1955: The Pan Am Jets make their first landing

The Games this year were held on Friday 29th and Saturday 30th July, 1955. Eighteen nations were represented with the addition of visiting teams from Denmark, Norway and the USA and individual patients from Malaya (Abdul Wahid Bin Baba) and Turkey (Nas Huseyin). The eleven members of the American team were all employees of Pan American Airways who were sponsored by their employers1. Dr Guttmann was apparently especially happy to have an American team present and this lead him to hope that the next year he might be able to get a team from Russia to attend. He felt that the presence of these two world sporting super-powers would give true recognition to the Games. A total of 280 competitors took part in the Games2.

International Nations Represented

Australia          Austria          Belgium           Canada          Denmark         Finland France               Germany      Israel                Malaysia      Malta                Netherlands Norway             South Africa          Turkey        USA        Yugoslavia

British Organisations and Institutions

The number of British organisations present this year was bolstered by the addition of two organisations representing mineworkers who had been injured in colliery accidents. These were the Northumberland and Cumberland Paraplegic Mineworkers’ Club and the Miners’ Rehabilitation Centre in Uddington, Scotland

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’

Stoke Mandeville ‘Old Girls’

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

No. 3 PolishHospital, Penley, Denbighshire

Northumberland and Cumberland Paraplegic Mineworkers’ Club

Spinal Injuries Unit, PromenadeHospital, Southport, Lancashire

Star and Garter Home, Richmond, Surrey

Miners’ Rehabilitation Centre, Uddington, Lanarksire, Scotland

Thistle Foundation, Edinburgh, Scotland

Ministry of Health Spinal Injuries Unit, Rookwood, Cardiff, Wales

There were no new sports on the programme in this year, although wheelchair fencing was up-graded to a full-medal sport.

Sports:            Archery           Basketball       Dartchery        Javelin Snooker               Swimming     Table Tennis       Wheelchair Fencing

Demonstrations:        Club Swinging           

Given the huge and rapid growth of the Games over the previous few years and the fact that it was becoming more and more difficult to find space to accommodate participants in the hospital wards as had been done in previous years, the biggest problem the organisers faced in putting on the Games of 1955 was finding space to house the ever increasing number of competitors. This apparently caused Dr Guttmann quite a few headaches and was finally overcome by the construction of two new large huts next to the sports ground3. The huts, which were completed in less than three months, house approximately eighty people and were paid for by the King Edward’s Hospital Fund, the British Legion and the National Playing Fields Association. They were officially opened by Sir George Schuster, Chairman of the Regional Hospital Board4.

A new feature added to the programme for this year’s Games was the holding of a scientific meeting on the Friday, which was attended by approximately fifty surgeons and doctors from around the globe. This apparently proved so successful that it was decided to make it an annual event to be held in conjunction with the Games5.

Prize Winners


For the first time since the Games began they were not restricted to the front lawns of the hospital, but took place on a specially constructed and much larger sports ground at the rear of the hospital6. For there first time, therefore, the archery competition was divided into two disciplines. There was a Windsor Round for the more experienced archers and the usual Columbia Round for those that had not reached quite such high standards of marksmanship. Nine teams took part in the Windsor Round, which involves shooting 36 arrows over 60 yards, 50 yards and 40 yards. Seventeen teams completed the Columbia Round, which consists of 24 arrows over 50 yards, 40 yards and 30 yards. Both rounds used a five zone scoring system with the inner most zone or circle scoring 9 points and the outer most zone scoring 1 point.

