(2004)Memories of Surrey AC & Polytechnic H internationals of the 1920s Print
Written by A Ballard Peck   
Sunday, 20 June 2004 11:49

This article,concentrating particularly on the careers of William Hill & Fred Mawby,is reproduced by kind permission of the author,renowned athletics historian A Ballard Peck,and of the equally-renowned Bob Phillips,editor of Track Stats,the esteemed publication of the National Union of Track Statisticians.The article also highlights the rivalry between the athletes of Surrey AC and Polytechnic Harriers,the forerunners of your present club.Subsequently discovered information on the later life of WA Hill is available from David Barrington via contact on this website.

Britain's sprinters of the 1920s were among the best in the World. Harold Abrahams famously won the 100m gold at the 1924 Olympics. Harry Edward(Polytechnic H)(in 1920),Eric Liddell(in 1924),Jack London and Walter Rangeley(in 1928) earned five other individual medals between them at 100/200,and there were two further medals for the 4 x 100 metres relay. In this company,a mere 4th place in the 1920 relay scarcely compares at all - and it does not help if your surname is the same as that of Britain's much-acclaimed 800 and 1500 metres champion at those Games(Albert Hill - Polytechnic H).

William Hill,of Surrey AC,deserves greater recognition. Nothing is known regarding the date of his death(subsequently,his granddaughter saw this website and his death has been established as October 1958 in Tunbridge Wells);nor his height or weight when he was racing;nor even his style on the track; and a rare photograph of him finishing a distant 3rd in the 1920 AAA Champs 220 yards gives little clue to his stature and physique. Like his middle-distance namesake,he served throughout the First World War,as an officer cadet and then a Lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery in France,Egypt & Gallipoli,and he did not return to England until April 1919. Yet in what was his first full season of competition he became AAA Champion at 100y & 220y. At the shorter distance he won in 10.0 secs from Jack Lindsay,who was a Sergeant in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force and was the British Army Champion at 100y & 220y. At the longer distance,after taking his heat on 22.0,Hill narrowly beat Harry Edward in 22.6.

"The Times" reported of these Championships:"In spite of the rival attractions at Henley,Wimbledon and The Oval,there were quite 15,000 people at Stamford Bridge to watch some excellent contests". Among the throng - though,no doubt seated in some comfort in the VIP stand -was the Crown Prince of Sweden,who witnessed eight of his fellow-countrymen winning titles. The track was sodden after rain,but according to the reporter "there was magic in the name of Hill on Saturday". The tireless Albert Hill won the 880y and Mile and helped Polytechnic Harriers to victory in the medley relay by 25 yards from a Surrey AC team which included William Hill. The latter won his 100y heat by four yards and then in the final "just managed to beat the New Zealander by half-a-yard". The 220 was equally exciting as Edward led for three-quarters of the distance and then Hill,in the "outside and worst berth",came by to win by a yard.

Born on 31st October 1896,William Arthur Hill was the son of WE Hill,of Bromley,in Kent,who had served with the Army Veterinary Corps. During 1914-15,from the age of 18,William Hill had played football for the Bromley club,and his first athletics competitions of any consequence did not take place until 1916,when he won the brigade sports 100 & 220 yards whilst serving on the Suez Canal. The next year he represented his regiment at football and played as an amateur for Crystal Palace in the London Combination League while undergoing officer training. In July he recorded his first track performance of note when he won the 100y at a London AC meeting in 10 2/5th sec.

During the last year of the war in 1918 he regularly played football for his brigade and in one of his final military sporting appearances won the divisional 100y early in 1919.He was then also successful in several sprint handicaps in domestic competitions,and after the AAA Champs he was involved in a return match at London's Stamford Bridge with Harry Edward,who had placed 4th easing up in the AAA final,which Edward won in 9.9.The British record then stood at 9.8,held jointly by Jack Morton(1904 & 1905),Victor D'Arcy(Poly)(1911),Henry Macintosh(1913) and Willie Applegarth(Poly)(1913 & 1914). Hill himself was credited with 9.9 in a race at Cowes,on the Isle of Wight, on 26 July. Other successes for him that year included the Essex county 100y in 10.0 at Southend(where he also tied for 1st place at 440y in 52 2/5th);the invitation 100y at the Celtic FC meeting in Glasgow,which he won in 10 1/5th;the Surrey AC sprint double in 10 1/5th & 22 2/5ths;and a 100 metres in Huddersfield in 11 1/16th.

