Founder

Australian doctor George Bedbrook OBE is widely regarded as the founding father of the Commonwealth Paraplegic Games. After training in orthopaedics at Stoke Mandeville under Dr Guttmann, he returned to Australia where he helped recruit and lead Australia’s first team at the International Stoke Mandeville Games in 1957.  He was responsible for organising the First Commonwealth Paraplegic Games in Perth, Australia in November 1962, which were only open to competitors with spinal cord injuries.

Dr Guttmann leads members of Britain's team, en route to Perth for the '1962 Commonwealth Paraplegic Games', on the passenger gangway at Gatwick Airport, UK, 6th November 1962. © Getty Images

First Commonwealth Paraplegic Games, Perth, Australia 1962

  • Participating Nations: 9 (Australia, England, India, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Singapore, Scotland, Southern Rhodesia, Wales)
  • Participating Athletes: 89 (68 men, 21 women)
  • Number of Events: 89
  • British Medals (numbers based on the available information):
    • England 30 gold, 41 silver, 19 bronze.
    • Scotland 2 gold, 9 silver, 4 bronze.
    • Wales 1 gold, 3 bronze.

The Cord Magazine celebrating the 1st Commonwealth Paraplegic Games in Perth, 1962

Second Commonwealth Paraplegic Games, Kingston, Jamaica 1966

  • Participating Nations: 10 (Australia, Canada, England, Fiji, Jamaica New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Trinidad and Tobago, Wales)
  • Participating Athletes: 94 (72 men, 22 women)
  • Number of Events: 120
  • British Medals (numbers based on the available information):
    • England 64 gold, 50 silver, 30 bronze.
    • Scotland 11 gold, 11 silver, 21 bronze.
    • Northern Ireland 2 gold, 3 silver, 2 bronze.
    • Wales 5 silver, 3 bronze.

Lady Susan Masham's gold medal for javelin at the 1966 Commonwealth Paraplegic Games in Kingston

Third Commonwealth Paraplegic Games, Edinburgh, Scotland 1970

  • Participating Nations: 14 (Australia, Canada, England, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Malaysia, Malta, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Trinidad & Tobago, Uganda, Wales)
  • Participating Athletes: 197 (145 men, 52 women)
  • Number of Events: 150
  • Competitions and an exhibition for painting, drawing, sculpture and crafts were introduced to the programme.
  • British Medals ((numbers based on the available information):
    • England 48 gold, 32 silver, 23 bronze.
    • Scotland 27 gold, 29 silver, 21 bronze.
    • Wales 5 gold, 6 silver, 2 bronze.
    • Northern Ireland 1 gold, 2 silver, 6 bronze.

Janet Swann's memorabilia from the 1970 Commonwealth Paraplegic Games in Edinburgh

Embroidery gift from the West Australian Paraplegic and Quadriplegic Association. 

Fourth Commonwealth Paraplegic Games, Dunedin, New Zealand 1974

  • Participating Nations: 13 (Australia, England, Fiji, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Malaysia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Singapore, Wales) and three New Zealand based athletes who received a special invitation from the organising committee.
  • Participating Athletes: 229 (175 men, 54 women)
  • Number of Events: 150
  • British Medals (numbers based on the available information):
    • England 44 gold, 33 silver, 24 bronze.
    • Scotland 10 gold, 21 silver, 22 bronze.
    • Northern Ireland 3 gold, 7 silver, 3 bronze.
    • Wales 1 gold, 3 silver, 3 bronze.

Embroidered badge for the jacket pocket from the 1974 Commonwealth Paraplegic Games

Janet Swann's memorabilia from the 1974 Commonwealth Paraplegic Games in Dunedin 

Gwen Bucks certificates from the 1974 Commonwealth Paraplegic Games.

Hazel Randall pin badge from the 1974 Commonwealth Paraplegic Games.

Despite their success, because of issues around travel expenses and organisation, the Commonwealth Paraplegic Games Committee decided to discontinue the Games. The Commonwealth Paraplegic Games and International Stoke Mandeville Games Committees were supposed to organise a replacement World Zone Games but this did not happen.

