“At 18 I was running a mile in about four minutes 10 seconds, and I
was asked to be an Olympic ‘possible’ in the 1948 Games. The
‘possibles’ were a group of British athletes who, due to the severity
of the food ration, were given extra food so that they could compete
better. I decided I was too young to be exposed to the full force of
international competition so sadly there were no food parcels for me.
Instead I accepted a job as assistant to the British Chef de Mission - the head of the British team. I lived at Uxbridge with the teams and each day was different. Some days I might escort a VIP round the camp, others deliver mail.
There was a Union Jack flag kept in the headquarters of our office and on the day of the Opening Ceremony, for no particular reason, I took it in the car with us. When the flags were distributed to each country, to march into the stadium, it became apparent there was no British one. Someone had forgotten it.
Quick as a flash I was ordered, accompanied by an army sergeant, to go back to the car park to retrieve our flag. The sergeant had to restrain a policeman as I smashed the car window with a brick as I didn’t have the keys. It was all quite dramatic.
Well-controlled panic is how I’d describe my mental state, I knew I had a job to do, I just wasn't sure I would make it back to the stadium before the team paraded in. Luckily Britain, as the host nation, was last to go in. I managed to thrust the flag it into the hands of the flag bearer and all was well – if you look at the official footage you’ll see that the British flag is smaller than the others and has a brass spike – a reminder of the small part I played in the Opening Ceremony which is ingrained in my mind forever.”
For British Airways. Olympic 1948 Portraits.