2. The final results of the archery were as follows:

Overall Result:           

1. Star and Garter       1208 pts

2. Chaseley                    1167 pts

3. Stoke Mandeville    1089 pts

Highest Individual Score:                   Bill Pye (Chaseley)                 404 pts

Most Golds:                                               Bill Pye (Chaseley)                 19

Greatest number of hits:                     Bill Pye (Chaseley)                  68

Highest Ladies Score:                           J. Bunty Noon                           213 pts

Greatest number of hits (Ladies):       Betty Green                            55

At the end of the day Dr Guttmann gave a speech in which he made the now famous claim that the Stoke Mandeville Games would one day become recognised as the paraplegic’s equivalent of the Olympic Games2,4,13. This certainly showed remarkable foresight given that he himself admits that, despite the widely accepted success of the day, the statement was met with very little shared optimism from those gathered in the audience14. However the Minister for Pensions, the Right Honourable HA Marquand did state ‘this is really Dr Guttmann’s day. The splendid performance of these paraplegic patients this afternoon is testimony to his work in the treatment and rehabilitation of paralysed ex-servicemen’12

1. The Cord, 1949, Stoke Mandeville Calling, Vol. 2(4); p34-35.

2. The Cord, 1949, Stoke Mandeville Calling, Vol. 3(1); p22-25.

3. The Cord, 1950, Festival of Sport, 1950 Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Vol. 3(4); p.19-25.

4. Bucks Advertiser and Aylesbury News, 1949, “Olympic Games” Of Disabled Men is Born at Stoke, Friday, July 29th, p15.

5. The Cord, 1949, Report from Chaseley, Vol. 2(3); p. 16-18.

6. The Cord, 1949, Report from Chaseley, Vol. 3(1); p. 12-13.

7. Star and Gater Magazine, 1949, Archery at Stoke Mandeville: Success of Star and Garter Team, Oct; p9.

8. Scruton, J., 1998, Stoke Mandeville: Road to the Paralympics, Peterhouse Press; Aylesbury (p67)

9. Goodman, S., 1986, Spirit of Stoke Mandeville: the story of Sir Ludwig Guttmann, Collins: London (p. 142-143)

10. Goodman, S., 1986, Spirit of Stoke Mandeville: the story of Sir Ludwig Guttmann, Collins: London (p. 128-129)

11. No score is recorded for this game, but an unnamed author from Chaseley wrote that the team suffered a ‘heavy defeat from Lyme Green’ in The Cord, 1949, Report from Chaseley, Vol. 3(1); p12-13.

12. The Cord, 1949, News from Lyme Green, Vol. 3(1); p29.

13. Guttmann, L., Looking Back on a Decade in The Cord, 1954, Vol. 6(4); p9-23.

14. Bucks Herald, 1949, Wheelchair Sportsmen, Friday, July 29th, p5.