Stoke Mandeville Games 1956: The Italians add another star to the flag

The Games this year were held on Friday 27th and Saturday 28th July, 1956. Eighteen nations were represented with Italy taking part for the very first time.  Dr Guttmann’s wish, stated the previous year, that a team from Russia might attend was partially met when two Russian neuro-surgeon’s, Professor V.D. Golovanov from Moscow and Professor V.M. Ougriumov from Leningrad attended the scientific congress held in conjunction with the Games1. When asked if a Russian team might attend a future Games they were unable to say as sport and physical activity for paraplegics did not actually exist in Russia at that time.  A total of 300 competitors took part in the Games. The Games cost £676 to put on and sale of programmes and admission fees raised £201 meaning the Games had a net cost of £4752. The admission charge for the general public on the Saturday was one shilling3.  

International Nations Represented

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

Perhaps the most impressive participant at the Games, however, was Neville Cohen from South Africa. Neville had previously been a patient at Stoke Mandeville three years previously and had arrived in the UK in late April, having driven overland with a friend all the way from Johannesburg in South Africa. According to his autobiography by the time Neville applied to take part in the Games all of the accommodation was already full and so he pitched his tent underneath the window of Dr Guttmann’s office4.

The issue of accommodation had been raised as a major problem at the previous year’s Games with £6,000 needing to be raised immediately to built two further accommodation huts in addition to the two completed for the Games of 1955. One of the needed huts was supplied and equipped as a result of a donation of £4,500 from the Royal Air Force Association5. The money had been raised as a result of cinema collections at screenings of the film ‘The Dam-Busters’3. This hut was officially opened by on the Saturday at 3pm by Air Chief Marshall Sir Geoffrey Bromet who uncovered a plaque surmounted by the RAF Association crest, which was affixed to the hut6.

British Organisations and Institutions

Chaseley Home, Eastbourne, Sussex

Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation, Derbyshire

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 Girls’ living at home

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

No. 3 PolishHospital, Penley, Denbighshire

Northumberland and Cumberland Paraplegic Mineworkers’ Club

PinderfieldsHospital, Wakefield

Spinal Injuries Unit, PromenadeHospital, Southport, Lancashire

Spinal Injuries Unit, Lodge Moor, Sheffield

Star and Garter Home, Richmond, Surrey

Miners’ Rehabilitation Centre, Uddington, Lanarksire, Scotland

Spinal Injuries Unit, EdenhallHospital, Musselburgh, Midlothian, Scotland

Thistle Foundation, Edinburgh, Scotland

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

In terms of sports there were no new additional sports, but an archery event for boys aged 12 years and under and a foil fencing competition for ladies were added to the programme.

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

Demonstrations:        Club Swinging

Prize Winners

Archery (121 entries)

Windsor Round

For the first time in any sport a team competed under the banner of ‘British National’ team. This team apparently comprised of the best four paraplegic archers from all of the spinal units8, although mention is made of how these archers were selected.

1. British National   

(A. Aldwinkle, R. Jennings, R. Irvine, A. Hill)               2861 pts

2. Stoke Mandeville Old Boys B 

(L. Vick, Cameron, Cathcart, J. Laird)       2483 pts    

Best Individual Score: A.H. Hill (British National) 754 pts

Highest Individual Score by a Stoke Mandeville Old Boy or Old Girl:

R. Jennings 734 pts

Highest Individual Score amongst the Duchess of Gloucester Team:

M. Sheedy  647 pts

Best Gold of the Day:   Roy Jennings (Stoke Mandeville)

Columbia Round

1. France 2 (Bregal, Thiaudiere, Berre, Barbier)       1837pts

2. Stoke Mandeville (Cox, Vann, Wilson, Ludlow)  1956pts

3. France 1 1405pts

4. Belgium

(Peeten (232), Hewegezis (429), Alloo (369), Baggen (342))   1372pts

5. Glasgow 1308pts

6. Stoke Mandeville Old Girls 1262pts

7. Thistle Foundation 1247pts

8. Germany 1145pts

9. Edenhall 1124pts

10=. Hexham 1081pts

10=. Stoke Mandeville Old Girls B 1081pts

12. Newcastle 1037pts

13. Netherlands 1003pts

14. Cardiff 984pts

15. Stoke Mandeville Old Boys 927pts

16. Derbyshire 821pts

17. Southport 743pts

18. Finland 683pts

19. Stoke Mandeville Old Girls A 662pts


Highest Individual Score: B. Cox (Stoke Mandeville) 560 pts

Junior Challenge Cup: Raymond Theobault (Stoke Mandeville): 143 pts

Highest Individual Score by an overseas visitor: Bregal (France) 468 pts

Highest Individual Ladies Score:

M. Harriman (Stoke Mandeville ‘Old Girl’) 430 pts

Highest Individual Score amongst the Stoke Mandeville Team:

B. Cox   560 pts

Best Gold of the Day: Sloway (Thistle Foundation)

Basketball (63 participants)

Following on from the previous year’s competition when the Americans in their sleek lightweight wheelchairs had totally outclassed all the other teams, but which had also revealed a major difference in the rules under which the American and British versions of the Game were played, several modifications were made to the competition structure this year. Some slight amendments were made to the rules themselves, a second referee was added for each game and the competition itself was divided into two classes for complete and incomplete lesions in an attempt make competition fairer6. Polio victims such as those in the American team would play in the incomplete lesions event. Participants with complete lesions could also play in the incomplete lesion event, but not vice-versa. Although the names of the winning teams are given the scores are not recorded anywhere in the available results.

