Getting there…

Team England and Team GB athletes have competed all over the world, but sometimes just getting there is the issue. Although travel arrangements these days are rather more comfortable, in earlier eras they could be a challenge.

Hurdler Kathleen Tiffen’s recollections of the journey to a competition in Germany via Berlin in 1930 gives an idea of the shorter international journey to a meeting:  

Winnie Jeffrey (later Jordan) was 17 when she travelled the Empire Games in Sydney in 1938. A six week sea voyage aboard RMS Ormonde.
Courtesy of Jordan Family


The boat and train journey had been long and tiring…Most of the trains had wooden seats with no upholstery and all we could get to eat was Frankfurter sausages and rolls.

Kathleen Tiffen on travelLing to an athletics match in Germany in 1930

Journeys further afield included more to worry about than just the lack of comfortable seating. To reach the 1950 Empire Games (precursor to the Commonwealth Games) in Auckland, New Zealand the England Women’s team travelled by boat, a 5 week voyage each way. In an attempt to maintain some level of training while aboard ship, a daily schedule was instigated:

6.30am – wake up and cup of tea

7.30am – exercises on the sun deck

8.30am – breakfast followed by sunbathing or deck tennis

11am – drilled exercises

1pm – lunch and siesta

5pm – more exercises followed by saltwater baths then dinner

9.30pm – Horlicks and sandwiches

10.30pm – bedtime

The English team took two relay medals, a silver and bronze, and two high jump medals with Dorothy Tyler and Bertha Crowther both jumping 1.6m, but the medal table was dominated by Australian and New Zealand athletes on this occasion.

Rose Thompson was Team Manager for the Empire Games in Australia 1938. As with the team from the 1950 Empire Games, travel was by boat. The journey to Australia took five weeks each way. Rose was presented with a photo album by the team to commemorate the voyage aboard SS Stratheden and the Games.
Courtesy of Deaves Family Private Collection.