Stoke Mandeville Games 1957: Space is getting tight

Possibly driven by the publicity surrounding the award of the Fearnley Cup the participation in the Games of this year jumped from 280 competitors from 18 nations the previous year to 360 competitors from 24 nations this year1. This increase in competitors also meant that some heats in events such as table tennis had to be held on Thursday 25th July, the same day as the annual Scientific Congress2, followed by two full days of competition ending on Saturday 27th July. Teams competing for the very first time were Argentina, Ireland, Sweden and Switzerland. In addition, teams visiting especially for the Games for the first time, as opposed to being represented by patients based at Stoke Mandeville or other Spinal Units, were Australia, Greece and Malta. This also meant that for the first time ever in the history of the Games all continents of the globe were represented3.

International Nations Represented

Argentina        Australia          Austria        Belgium        Canada           Denmark    Finland            France               Germany     Greece          Ireland            Israel Italy                  Malaysia           Malta            Netherlands   Norway       Pakistan Portugal          South Africa   Sweden         Switzerland    USA

British Organisations and Institutions

Banstead Place, Dorincourt, Leatherhead

Chaseley Home, Eastbourne, Sussex

Team from Cheltenham

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

Spinal Injuries Unit, PinderfieldsHospital, Wakefield

Spinal Injuries Unit, PromenadeHospital, Southport, Lancashire

Spinal Injuries Unit, Lodge Moor, Sheffield

Lodge Moor ‘Old Boys’

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

This year saw the introduction of shot putting to the programme for the first time, which proved very popular drawing 49 entries. As with the javelin it was split into two classes to ensure fair competition.

Sports:     Archery          Dartchery        Javelin             Shot Putt         Snooker

Swimming      Table Tennis    Wheelchair Basketball      Wheelchair Fencing

Demonstrations:        Club Swinging

For the first time in the history of the Games the weather did not stay fair for the whole of the event. On the Saturday umbrellas were needed as the skies clouded over and the rain set in. It appears the competitors took it their stride and continued to compete where possible. However, some events were delayed, the fencing had to be switched from pitch two to the gymnasium and the final round of the Columbia round of archery had to be cancelled, so only 48 arrows were shot2.

The World Veteran’s Federation, who had helped to finance the Games since 1952 by assisting in the travel costs of athletes coming from abroad, finally had to bring their financial involvement to an end in order to concentrate upon their commitments and projects in other fields of rehabilitation4. This was, therefore, the last year they would be financially involved in the Games having assisted Malta and Greece to send participants to this year’s Games2. In response to this several countries had set up their own sports funds in order to try and make themselves financially independent in the future1.

For the second year running a special stand was erected adjacent to pitch one that allowed twice as many spectators to watch the events there in comfort. This was paid for by the Paraplegic Sports Endowment Fund, who also paid for the dismantling of two old cycle sheds next to the sports ground entrance. This allowed Mr Davies, the Unit’s engineer, and his staff to erect a new archway entrance to the sports arena2.

Prize Winners

Archery (161 entries)

Windsor Round

1. Stoke Mandeville Old Boys A  2653pts 

(R. Jennings, A. Potter, A. Aldwinkle, D. Cathcart)

2. Duchess of Gloucester House  2325pts  

(R. Martin, J. Ross, M. Sheedy, O. Clarke)

Highest Individual Score: Roy Jennings (Stoke Mandeville Old Boy)   692 pts

Best Gold of the Day: Lionel Vick

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

Roy Jennings 692 pts

Best Individual Score amongst the Stoke Mandeville Team:

Allan Windle 585 pts

Best Individual Score amongst the Duchess of Gloucester House Team:

R. Martin 653pts

Columbia Round*

1. Belgium A 1101pts  

(H. Puymbroeck, C. Lintermans, R. Mertens, C. Janssens)

2. France A    1092pts  

(Payen, Thomas, Derre, Thiaudiere)

Best Individual Score:

C. Janssens & H. Puymbroeck (Both Belgium A)   316pts

Highest  Individual Score by an Overseas Visitor:

C. Janssens & H. Puymbroeck (Both Belgium A) 316pts

Best Individual Ladies Score:

1. Kathleen Yates (Stoke Mandeville) 287 pts

2. Pamela Cross (Stoke Mandeville Old Girl) 272 pts

Best Gold of the Day: Witold Ruszke (Penley) and Sjoberg (Sweden)

