Sprinters, wrestlers, acrobats and divers among 1948 Olympians inspiring Rugby Museum

By Ben Miller | 01 August 2012
A photo of an elderly woman standing in front of a photo of her as an Olympic fencer
Dame Mary Glen Haig (born 1918), London (2007). A competitor in four Olympic Games, she was the first female member of the International Olympic Committee at the same time as working as an executive in London's largest hospitals© Katherine Green
London 2012: Katherine Green – 1948 Olympians, Rugby Art Gallery and Museum, Rugby, until September 1 2012

As the author of books documenting the last days of the famous dog track at Walthamstow Stadium and the battle for survival faced by shopkeepers on one East End street, Katherine Green is something of an expert at capturing histories before they fade.

A photo of an elderly man sitting in an armchair holding a photo of himself on a racing bike
Gordon Thomas (born 1921), Shipley (2012). He won silver medal for the team road race and went on to become professional, winning the Tour of Britain in 1953© Katherine Green
Green has spent the past six years talking to the British Olympic Team from 1948 – the previous time the Games came to London – for a touring show which reflects a different world.

In post-war London, the exclusively amateur athletes trained on rations, working full-time and raising children before taking unpaid leave to compete in kits they had sewn by hand.

Dorothy Partlett, nicknamed “the secretary from Essex”, won silver in the 100 metre sprint, and Dorothy Tyler competed in the High Jump at three Games, winning silver in Berlin in between driving for the army (she still plays golf competitively).

George Weedon, whose accomplished ballroom dancing also gets an honourable mention, was a gymnast and springboard diver qualified in acrobatic ballet, although he might envy the achievements of Gordon Thomas – a cyclist who scored silver for the team road race and went on to win the Tour of Britain in 1953 – and Denise St Aubyn Hubbard, a High Diver who translated Japanese at Bletchley Park, became the only female skipper in the Royal Navy Auxilary Service for eight years and, incredibly, sailed single-handed across the Atlantic at the age of 64.

The Games seems to have been the tip of the athletic iceberg for some of these sports stars: a freestyle wrestler later became a lumberjack in New Zealand, a footballer turned pro with Scottish team Queen of the South after the Games, and 1948 swimming team captain Roy Romain, a pioneer of the butterfly stroke, swam competitively until his 90s before passing away in 2010.

From Surrey to Shipley, those he left behind are still on fine form in these pictures. “It has been a great privilege to spend time in the company of such interesting and modest people,” says Green.

More pictures:

A photo of an elderly woman sitting in a chair holding a picture of herself pole vaulting
Dorothy Tyler (born 1920), Surrey (2008). A High Jumper, she competed in three Olympic Games and won silver in Berlin in 1936. She was a driver for the army during the war and still plays golf competitively© Katherine Green
A photo of a female former Olympian sitting in a chair with the medal she once won
Cathie Gibson (born 1931), Dunfirmline (2008). A bronze medal-winning swimmer, she held 29 British records at one stage, and was so well-known that Madame Tussauds had a dummy made of her© Katherine Green
A photo of an elderly man flicking through a book of black and white Olympic photos
Tommy Godwin (born 1920), Solihull (2008). Having begun cycling as an errand boy, he became a double Bronze medal winner, as well as a cycling coach, trainer and cycling shop owner© Katherine Green
A photo of a former Olympic boxer standing in a lounge in a suit striking a boxing pose
Ron Cooper (born 1928), London (2007). He was a Lightweight Boxer and Royal Navy stoker, turning professional after the games© Katherine Green
A photo of a man sitting on a sofa holding an identity photo of himself when he was younger
Lionel Price (born 1927), London (2012). The son of a West End tailor, he retired from basketball soon after the Games and built up a successful mattress manufacturing business© Katherine Green
A photo of an elderly man holding up a black and white photo of an Olympic hockey team
John Peake (born 1924), Peterborough (2012). A silver medal winner in the hockey, he was a Cambridge graduate and engineer© Katherine Green
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