At the 1920 AAA Champs on July 3rd,Harry Edward ran five races in an afternoon,winning the 100y in 10.0 and the 220 "well within himself"(according to "The Times")in a brilliant 21.6. Hill took 2nd place at 100y by half-a-yard,marginally ahead of the South African,Justus("Jock")Oosterlaak,with Vic D'Arcy 4th and Harold Abrahams 5th.At 220y Edward had beaten Randolph Brown,of the USA,by four yards,with Hill(who had run 22.2 in his semi) a simliar distance further behind and Abrahams last of the four finalists. The following Saturday,at Crewe,Hill won the 100y at the triangular International match between England/Wales,Scotland & Ireland by a foot from D'Arcy in 10 1/5th. Edward(who had been born in British Guiana,now Guyana),Hill,D'Arcy and Abrahams were selected at both 100 & 200 metres for the following month's Antwerp Olympics. The US titles at 100y & 220y had been won by Loren Murchison,of New York AC,in 10.0 and Charley Paddock,of Los Angeles AC,in 21.4 on a straight track,and so it seemed that the British quartet would provide some serious medal challengers and that Edward might well be the man to beat for the gold medals,though Paddock had previously run metric times of 10.8 & 21.6,and a Swiss,Joseph Imbach,had unofficially equalled the World 100 metres record of 10.6 in his national championships. 

VICTORY FOR THE AMERICANS,THOUGH EDWARD IS AWARDED THE BRONZE

The Olympic 100 metres heats and quarter-finals were on Sunday 15 August;the semis and final taking place the next day. Murchison & Paddock ran the fastest times of 10.8.The first 2 quarters-finals were won by British competitors - Edward in 10.8(from Murchison in 10.9) and Hill in 11.0(as he had also won to won his heat) - and the last 3 by the Americans,Paddock and Jackson Scholtz,each in 10.8,and Morris Kirksey in 11.0. Abrahams,D'Arcy and the Swiss,Imbach,were among those eliminated. The 10 semi-finalists were the 4 Americans and the 2 Britons,plus Paul Brochart(Belgium),Emile Ali Khan(France),Felix Mendizibal(Spain),and the South African 3rd-placer from the AAA Champs,Oosterlaak. Edward won the first of the Monday morning's semis,again in 10.8,from Scholtz and Kirksey;Paddock won the second,also in 10.8,from Ali-Khan and Murchison. Hill,disappointingly,finished last in the latter race.

In the final Murchson mistook the starter's orders and was left trailing,but the race was still a resounding triumph for the USA. Kirksey & then Scholtz alternated  the lead beyond halfway and then Paddock,in his own words,"drove my spikes into the soft cinders and felt my foot give way as I sprang forward in a final jump for the tape". Even so,he won very narrowly from Kirksey,both timed at 10.8,with Edward placed 3rd in 10.9,though the photo-finish evidence was that Scholtz should have been given the bronze medal. The Beerschot track in Antwerp was notoriously poor and on any sort of decent surface the 10.8 clockings of Paddock,Kirksey & Edward(in the qualifying rounds) would surely have equalled the World record of 10.6. William Hill beat the Belgian champion,Brochart,in 10.9 in Brussels later in August,while Scholtz was to run 10.6 on 2 occasions in Europe in September. Paddock recorded 10.4 for 100 metres and then a sensational 10.2 for 110 yards(100.58 metres) in California in 1921. 

The leading competitors for the Olympic 200 metres again faced four races in 2 days,with heats & quarter finals on Thursday 19 August. Britian's fortunes were mixed. D'Arcy went out in the first round;Edward recorded the fastest time of the day in winning the 2nd of 5 q-fs in 22.0,though Allen Woodring of the USA was only one-tenth behind. Neither Abrahams not Hill broke 23secs and so failed to qualify for the semis. Hill had ironically missed out by only one-tenth to Brochart,who did not start the semis,and the qualifiers for the final were Woodring,Paddock & Murchison of the USA,together with Edward,Oosterlaak,and a New Zealander,George Davidson. Woodring,who had only been selected as a late replacement,surprisingly won the final from Paddock,with Edward taking his 2nd bronze medal. On 22 August the British team,deprived of the injured Edward,was 4th in the 4 x 100 relay in 43.1 to the USA(a World record 42.2),France and Sweden. This was,no doubt,something of a disappointment because GB,including D'Arcy.had won the race at the previous Olympics of eight years earlier.