*Final round not shot due to bad weather, therefore, scores are for only 48 arrows

Junior Replica Cup

1. John Flack (Stoke Mandeville)         2. Paul Waddingham (Stoke Mandeville)

Basketball (95 participants)

Despite the changes that took place in the basketball competition the previous year the differences in the conditions and rules under which the game was played in America and at Stoke Mandeville led to some often turbulent play in the incomplete lesion final. Having beaten Argentina 36-0 in the first round and the Duchess of Gloucester House team 34-2 in the next round, the Americans found themselves lined up against the Dutch in the final5. Apparently, the first half of this match was tough, but just about tolerable. However, in the second half the referees had to constantly intervene due to the roughness of play. With the Americans leading 10-4 the match came to a sudden stop due to the withdrawal of Dutch team by the Dutch manager, Mr G. Tromp6, apparently in fear that his players might get seriously injured. After an official enquiry Dr Guttmann regretfully decided to disqualify the American team and according to the Stoke Mandeville version of events this decision was ‘taken in the proper spirit of the Stoke Mandeville Games2’. This version of events is, however, somewhat contradicted by the report appearing in Paraplegia News, which infers that the Americans were cheated out of the match5. In contrast the complete lesion final between the Dutch and Lyme Green in which the Dutch narrowly won 22-20 was described thus ‘never has there been witnesseda finer game of basketball at Stoke, between two teams so evenly matched2’.

Incomplete Lesions

1. Netherlands (Ommen, Meinema, Janssen, Simons, Kruidenier)

USA disqualified

Complete Lesions

1. Netherlands (Van Ommen, Hoogendoorn, Britswater, Zwarts, Deman)   22

2. Lyme Green (Swindlehurst, Moran, Foster, Cale, Platten)                             20

Dartchery (52 entries)

1. Duchess of Gloucester House (R. Martin, M. Sheedy, J. Ross, O. Clarke)

2. Newcastle (Basset, Davidson, Marsden, Ridley)

Fencing (12 entries)

Winning Team

1. Australia (Frank Ponta, Bill Mather-Brown)

2. Rookwood (Dudley Winters, G. Cockeram)

Individual Sabre

1. V. Ludlow (Stoke Mandeville)

2. Dudley Winters (Rookwood)

Individual Ladies Foil

1. Julia Brockwell (Stoke Mandeville)

2. Diana Gubbins (Stoke Mandeville)

Javelin Throw (68 entries)

Class A

1. Hexham (D. Thompson, B. Kamara)

2. USA (Percy Mabee, J. Evensen)

Best Individual Throw: D. Thompson (Hexham) 67ft 10ins

Class B

1. USA (P. Acca, J. Mucci)

2. Lodge Moor (C. Thomas, Russ Scott)

Best Individual Throw: P. Acca (USA) 65ft 6ins

Best Individual Throw of the Day:  D. Thompson (Hexham) 67ft 10ins

Lotte Freeman Cup for the most handicapped competitor: Alan Peckham (South Africa)

Shot Putt (49 entries)

Class A

1. USA (Percy Mabee (19ft 6.5ins), G. Contes (16ft 10ins))

2. Hexham (D. Thompson (20ft 10.75ins), B. Kamara (10ft 11ins))

Best Individual Throw: D. Kihli (Finland) 22ft 10ins

Class B

1. USA (Percy Mabee, B. Jiacoppo)

2. Lodge Moor (C. Thomas, Russ Scott)

Best Individual Throw: B. Jiacoppo (USA)  25ft 2.5ins

Best Individual Throw of the Day:  B. Jiacoppo (USA)  25ft 2.5ins

Snooker (23 entries)

1. Arthur Poulter (Stoke Mandeville)

2. F. Bishton (Lodge Moor Old Boys)

Swimming (84 entries)

Junior Challenge Cup

Boys: 1. E. Hansen (Norway) 2. Roy King (High Wycombe)

Girls: 1. Antoinette Newell (High Wycombe) 2. Gillian Lewis (High Wycombe)

Karl Freeman Cup for the Best Australian Competitor: Bill Mather-Brown.

