Olympic Games - 1948
My memories of the 1948 Olympics start with the Second World War when I was a research assistant with the Ministry of Defence, based at Woolwich Arsenal, where I became expert in Rocket motors over the period 1941 to 1946.
The war ended in 1945 and in 1946 I married my darling wife Angela, whilst continuing my academic career at the Royal College of Science at Imperial College with the help of a Government grant. The grant was given in recognition of my wartime services.
And so we come to the summer of 1947 and in need of cash to augment the grant; Angela, who by then was pregnant with our first child, told me that picking apples in Kent paid well. So each morning I got on my bike and cycled from Eltham, where we then lived, into Kent and earned enough money to see us through.
It was that Christmas, of 1947, that it was announced that the Olympic Games were to be held in Wembley the following year. Perhaps it was the memory of all that hard work picking those apples that prompted me to write to Lord Burleigh, Chairman of the Olympic Committee. I can’t recall what I said in the letter but it was along the lines of him needing help in organising the Games.
Anyway, it resulted in an invitation to meet him in his London house and thence my becoming a member of the organising committee; responsible for greeting all the foreign participating teams on their arrival in London and ultimately marshalling them into the parade for the opening ceremony in Wembley stadium.
I recall that I wore my college blazer, sporting the badge of the Royal College of Science (RCS) and was then identified as a surgeon with sporting prowess! The RCS was taken to be that of the Royal College of Surgeons!
So the great day drew near and my family were installed in prime position in the Stadium. Our first born, David, spent the day with relatives to watch the parade on television.
I finally got the national teams into their correct order for the parade and, my duty done, I joined my family in the Stadium to enjoy the ceremony.
I think it was about the time the last National team came marching into the Stadium that a cold, sobering thought struck me. Whereas I was responsible for getting the teams into the stadium no one had any responsibility for their exit! I could envisage chaos at the narrow tunnel that led from the Stadium.
Making my way there I found the Guards Captain who had led the parade and asked him if he was going to lead them out when the Ceremony was finished? I suggested to him that the only way to avoid the chaos was to march them down Wembley High Street for about a mile until the last were out of the tunnel. To my question he sadly shook his head – his orders were to march them as far as the exit and then his duty was finished; if I wanted to march them down Wembley High Street then I had better fall in when he fell out! What alternative did I have to avoid chaos?
We had been marching for a mile when the Greek standard bearer asked me where we were going. At that moment I saw a taxi which I jumped into – telling them I was going to arrange coaches for them.
So that’s what I did.