In 1921 Hill reached both AAA finals. At 100y he was 3rd to Edward(10.2) and Abrahams,as no more than a yard covered all three. At 220y he was 4th to Edward(22.2),Abrahams and a Swiss runner,Henri Nozieres,having again run a much better semi(est 22.2),as had been the case at the previous year's championships. No doubt,the fact that it was Hill's 4th race of the afternoon explained such fluctuating form. Edward,who was also a 49.6 quarter-miler during his career,seemed better equipped to deal with these strenuous schedules. In September,Hill took part in the first France-England match in Paris and won the 100m in 11.2 and was 2nd to his Surrey AC clubmate,Lancelot Royle,at 200m. Hill also fugured in the medley relay team(800x200x200x400) which was won in 3.42.0 and England narrowly took the match by 123 pts to 118. Surrey AC provided eight members of the England team,contributing all three at 200m and the entire medley relay team. Also during the year Hill won the 220y at the Triangular International meeting in Belfast and the Essex 100y in 10.2 He ran 9.8 for 99y at Addlestone,in Surrey(incidentally,the birthplace of the 1912 1500 metres champion,Arnold Strode-Jackson),on 28 May and a 10.9 for 100m in Brussles on 13 August.

The one Briton to be credited with a valid 9.9 for 100y during 1921 was another of the Surrey AC men in the England team in Paris,Fred Mawby. The 1921 World list for the event was headed by Paddock,Kirksey & Woodring,with 9.6 to equal the World record,and the only non-American among the 16 men faster than Mawby was the Canadian,Cyril Coaffee,at 9.8. Paddock led at 100m with his sensational 10.2 amd Hill was the only Briton under 11secs,ranking equal 24th. Paddock also set a World record of 20.8 for 220y on a straight track and the fastest valid times for 200m round a turn - scarcely run at all by Americans - were no better than the 21.8 achieved by Fred Mawby and a German,Ernst Kruger.

BEATEN AGAIN BY EDWARD IN THE AAA CHAMPIONSHIPS BUT SUCCESS IN THE RELAY

There was a crowd of 25,000,including King George V,for the 1922 AAA Championships and Harry Edward was in majestic form. On a rain-soaked track he won the 100y,220y & 440y,causing the correspondent for "The Times" to enthuse that "he must be put down as a very wonderful athlete indeed". After winning his heat, Hill was 4th in the 100y to Edward,Royle & a South African member of South London Harriers,Christian Steyn. It was Hill's 7th appearance in a AAA sprint final;and he was at least to have the better of Edward once during the afternoon,running against him on the 2nd 220y stage of the medley reloy which the Surrey AC team won by 6 yards fromn Polytechnic Harriers. A week later Hill took part in the Triangular International held in appalling conditions of continuous rain and a strong wind at the Hampden Park football ground,in Glasgow,and was 3rd to Lancelot Royle(22.6) and Eric Liddell at 220y.

Then at the Essex Championships at Colchester on 15 July Hill won the 100y again in 10.2 from Lieutenant FWH Nicholas,of the Beds & Hunts Regiment,who had been awarded the Miltiary Cross during the war. An irrestible all-international team of Hill,Jack Gillis,James Hatton & Cecil Griffiths took the medley relay easily for Southend Harriers.

In September Hill was involved in his one and only British record,anchoring Surrey AC to a 4x220y relay time of 1.30.4 at Stamford Bridge. The 1922 season has been rather an odd one for British sprinting with the fastest 100y time being no better than 10.0,first set by an Oxford undergraduate,Richard Stapledon,in March and then equalled by Edward at the AAA Championships and by Eric Liddell later in July. At 220y Edward's AAAs-winning time of 22.0 was fastest and Hill's best was 22.4 at High Wycombe on 2 September. By the following year British sprinting was in the ascendancy again with record performances at 100y from Liddell(9.8 & then 9.7).