Disabled athletes were unable to participate in Commonwealth Games until the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada where over 90 competitors, representing 16 countries, participated in six exhibition events. The 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games were the first Games where disabled athletes were full members of the national teams, making it the world’s first all inclusive international sports event.

Para athletes who competed at the Commonwealth Paraplegic Games

Gwen Buck MBE

In 1943, Gwen was hit by a lorry while riding her bicycle which left her with a broken back and severed spine. In 1946, after three years wrapped in a full body cast, she was transferred to the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital where Dr Ludwig Guttmann helped her become an independent wheelchair user and introduced her to wheelchair sport. 

Competing at four successive Paralympic Games from Tokyo 1964 to Toronto 1976, Gwen won a total of 5 gold, 3 silver and 3 bronze medals in lawn bowls, table tennis and swimming events. Read Gwen's Paralympic profile here.

Gwen competed for England at the 1962 Perth Commonwealth Paraplegic Games where she won 1 gold, 1 silver and 3 bronze medals, and the 1970 Games in Edinburgh, and 1974 Games in Dunedin.

Ron Foster

While completing his National Service in Benghazi, Libya, a freak accident caused Ron to be thrown from the lorry he was travelling in, breaking his back. When Ron and Paddy Moran were discharged from Stoke Mandeville, they both took the option of moving to the Lyme Green settlement near Macclesfield, Cheshire.

Ron won silver in the Wheelchair Basketball Men’s Tournament at both the Rome 1960 and Tokyo 1964 Paralympic Games. Read Ron’s Paralympic profile here.

Ron represented England at the first Commonwealth Paraplegic Games in Perth, Australia in 1962.

James Gibson 

James, widely known as Jimmy, suffered a T6 spinal cord injury when a lorry collided with the back wheel of his pushbike in 1955. 

He competed at the Rome 1960 and Tokyo 1964 Paralympic Games, where he won a silver medal in table tennis. Read Jimmy's Paralympic profile here.

Jimmy competed at all four Commonwealth Paraplegic Games, representing England at Perth in 1962 before changing to represent his home nation of Northern Ireland at Kingston in 1966, where he won silver in the Men’s Doubles Table Tennis, and in 1970 at Edinburgh and in 1974 at Dunedin. 

Sally Haynes MBE

At the age of 18, Sally suffered a spinal injury when the horse she was riding in a point-to-point race stumbled and fell. After initial treatment at Northampton Hospital her parents successfully fought for a transfer to Stoke Mandeville because, having lived close to the facility, they were aware of Dr Guttmann and the spinal unit.

At Stoke Mandeville, initially she played table tennis but soon took up archery which she competed in at the Tokyo 1964 Paralympic Games. Disappointed with her performance there, she moved on to fencing, going on to win gold in the Women’s Foil Team and bronze in the Women’s Foil Individual at the Tel Aviv 1968 Games, and another bronze in the Women’s Foil Team at the Heidelberg 1972 Paralympic Games. Read Sally's Paralympic profile here.

She also competed for England at the Perth, Edinburgh and Dunedin Commonwealth Paraplegic Games.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

Susan, Baroness Masham of Ilton, suffered a T5 spinal cord injury when the horse she was riding in a point-to-point race fell and rolled on top of her in 1958. While a patient at Stoke Mandeville, she took up archery before being introduced to table tennis which she describes as her “number one sport.” 

Competing in Rome 1960, Tokyo 1964 and Tel Aviv 1968 Paralympic Games, Susan won one gold and four silver medals in swimming events and two gold, two silver and one bronze across doubles and singles table tennis. Read Susan’s Paralympic profile here.

She also competed in the Perth 1962 and Jamaica 1966 Commonwealth Paraplegic Games where she won gold for javelin.

Paddy Moran 

Paralysed by an exploding landmine while serving in Korea in 1951, Thomas ‘Paddy’ Moran was inspired by Dr Ludwig Guttmann and Stoke Mandeville Hospital to overcome his life-threatening injury.

