From 1960 the annual International Games were held at Stoke Mandeville except in the Olympic year when the Games took place in the same city or at least country as that of the Olympic host, but in practice this did not always happen.

The National Games

The Stoke Mandeville National Games was the annual calendar event for all the disabled sports clubs attached to hospitals from around the country and participants would come from all over the UK to participate and, if they did well, to then go on to take part in the International or Paralympic Games that followed.

Caz Walton first went to Stoke Mandeville to compete at the National Games there in the early 1960s.

The first time I went to Stoke Mandeville was possibly a little underwhelming. I turned up at the hospital and we were expected to stay in the wards… You were so close to the person in the next bed you could almost pick their leg up and move it by mistake for your own.

Jean Stone travelled to Stoke Mandeville as the occupational therapist with the Scottish team

Stoke Mandeville Hospital in 1960 was an eye-opener. I was horrified by the accommodation and the shabby huts. For myself and the physios who were looking after the team what the Games mostly seemed to mean was endlessly having to go round to the main hospital, get hold of a trolley, load it up with the food for the meal, then push it back, by which time it was probably cold. Then you had to wash up everyone’s dishes and there was no hot water in the hut!

1960 Rome Summer Paralympics

In Rome 1960 the International Games were held for the first time in the Olympics venue immediately after the Olympic Games. These games were the first to be held somewhere other than Stoke Mandeville. They are now seen as the first “Paralympic Games” although at the time the term was not used; in fact they were still called the International Stoke Mandeville Games.

210 athletes from 18 countries, competing in 8 sports. The GB team of 29 men and 13 women won 20 Gold, 15 Silver and 20 Bronze Medals.

Related content: Interview with Margaret Maughan about the Games and winning the gold medal in archery. Interview with Lady Susan Masham who won 3 gold medals.

1964 Tokyo Summer Paralympics

After the success of the Rome Games, the Japanese were keen to host a Games following the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and created a positive working relationship with Stoke Mandeville. 237 athletes from 20 countries, competing in 9 sports.  The GB team of 24 men and 15 women won a total of 18 Gold, 23 Silver and 20 Bronze medals.

Related content: Interview with Caz Walton winning gold in the Games. Hugh Stewart Mackenzie playing table tennis. Sally Haynes about being ambassadors for GB. Lady Susan Masham's experiences of the Games

1968 Tel Aviv Summer Paralympics

When the Olympic Games were held in Mexico City in 1968, financial constraints and issues of accessibility prevented them hosting the Stoke Mandeville Games. Instead Tel Aviv stepped into the breach and hosted. 774 athletes from 28 countries, competing in 10 sports.  The GB team of 50 men and 24 men, won a total of 29 Gold, 20 Silver and 20 Bronze medals.

Related content:  Sally Haynes and wheelchair fencing

Intercontinental Air Travel in the 1960s

Long distance air travel for people in wheel chairs was still in its infancy… It was the 1962 Commonwealth Games at Perth in Western Australia that was the British team’s first experience of long-haul flights for wheel-chair athletes

Long distance air travel for people in wheel chairs was still in its infancy… It was the 1962 Commonwealth Games at Perth in Western Australia that was the British team’s first experience of long-haul flights for wheel-chair athletes. We stopped off on the way at Bahrain, Colombo and Singapore. It really was pretty primitive; going along the aisle with a bucket to empty the catheter bags; and there was Guttmann walking down the plane encouraging people to keep moving their limbs to avoid them swelling. Two of the athletes ended up having to be put up in the overhead baggage racks so they could lie flat; one had a broken leg while the other was so swollen that we had to get him flat to relieve the pressure in his legs. It hadn’t got much better by the time we went to the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. On the way there we stopped over at Anchorage Alaska and then we were transferred onto two KLM flights which we shared with the Dutch and Israeli teams. Lots of the athletes were drinking, it was quite common then, and we were going over the North Pole when we hit a massive air pocket and the plane suddenly dropped hundreds of feet. One of the nurses, Jimmy Brennan was going round with a bucket to empty the catheter bags just as this happened and I remember there was one poor man who ended up with the contents of the bucket all over him; he was dripping yellow; and he said, “I don’t know if that’s urine or whisky running down me!” Jean Stone, Occupational Therapist

The Hong Kong team being loaded onto a coach in the 1960s. Image courtesy of Terry Willett

I remember the coaches in the 1960s at Jamaica and Tel Aviv. They had the seats stripped out and you entered them along a ramp. Once you were in you were lined up, four chairs abreast, with a bloody great bar like a scaffolding pole pushed across in front of each row for you to hang on to when the coach was cornering or braking; it was like a cross between a cattle truck and a fairground ride – a bit amateurish, but it worked.” Terry Willett, athlete

Memories from the 1960s

Archery, Wheelchair Basketball, FencingShot Putt and Discus and Table Tennis in the 1960s.

Jane Blackburn and Physiotherapy in the 1960s.