In the latter part of his athletics career,Hill had moved to Southend on Sea,which was the home town of his wife,Winifred,whom he had married in 1918,and so he joined Southend Harriers. He also evidently enjoyed boxing because he was a member of the renowned Belsize Boxing Club. His later life remains a mystery,and even the diligent researches of Ian Buchanan and the numerous contributors to his splendid book, - "Who's Who of UK & GB International Athletes 1896-1939",- have failed to find a date of death.

Surrey Athletic Club was already a power in the land before William Hill,Fred Mawby & Lancelot Royle began to win sprint honours in their colours after the war. A runner named FC Neaves had won the National Cross Country title in 1910 and contributed to England's winning team at the International Championships of 1908 & 1912. Alfred Nichols had won both individual and team 1st places in the 1914 International. George Hutson had been four times AAA champion at a mile and four miles but had been one of the war's earliest casualties. Then at the 1920 Olympics,Percy Hodge - who had also run in England's successful International cross country team earlier in the year - won the steeplechase gold. James Hatton,5th in the 10,000 metres at those Games,was another Surrey AC member.

FROM THE GUARDS TO THE FLYING CORPS,WITH SPRINT TITLES FOR BOTH

Like Hill,Fred Mawby had served throughout the First World War,but he was a professional serviceman who stayed in uniform after peacetime. He came originally from a Northamptonshire farming family,born on 20 April 1891 at the Abington estate,which is now a suburb of Northampton,and the births of some 20 members of the Mawby family had been registered during the 18th century in the village of Stoke Bruerne,now to be found some 5 miles to the west of the M1 and about 8 miles south of Northampton. He had joined the Army at the age of 17 in 1908,immediately taking an active interest in athletics. Though never an Olympic competitor or AAA title-winner,he achieved three very distinctive claims to fame. He was the sprint champion of both the Army and the Royal Air Force. On his single international appearance - in the inaugural France v England match of 1921 - he competed in both the 200 metres and the shot. The same year he was ranked as the fastest 200 metres turn runner in the World;the only Britons to have previously been so were Willie Applegarth & Harry Edward,and no other would be until Peter Radford 39 years later.

While serving as a Lance-Corporal with the 3rd Grenadier Guards in 1912,Mawby won the Brigade of Guards 100 & 440 and then the Army 100y(10 2/5ths).He was again brigade champion at 100 & 440 in 1913,but by the following year he had joined the newly-formed Royal Flying Corps amd he won the 100,220,440,120 hurdles and shot at their annual sports. He was also Hampshire champion that year at 100 & 440. There is no evidence of his competing during wartime,though many of the leading athletes were able to do so in improvised meetings behind the front lines,and the next results for him were in 1919 when as a Sergeant-Major he won the RAF 100(10.6),220(23.2) and shot(32ft 3ins) at Stamford Bridge,. There was also an egalitarian sprint relay that day in which four-man teams were made up of a field officer,an officer,a warrant officer,and an NCO or other rank and Mawby?s Midland Area team won by 6 yards.

He ran a 9.9 for 100y at Stamford Bridge on 21 August and set meeting records of 9.9 and 22.0 in winning both sprints at the Inter Services Championships at the same track on 4 September,beating Sergeant Jack Lindsay by 2 feet and four yards respectively,and earning a description by ?The Times? as ?two fine performances?. Intriguingly,in 4th place at 100y was Sergeant WR Applegarth,of the Royal Army Service Corps,who was presumably the great record-holder from prewar years who had turned professional in 1914 and was later to emigrate to the USA. In an autobiographical summary which he prepared in 1922,Mawby said he regarded this Inter Services ?double' as the finest performance of his career. He won the Midland Counties 220 but seems to have competed very rarely in the AAA Championships - perhaps only once,when he was 5th and last in the 1921 220y final - and this was presumably because of service commitments.