Initially introduced to wheelchair archery and table tennis as part of his physical therapy, after a few months he was playing competitive basketball which he competed in at the first International Stoke Mandeville Games in 1952. While he was at Stoke Mandeville, Paddy met Ron Foster who was in the next bed and went on to become a lifelong friend and fellow Paralympian. Read Paddy’s Paralympic profile here.

Paddy won silver in the Wheelchair Basketball Men’s Tournament at both the Rome 1960 and Tokyo 1964 Paralympic Games, adding bronze in the same event at the Tel Aviv 1968 Paralympic Games.

Paddy represented England at the Perth 1962 and Edinburgh 1970 Commonwealth Paraplegic Games.

Hazel Randall (nee Terry)

Born in 1941, after becoming disabled when she contracted polio, Hazel went on to become an accomplished Paralympic athlete.

On her debut at the Toronto 1976 Paralympic Games she won gold in discus and silver medals in shot put and pentathlon, going on to win bronze in the lawn bowls women’s singles at the Seoul 1988 Paralympic Games. Read Hazel's Paralympic profile here.

Hazel was also successful at the World Wheelchair Bowls Championships and, representing England, the 1974 Dunedin Commonwealth Paraplegic Games.

Janet Swann 

First representing Great Britain at the Tel Aviv 1968 Paralympic Games Janet won silver in the Women’s Novices 60m Wheelchair Dash and bronze in the Women’s Doubles B Table Tennis. At the Heidelberg 1972 Paralympic Games she won silver in the Table Tennis Women’s Singles 3 and bronze in the Wheelchair Fencing Women’s Foil Team. The Toronto 1976 Paralympic Games saw her win gold in the Wheelchair Fencing Women’s Foil Individual 2-3, silver in Table Tennis Women’s Teams 3 and 2 bronze in Table Tennis Women’s Singles 3 and Wheelchair Fencing Women’s Foil Novice Team. At the Arnhem 1980 Paralympic Games she won silver medals in both the Table Tennis Women’s Singles 3 and Women’s Teams 4. 

Janet competed for England at the Edinburgh and Dunedin Commonwealth Paraplegic Games.

Caz Walton OBE (nee Bryant)

Carol, or Caz as she is known, first competed in the Tokyo 1964 Paralympic Summer Games, winning gold medals for swimming and Britain's first gold in track events. She continued competing until the Seoul 1988 Paralympic Games, winning a total of ten gold, two silver and five bronze Paralympic medals for swimming, athletics, table tennis and fencing. Read Caz's Paralympic profile here.

Representing England, Caz first competed at the 1966 Kingston, Commonwealth Paraplegic Games before going on to Edinburgh in 1970, where she won 11 medals including 5 golds and Dunedin in 1974, where she was the most successful women’s athlete adding a further 5 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze medals in fencing, field events, pentathlon, table tennis and track events.

References

  • https://www.disabilitysport.org.uk/commonwealth-paraplegic-games.html
  • https://paralympichistory.org.au/article/australia-perth-commonwealth-paraplegic-games/
  • https://paralympicanorak.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/the-first-commonwealth-paraplegic-games-perth-australia-1962/
  • https://paralympicanorak.wordpress.com/2013/01/30/the-second-commonwealth-paraplegic-games-kingston-jamaica-1966/
  • https://paralympicanorak.wordpress.com/2013/02/06/third-commonwealth-paraplegic-games-edinburgh-scotland-1970/
  • http://canadasports150.ca/en/british-empire-games-commonwealth-games/1994-commonwealth-games-victoria/36
  • https://www.paralympicheritage.org.uk/james-gibson
  • https://www.paralympicheritage.org.uk/caz-walton
  • https://www.paralympicheritage.org.uk/gwen-buck
  • https://www.paralympicheritage.org.uk/hazel-randall
  • https://www.paralympicheritage.org.uk/sally-haynes