Olympic Torch returns to Guildford
30 July 2012
Pictured above: The Olympic Torch passing the Guildford offices of Meldrum Salter Edgley.
As from 2012, London will become the only city to have hosted three Summer Olympic Games. The Olympic Flame last came to Surrey in 1948, when the flame (having made its way through war scarred Western Europe) arrived at Dover on a British destroyer to begin its journey through South East England to Wembley.
Life was rather different then – with the Second World War just passed, and rationing still in place, the Games were regarded as a symbol of optimism; heralding in a new post-war era and the hope of a return to prosperity. Some of the original advertising for the Games is pictured here (below right).
Candyfloss was available, but had to be bought with food coupons; and only a few people owned TV sets. London and indeed the whole of Britain had suffered during the War, and although we were in a position to host the Games, it was a time of improvisation and ‘making do’ – for example, the Olympic running track was made up of cinders from household fires!
The only visual contact with the Games for most people was via the cinema newsreels. Long queues would form at the local ‘picture house’ in the hope of seeing the latest film; often, these were standing room only.
Pictured below centre: Local athlete Austin Playfoot (dark vest) lights fellow runner Frank Ede’s torch at the hand-over point in Guildford’s Upper High Street. With them is the then Mayor of Guildford, Alderman Arthur Williams. Playfoot, of the Godalming Athletics Club, had started his leg of the relay at the Horse and Groom pub in Merrow; while Ede, of the Dennis Athletic Club, then carried the flame on to the Emmanuel Church in Stoughton.
At the time Austin, born in Elstead, was an 18 year old middle-distance runner for the Godalming Athletic Club; but was actually doing his National Service in the RAF at the time of the Olympic relay. He was given special permission to return to Guildford to play his part in the carrying of the Olympic flame from Dover to Wembley. Remembering the day, he said “The weather was very warm and so was the torch. I ended up holding it right at the bottom so as not to burn my hand.”
Upon returning to his RAF base there was a great deal of interest in the matter – so much so, that he was promptly told to return home again to retrieve the torch for his squadron’s sports event, the RAF Inter Command Athletic Championships, which he opened by running around the track with the Torch. Mr Playfoot has had a life-long interest in local athletics, having been the President of the Guildford & Godalming Athletic Assocation for 22 years, and acting as a senior track official.
Pictured below left: Austin Playfoot with the original Torch. Did you know that Austin, now aged 82, will again carry the Torch through Guildford on the 20th July? Joining him will be 10 other runners from the local area.
Meldrum Salter Edgley, established in 1889, are of course fortunate enough to recall the original event. We at the firm are all very excited to see the Olympic flame return to Guildford on its route through the UK, especially as the flame will pass the site of our Guildford office in the High Street. Earlier in the day, the Torch will be taken to Godalming for the first time, where the flame will pass very close to our Godalming office.