At the end of WWII my father who was serving in the RAF was given a set of 1936 German Olympic and Winter Games books by a German prisoner of war who feared they would be destroyed if the authorities found them. We believe this prisoner was a fighter pilot in WWI and was a member of the 1936 Olympic Organising Committee. These books have official photos of the athletes including the famous American Athlete Jesse Owens who caused quite a stir at the games.
I was born and lived just a few miles from Wembley and although I was too young to appreciate the 1948 Olympics I certainly remember the legacy of the wonderful facilities.
With my family and friends we regularly supported Wembley Lions Speedway Team at the Stadium, Wembley Lions Ice Hockey Team at the Pool, enjoyed ice skating session, the annual Ice Spectaculars and Pantomimes were also very exciting.
The children used to line the main route to the Stadium when the FA Cup Final and other major events took place as the happy fans in their coaches would throw pennies to the children who quickly gathered them up.
The school I attended was Wykeham County Secondary Modern it was one of the first Secondary Modern schools to achieve County status, offering GCE O level examinations in English literature and language and French together with RSA examinations in book-keeping, shorthand and typing; one young person even went on to University quite something in those days (1950/60s).
This was all due the hard work of a very dedicated and inspired Headmaster, Mr A.E. Temple-Cole, who was not only interested in the academic side of education but every aspect of his pupil’s development. Each year Wykeham would take part in the Willesden Borough Sports and Swimming Gala achieving great results., this was also part of the continued legacy of the 1948 and subsequent Olympic Games which helped inspire us budding athletes.
Through Mr A.E.Temple-Cole’s connections as Chairman of the All England Schools Athletic Association and the All England Schools Football Association, Colin Smith the British Javelin thrower was guest of honour in 1953 followed by Sir Roger Bannister, famous for being the first athlete to break the four minute mile, and Sir Christopher Chataway in 1956 at Wykeham’s speech nights, creating great excitement amongst the pupils.
Our local swimming pool was at Gladstone Park, Dollis Hill, Neasden. It was kidney shaped as originally it was a duck pond; it had sloping sides with just a small section at the deep end suitable for racing. It was here that we learnt to swim along with Judy Grinham (Olympic Backstroke Gold medal 1956 and world record holder in 1958) and her cousin Elaine who was my age. We had great times.
Judy was a member of the Hampstead Ladies Swimming Club which was a splinter group formed in 1948 from the Mermaids Swimming Club. Mermaids SC was formed in the 1890’s it also had Olympic Champions as members – 1920 Eileen Armstrong Silver medal for diving, 1928 Joyce Cooper 2 Bronze medals for freestyle and backstroke, 1948 Helen Yates Backstroke finalist and Stella Mitchell breastroke world record holder 1963 and Olympic Silver medal 1964. These were elite swimming clubs for ladies where one had to ‘audition’ to become a member.
At that time both my sisters were members of the Mermaids SC and were excellent swimmers competing with Sir Winston Churchill’s granddaughters at national level.
My sister Elaine was particularly talented and was offered a trial to train for the Olympic squad, unfortunately she was unwell at the time of the trials so was unable to take it further.
Our Headmaster also organised a school journey to Italy for the 1960 Olympic Games held in Rome, unfortunately I did not attend but remember the excitement of those who did. Elizabeth (Liz) Ferris also of Mermaids SC won a Bronze medal for diving at the Rome Olympics.
The 2012 Olympic and Paralympics were a great achievement and I am pleased to say that I was able to attend the Paralympics with my daughter, Anne-Marie and granddaughter, Abigail sharing an amazing experience something we will never forget. We saw David Weir race and being presented with one of his gold medals along with many other courageous and outstanding athletes.
Abigail and I also visited the display of Olympic memorabilia at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; Abigail had her photo taken holding one of the Olympic torches. Following this we visited Diana’s Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park, observing the Olympic stand and course being prepared for the triathlon.
After Victoria Pendleton won her Gold medal Abigail, her cousin Caitlin and I posted letters with Victoria’s stamps on at her ‘golden’ post-box at Stotfold.