Windsor Round

1. Stoke Mandeville      2466pts      

(A. Aldwinkle (729), H. Hill (660), J. Bell (563), N. Wilson (514))

2. Stoke Old Boys East 2400pts      

(R. Jennings (696), J. Irvine (656), L. Vick (568), L. Rackett (480))

3. Penley 2176pts

4. Stoke Mandeville Old Boys West  2090pts

5. Chaseley 1914pts

6. Duchess of Gloucester House 1846pts

7. Star and Garter 1803pts

8. Stoke Mandeville Old Boys North 1658pts

9. Lyme Green 1551pts

Highest Individual Score:  

A. Aldwinkle (Stoke Mandeville)    729pts

Highest Individual Score of the Stoke Mandeville Team:

A. Aldwinkle    729pts

Highest Individual Score of the Duchess of Gloucester House Team: 

M. Sheedy  505 pts

Highest Individual Score by an Old Boy or Old Girl:  

Roy Jennings    696pts

Best Gold of the Day:  H. Hill (Stoke Mandeville)

Columbia Round

1. Begium        1536pts    

(Van Puymbroeck (471 pts), Mertens (432 pts), Lintermans (331 pts), De Vassal (292pts))

2. Netherlands 1509pts     

 (Ari Prins (382), Van Opdorp (379), Hosenoning (379), Van Rooyen (369))

  Team 50 yards 40 yards 30 yards Total
1 Belgium 398 495 643 1536
2 Netherlands 390 548 571 1509
3 Stoke Mandeville Ladies 347 486 591 1423
4 France (Fontainebleau) 390 480 579 1358
5 Germany 354 371 549 1234
6 Glasgow 327 400 500 1227
7 Newcastle 196 350 536 1090
8 Stoke Mandeville Old Boys 260 372 443 1075
9 Cardiff 229 308 469 1006
10 Stoke Mandeville Old Girls A       913
11 United Veterans       891
12 France (Paris)       882
13 Stoke Mandeville Old Girls B       875
14 Edinburgh       866
15 Hexham       794
16 Southport       345
17 USA       326

The United Veterans team as made up of Abdul Wahid Bin Baba (Malaya), Nas Huseyin (Turkey), Hamalainen (Finland), P. Brusseaux (Canada).

Highest Individual Score:   Van Puymbroeck (Belgium)    471pts

Highest Individual Score by an Overseas Visitor:

Van Puymbroeck (Belgium)   471pts

Highest Individual Ladies Score:

Irene Chilton (Stoke Mandeville)    394pts

Best Gold of the Day:    Pamela Russell (Stoke Mandeville)


1. Stoke Mandeville (H. Hill, J. Bell, A. Aldwinkle, N. Wilson)


Perhaps a little unsurprisingly, as it had been Rookwood who had introduced fencing to the Games as a demonstration sport the previous year, it was Rookwood who took both the team and individual prizes in the sabre event 

Team                                                      Individual

1. Rookwood A                                   1. Dudley Winters (Rookwood)

2. Stoke Mandeville                         2. Col. Cameron (Stoke Mandeville)

3. Rookwood B                                  3. Dudley Phillips (Rookwood)

Javelin Throw

Class A: Hexham (D. Thompson (55ft 2ins), E. Kamara (43ft 8ins))      99ft 2ins

Best Throw: D. Thompson (Hexham)                                                                  55ft 2ins

Class B:  USA (A. Mucca (59ft 6ins), P. Acca (55ft 10ins))                       115ft 4ins

Best Throw: De Kruidenier (Netherlands)                                                         62ft 4ins


A total of thirteen teams entered this year’s netball competition, which given the time available forced the organiser Charlie Atkinson to swap the competition to a straight knock-out basis for the first time4. Unfortunately for the Lyme Green team, who had won the tournament for the previous six years, they were drawn against the Pan Am Jets team from the USA in the very first round. Much was made of the lightweight aluminium wheelchairs of the American team, which appeared to give them a huge advantage against the more cumbersome hospital chairs used by most other competitors in terms of both speed and manoeuvrability. However, it was also agreed by most reporters on their games that they were also by far the best team in the tournament7. In the next round they beat the team from the Netherlands and in the final they apparently ‘outclassed’ the Duchess of Gloucester House team4.