He won the RAF sprint double again in 1920,1921 & 1924(plus the 120y hurdles in 1920 in a respectable 17.0),and his best furlong time at the meeting of 23.0,set in 1921,was not beaten until one of Britain?s finest sprinters of the 1930s,Flight-Lieutenant Arthur Sweeney,ran 22.1 in 1934. Mawby equalled his records of 9.9 & 22.0 at the Inter Services Championships of 1921 and these times were not matched until Sweeney?s identical double,again in 1934. Mawby also ran 21.8 for 200m & 21.9 for 220y,which were as fast as anyone in the World achieved legally round a turn during 1921. In an unofficial match against Belgium & France at Stamford Bridge in May he won the 440y in 51.6.

Though not selcted for the 1920 Olympics,Mawby was a member of the British Empire team which met the USA at the Queen?s Club track,in London,on September 4in what was to be the first of a long series of encounters. He ran in both the 4 x 100(not 110y) & 4 x 220y relays,amd in the latter event the Empire?s Justus Oosterlaak(South Africa),Guy Butler,Fred Mawby & George Davidson(New Zealand) beat the Americans in a time of 1m.29.3/5th sec. The following week,at Stamford Bridge,the Surrey AC 4 x 440 yards quartet of Edgar Mountain(49.8),Cecil Griffiths(49.8),Denny Bullough(51.0) & Mawby(50.2) set a British record of 3.20.8 which stood for 4 years until beaten by the British Empire selection of four Britons,including Olympic champion Eric Liddell,which ran 3.18.2 in the next match with the USA.

SPRINTING AND SHOT-PUTTING IN THE SAME INTERNATIONAL MATCH

Mawby?s curious selection as both a sprinter and a shot-putter in the 3-a-side 1921 England match against France may have come about simply as a matter of expediency. British standards in the shot were woefully weak,and Rex Woods in 3rd place & Charles Beckwith(4th) were several feet behind the leading Frenchmen,but at the AAA Chapionhsips Malcolm Nokes - a future Olympic bronze-medalist for the hammer - and Charles Best had both thrown half-a-metre or so further than Mawby?s last place against France. Maybe there was a late withdrawal from the England team which travelled to Paris,and as there was no other throwing event on the programe Mawby was drafted in as one of the only team-members with any experience of the event. A more obvious choice might have been B. Howard Baker,winner of the high jump that day,who was also a Northern Counties? discus champion.

There were clearly some connections between Surrey AC and Southend Harriers because Cecil Griffiths - later twice AAA champion at 880 yards - was a member of both,as was William Hill and an international quarter-miler,Jack Gillis. There also seemed to be a close link between the services and the Surrey club because in addition to Mawby another member was Denis Black,who had won the Military Cross as an officer in the Tank Corps,and was then three times an Army sprint champion in 1920-1 and a member of the Olympic 4 x 100 team. Launcelot Royle(later Sir Lancelot Royle KBE,chairman of Home & Colonial Stores) had served in the Royal Field Artillery,as had Hill,and had joined Surrey AC and eventually won a siilver medal on the 1924 Olympic 4 x 100 metres.

Mawby?s best 100y time remained 9.9,though in 1921 he ran an estimated 9.6 on a downhill course at Histon,in Cambridgeshire,where the annual sports promoted by the Chivers jam-making company was held,losing narrowly to the Swiss runner,Henri Nozieres. The following year Harry Edwrad tooerpart in the same Histon meeting and in a series of three handicap races recorded 9.6 twice and then 9.4. Mawby had by now become a staff member at the RAF Cadet College at Cranwell in Lincolnshire and athough he was still racing two years later,he was not a contender for an Olympic place. One of the cadets in his care,Frank Nuttall,had made his international high jump debut at the age of 18 in the 1921 match against France and was to win the RAF title on 8 occasions thoough to 1933.

Frederick Mawby died in Gloucester on 3 April 1957 at the age of 65,and his local newspaper,the 'Gloucester Citizen?,carried no more than a six-line notice ,no doubt submitted by his widow,Grace,stating that he had lived at Holmleigh,Bristol Road,Quedgeley,and that the furneral would take place at Quedgeley Church. There was no obituary tribute. Not even the finest British sprinter of the two decades between the World Wars,Harold Abrahams,ever ran a faster valid 100 yards in Britain than either Fred Mawby or his clubmate,William Hill (concluded).