Incomplete Lesions

1. USA (Mucci, Jiacoppo, Welgar, Mabee, D’Antonio)

2. Lyme Green (Chadwick, Swindlehurst, Hooker, Moran, Newman)

Complete Lesions

1. Lyme Green (Moran, Newman, Swindlehurst, Foster, Platten)

2. France (Riffero, Zucchelli, Beuzit, Michout, Gres)

Dartchery (16 entries)

1. Stoke Mandeville (Harry Hill, Bruce Cox, John Vann, Norman Wilson)

Fencing (17 entries)

Ladies foil was a new event this year and attracted five entries with twelve men taking part in the saber competition.

Team:  Rookwood (D. Winters, G. Cockeram)

Individual Mens Sabre: G. Cockeram (Rookwood)

Individual Ladies Foil: Gertrude Wolf (Stoke Mandeville)

Javelin Throw (48 entries)

Class A (4 teams):       Hexham (D. Thompson, Kamara)

Best Individual Throw: D. Thompson (Hexham) 50ft 9ins

Class B (20 teams):     USA (Acca, Mucci)

Best Individual Throw: Acca (USA) 61ft 11ins

Trophy for the Best Throw of the Day: Acca (USA) 61ft 11ins

Snooker (12 entries)

1. J. Lowe (Lyme Green)

2. L. Boyle (Star & Garter)

Swimming (78 entries)

No individual event results for the swimming events of this year have been located, although Neville Cohen of South Africa claims in his autobiography that he won the breaststroke event, winning South Africa’s first ever gold medal in the process4. In addition to the rest of the competitors in this year’s swimming competition a team entered from the Infantile Paralysis Fellowship in High Wycombe who visited the pool weekly as outpatients prior to the Games6.

Winning Team on points score: Stoke Mandeville

Table Tennis (58 entries)

Singles                                                         Doubles

Class A:    Jacob (Netherlands)         Class A:         No Event

Class B:    De Beer (Netherlands)     Class B:         Smith & Brixley (Rookwood)

Class C:    W. Telsnig (Austria)         Class C:         W. Telsnig & Waldenegg (AUT)

Youngest Competitor of the Day: Stephen Darrington (Stoke Mandeville) in Swimming (aged 7 years)

Guests of Honour

Following on from the setting up of the Paraplegic Sports Endowment Fund in the wake of the 1955 Games it was perhaps apt that the guests of honour at this year’s Games were made up primarily of the Funds Patrons. These included Sir and Lady Templar and Sir and Lady Boyle, who were all Patrons of the Fund; Sir Arthur Porritt, President of the Fund and Lady Porritt and Sir Selwyn-Clarke, one of the Funds Vice Presidents1. Sir Gerald Templar, the Chief of Imperial General Staff, took the salute at the wheel-past of nations and his wife, Lady Templar, handed out the prizes. Mr Curtis Campaigne, Secretary General of the World Veteran’s Federation gave a speech on behalf of the visiting teams7. Sir Arthur Porritt, the principal speaker on the day, apparently discarded the speech he had prepared beforehand declaring it quite inadequate to describe what he had witnessed that afternoon6. Sir Arthur’s presence at these Games was to play a major part in spurring Dr Guttmann even further down the path he had set of closer links with the Olympic Games as will be seen in the next chapter.

1. Bucks Herald, 1956, Wheelchair Sportsmen of 19 Nations at Stoke Mandeville, Friday 3rd August; p. 9.

2. Paraplegic Sports Endowment Fund, 1956, First Annual Report and Abstract of Accounts 1955-1956 (IWAS Archives)

3. Bucks Advertiser and Aylesbury News, 1956, Russians at Paralympics, Friday 27th July; p.10

4. Cohen, N., 2007, Mind if I Sit? QuadPara Association of South Africa; Pinetown, South Africa.

5. Bucks Herald, 1956, Russians to attend the Stoke “Olympics”, Friday 27th July; p. 1.

6. Scruton, J., 1956, International Stoke Mandeville Games, in The Cord, Vol. 8(4); p. 7-21.

7. Bucks Advertiser and Aylesbury News, 1956, The ‘Olympics’ of the Chair-bound Sportsmen, Friday 3rd August; p. 3.

8. Star and Garter Magazine, 1956, The Stoke Mandeville Games, October; p. 18-19.


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