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by Irene Glausiusz, Office Volunteer

Yesterday, athletes of TeamGB Olympic and Paralympic teams took part in a parade through London to mark their achievements in the recent games and also to mark the end of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

Munich Olympics 1972 (©Hackney Gazette, 2012)

During this same games, after a span of forty years, or in other terms 10 Olympic Games, a memorial plaque was erected to the 11 Israeli Olympians who were kidnapped and later killed by the Palestinian terrorist group, Black September, during the 1972 Munich Olympics.

The plaque is mounted on an outside wall at the Arthaus in Hackney and the unveiling took place in the week prior to the opening of the London 2012 Olympics. The dedicatory inscription names all 11 athletes killed and includes weight-lifters, referees and coaches.

London Mayor, Boris Johnson, together with other invited guests, jointly unveiled the plaque, which was draped by both the flag of Israel and the Union flag. The Mayor said “It is entirely right that we should remember those events and let us hope that the 2012 Olympic Games are only happy and peaceful.” Eric Pickles MP Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government also spoke.

The relatives of the athletes had asked the International Olympic Committee to hold one minute’s silence in memory of the athletes at the opening ceremony of the games, but President Jacques Rogge felt that it would be inappropriate and refused the request.

Large portraits of the 11 athletes were displayed along a hallway at the Guildhall in London where a commemorative service took place on 6th August attended by Prime Minister David Cameron and Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband.

It is a fact that there are Munich memorials at various Jewish centres worldwide. One interesting example is an abstract sculpture at the Jewish Community Campus in Rockland County USA. Created in stainless steel, it symbolises an eternal flame in the spirit of the Olympics; the base divided into 11 segments, inscribed with each of the athlete’s names. However, Martin Sugarman, Chair of the Anglo-Israel Friendship Association maintains that the London memorial is a “first” to the Munich athletes to be sited on a public building in the UK.

The Munich Olympic memorial project was spearheaded by Hackney Cllr Linda Kelly and Martin Sugarman. They also raised funds for the unveiling ceremony. The Hackney location is appropriate as one of the boroughs closest to the London 2012 Olympic Village.

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In this Olympic year I have been asked if there are war memorials to Olympic performers. This is rather difficult to answer as their careers at the top level, Sir Steve Redgrave apart, tend to be quite short by comparison say with cricketers, and they disappear from the layman’s consciousness. We do know that many sportsmen of all levels of ability were recruited into the British forces in the First World War, one notable one being Siegfried Sassoon. We have many records of memorials in golf and other sports clubs, while among the individual memorials are two in Northampton, to the black footballer Walter Tull  and to Edgar Mobbs the rugby international.

I have been able to identify some British Olympians who fell in the First World War:

•2nd Lt G.R.L. ‘Twiggy’ Anderson, The Cheshire Regt, died 9 Nov.1914 aged 25. He was a hurdles finalist at the Stockholm Olympics in 1912.
Captain H.S.O. Ashington, East Yorkshire Regt, died 31 Jan.1917 also aged 25. He was educated at Harrow and Cambridge, and was in the English team at Stockholm.(See 11163)
•2nd Lt A.E. Flaxman, South Staffordshire Regt, died aged 36 on the first day of the Somme.
Captain Wyndham Halswell, (25256)  Highland Light Infantry, died 31 March 1915. A professional soldier who had served in the Boer War, he won a gold medal at the 1908 London Olympics in controversial circumstances. In the final of the 400 metres he was blocked by one, or two, American opponents and the race declared void. The Americans refused to take part in the re-run and Halswell won by a walkover.
•Serjeant G.W. Hutson, Royal Sussex Regt, died aged 25 on 14 Sep. 1914. A regular soldier, he came 3rd in the 5000 metres at Stockholm.
•Private Kenneth Powell, Honourable Artillery Company, died 18 Feb. 1915, aged 29. A celebrated hurdler, he was an unplaced finalist at Stockholm and represented Cambridge both at hurdles and lawn tennis.
•I have also found a reference to another hurdler called Cubitt, but have not yet identified him among the 36 of that name on the CWGC Debt of Honour Register.

Research is continuing into other Olympic casualties for the First World War and later conflicts, so if you know anything, please let us know.