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.


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