Interestingly, it appears the Americans were unsure whether they would even be allowed to play in the netball tournament as all of their players consisted of polio victims rather than paraplegia1. These fears were allayed when they found out the some of the opposition players were also polio victims, some whom could also walk. However, this difference in the range of disability did play a big part in the introduction of two classes for the netball tournament the following year. The Americans also noted that their was a big difference in what they knew as wheelchair basketball at home and the game as it was played at Stoke Mandeville at the time and known as netball. They highlighted the following differences between the rules for the two games:

  • There appeared to be few rules with the exception of one that allowed a player to hold the ball for no longer than four seconds
  • Charging was permitted as was jumping up in the chair
  • The basket was two feet lower than in the USA, with a smaller ring and backboard
  • The ball was larger, apparently making outside shots impossible and forcing teams to make all lay-ups1.

1. USA (D’Antonio, Welgar, Nopper, Acca, Mucci)

2. Duchess of Gloucester House (G. Todd, E. Kanakakis, R. Maxwell, Sawko, Grafton)


1. D. Brown (Stoke Mandeville Old Boy)

2. J. Greenaway (Chaseley)


No individual event results for the swimming events of this year have been located. All that is known is that Austria won the team prize and Peter McCranor the Junior Challenge Cup.

Winning Team on points score: Austria

Junior Challenge Cup: Peter McCranor

Table Tennis

The apparent absence of Syd Taylor from the Star and Garter Home not only meant that ‘the two Syds’ didn’t continue their previous domination of the Class A and B doubles competitions, but also that there were not enough competitors for a Class A doubles competition to take place. Syd Pratt did, however, manage to retain the Class A singles title he had won the previous year. The winner of the Class C singles, Hoadley, was British, but no affiliation is given in any of the results.

Singles                                                           Doubles

Class A:    S. Pratt (Star & Garter)      Class A:     No Event

Class B:    De Beer (Netherlands)        Class B:     Geluk & De Beer (Netherlands)

Class C:    Hoadley                                     Class C:     Welgar & Napper (USA)

Youngest Competitor of the Day: Terry Warren (Stoke Mandeville) in Swimming (aged 8 years)

Guests of Honour

Guests of Honour for the 1955 Games included Dr Roger Bannister, who presented the prizes; Sir George Schuster, Chairman of the Regional Hospital Board; Brigadier J.G. Smyth, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance who took the salute during the wheelpast of nations; Major General C.W. Fladgate, Chairman of the World Veteran’s Federation; Miss Avis Scott, a television personality and Mademoiselle Genevieve de Galard-Terraube8. Mlle Galard-Terraube, who was at a nurse in the French Roral Air Force and was at Stoke Mandeville with a team of French disabled servicemen and civilians, was nicknamed ‘the Angel of Dien Bien Phu’ by the media following her actions at the battle of that name in French Indochina2.

1. Schweikert, H., 1955, Pan Am Jets Take Part in Paralympics, in Paraplegia News, September 1955; p. 12.

2. Bucks Herald, 1955, Wheelchair Sportsmen of the World Meet at Stoke Mandeville, Friday 5th August; p. 10.

3. The Cord, 1955, Stoke Mandeville Calling, Vol. 7(4); p. 19-20.

4. The Cord, 1955, International Games Stoke Mandeville, Vol. 7(5); p. 7-16.

5. Scruton, J., 1955, Reflections on the 1955 International Stoke Mandeville Games, Vol. 8(1); p. 21-28.

6. Bucks Advertiser & Aylesbury News, 1955, “Paralympics” In Danger, Friday 29th July; p. 12.

7. Star and Garter Magazine, 1955, Stoke Mandeville Games 1955, October; p. 13-14.

8. Bucks Advertiser & Aylesbury News, 1955, A Story Of Triumph And Courage That Is Unequalled, Friday 5th August; p. 11.



One response to “1955: The Pan Am Jets make their first landing

  1. My father taught the physio’s Indian Club Swinging for the display

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