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Charmouth: Roy Churchman recalls 1948 Olympic Games memories
PROUD MOMENT: Roy Churchman leading out the Jamaica team at the 1948 Olympics opening ceremony at Wembley
THE Olympic summer of 2012 is bringing back a host of memories for a Charmouth man who found himself leading out a nation’s sporting heroes at Wembley in 1948.
For the 17-year-old Boy Scout Roy Churchman it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience as he proudly walked ahead of the Jamaican team at the opening ceremony of the first post-war Games in London.
Roy, now 80, recalls the excitement of the occasion when he stood in the middle of the ‘old’ Wembley stadium, right in front of the Royal Box as King George VI made the opening speech.
And he and his fellow Scouts were glad of their wide-brimmed hats as the sun beat down with temperatures of 93F (34C) – although some boys were overcome by the heat and were swiftly replaced by a ‘reserve’.
Roy explains that the Scouts were called upon to assist at the ‘shoestring’ Olympics because of their background as stewards at sporting events at Wembley.
The young men were drilled for the Games by a Guards’ Sergeant-Major, but that did not put Roy off as he later served 30 years with the Territorial Army.
Roy was picked to carry the name plate for the Jamaican team during the opening ceremony and for the Bermudans at the closing ceremony. He still treasures his battered autograph book signed by that team.
There had been bitter disappointment for the Jamaicans, whose star athlete Arthur Wint failed to gain a third medal when he pulled a muscle and fell to the ground during the final event, the 4x400 yard relay.
“It was very different for the athletes then,” recalls Roy, of Meadow Way.
“The whole entire event cost £600,000. Many of the athletes stayed at an RAF station, but I went to Wembley Grammar and some were staying there on makeshift beds and having to use the school washbasins.
“I also remember that during the opening ceremony there was suddenly a pregnant pause. An official went to the back of the dais next to me and pulled out an army telephone. Then I heard him tell Sir Malcolm Sargent, conducting the massed bands and choirs, that he had missed his cue.
“It was a wonderful occasion and I shall never forget it.”
Roy won’t be at any of this year’s Olympic events, but such is the draw of the occasion that his daughter and son-in-law are travelling back from Singapore this summer to enjoy the Olympic experience.