Winning Team on Points:        1. Austria        2. Germany

Table Tennis (100 entries)


Class A: 1. Tommy Taylor (Stoke Mandeville)          2. A.G. Smith (Rookwood)

Class B: 1. D. Phillips (Rookwood)                                   2. H. Geluk (Netherlands)

Class C: 1. W. Telsnig (Austria)                                         2. D. Phillips (Rookwood)


Class A:         1. Taylor & Heale (Stoke Mandeville)       

                         2.  Joan Adcock & M. Sherwin

Class B:         1. Basile & Contes (USA)                  

                         2. Vann & McCranor (Stoke Mandeville)

Class C:         1. Murrell & Swindlehurst (Lyme Green)  

                         2.  Telsnig & Waldenegg (Austria)

For the first time since the Games began a trophy, donated by The International Society for the Care of Cripples, was presented to the team with the highest number of points based upon the results of all of the sports7. The very first winners of this trophy were the Americans, scoring just over fifty points.

The International Society for the Care of Cripples Challenge Cup for the Best Team competing at ‘The Games’

1. USA  50.25pts

2. Stoke Mandeville 42.5pts

3. Rookwood 34pts

4. Netherlands 29.5pts

5. Stoke Mandeville Old Boys 29pts

Youngest Competitor of the Day: Richard Thompson (Stoke Mandeville) in Swimming (aged 9 years)

Guests of Honour

The Guests of Honour at this year’s Games were the Duchess of Gloucester, who officially opened the Games on the on the Friday; Sir Arthur Porritt, who took the salute during the wheel-past of nations and Miss Gillian Sheen, Olympic Gold Medallist in Fencing, who presented the prizes3. Dr George Bedbrooke of Australia was due to give the closing address on behalf of visiting teams from abroad, but was delayed en route and so the speech was given by the captain of the Australian team, Bill ‘Slim’ O’Connell2.

Following a meeting of experts in the field of sport and the disabled convened by the World Veteran’s Federation in Paris in May 1957 it was decided a technical meeting of experts should be convened to try and unify the rules of the various sports into one international set of rules for each sport that could be agreed and adhered to by all. The need for this had been further strengthened by the events that occurred during the incomplete lesion basketball final. Therefore, at 10.15am on the Sunday morning after the Games closed a lengthy meeting took place in the Examination room with around forty people in attendance. The main resolutions arising from this meeting were as follows:

  1. A tribunal of three members, elected by ballot, be appointed each year to consider and give a decision in any dispute that may arise, should the teams concerned not accept the referee’s decision.
  2. In addition, a member of the Stoke Mandeville organising staff act on the tribunal in an advisory capacity.
  3. Stoke Mandeville continue to set up rules for future Games as close as possible to international rules in all games.
  4. In order to encourage archery as a sport for paraplegics there should be a beginner’s round in archery and that each team be limited to one beginner.
  5. The distances in the swimming competitions be as follows: Class A – 20 metres, Class B and C – 40 metres.
  6. Club throwing be introduced as a new sport in the 1958 Games
  7. Referees be drawn from any country taking part2.

One other major decision came about as a result of the huge growth in the Games and the strain they were placing both upon accommodation and other hospital services. It was decided that a national games would be held in May each year where all of the various British organisations, Spinal Units and individuals would be invited to take part. From these Games a team of the best sportsmen and women would be selected to form a Great Britain national team to participate in the international games. The impact of this change would be two-fold; it would lessen the burden upon the accommodation and other hospital services at the international games by reducing numbers and it would also allow a British team compete on an equal basis with other nations for the first time. The first national games would take place the following year2.


1. Paraplegic Sports Endowment Fund, 1957, Second Annual Report and Abstract of Accounts 1956-1957 (IWAS Archives)

2. Scruton, J., 1957, The 1957 International Stoke Mandeville Games, in The Cord, Vol. 9(4); p. 7-28.

3. Programme for the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games dated 26th-27th July, 1957 (IWAS Archives)

4. The Cord, 1957, Stoke Mandeville Calling with a Pre-view of the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games, Vol. 9(3); p. 9-12.

5. Paraplegia News, 1957, Champions –Yet Not, September; p. 16.

6. Bucks Herald, 1957, “Wheelchair Olympics” at Stoke Mandeville, , Friday 2nd August; p. 5.

7. Bucks Advertiser & Aylesbury News, 1957, A Friendly Spirit Shone In The Wheelchair Games, Friday 2nd August; p. 11.


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