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

Archery

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

Netball

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.

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