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Remembering Australian Olympians enlisted in World War I

25 April 2017

AOC: On Anzac Day 2017, the Australian Olympic Committee has compiled the following list of Olympians who enlisted in World War I (WWI) to recognise their service to the country. 

Three members from the Stockholm 1912 team – Cecil Healy (swimming), Keith Heritage (rowing) and Claude Ross (athletics) – made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the war. Healy won gold and silver medals at Stockholm. He was one of nine medallists who enlisted. 

One of Healy’s Stockholm teammates who survived the war was triple swimming medallist Harold Hardwick (1 gold, 2 bronze). Another of the survivors was swimmer Frank Beaurepaire who was a dual medallist at each of London 1908, Antwerp 1920 and Paris 1924. 

Six members of the gold medal-winning rugby team from London 1908 enlisted. After playing for the First Wallabies in 1908 Daniel ‘Danny’ Carroll won gold again in Antwerp 1920, for the United States. He served, and was decorated, with the US Army during the war. 

In total, 16 men who returned from the war went on to compete at subsequent Olympic Games. Along with Carroll’s historic second gold medal, other medallists were swimmers Ivan Stedman and Harry Hay who joined with Frank Beaurepaire to win relay silver at Antwerp 1920 and Nick Winter who won triple jump gold in Paris 1924.    

The 40 Olympians who enlisted for WW I are listed alphabetically at the end of this article. Research is ongoing to determine if there are others. Click on an athlete’s names to read his biography, where available. 

Impact on sport in Australia

When Australia joined the Great War on 4 August 1914, sport was flourishing across the nation, but it would not be long before this picture changed as war took over. Typically most states and sporting organisations chose to cancel open competitions, while school and junior competitions continued. Sporting clubs and organisations reported between 60% and 80% of members joining the colours. 

Through the war years there was constant debate about the continuation of sport. Shortly after Australia joined the war the newspapers of the day noted the mood towards sport’s continuation. Debate flowed though opinion pieces, general articles, reports on recruiting rallies and letters to editors on whether the playing of sport at that time was a hindrance to the recruiting effort or was indeed a brief form of relaxation from the constant thought and worry of the war. Recruiting posters appeared on billboards endeavouring to encourage, and in some cases shame, eligible young men who had not enlisted, ‘eligibles’, to join in the fight to win the war. 

In September 1917, the Australian Government made a more concerted effort to curtail some professional sporting activities because they were seen as hindering recruiting.  Many young men from all sports that were played under amateur rules had answered the call to arms in a grand fashion. Every Olympic sport at the time that had commenced national championships by 1915 abandoned those competitions for the duration of the war. 

However, a number of professional sports had continued during this period although the sizes of their competitions were often reduced. The major football codes, rugby league in NSW and Queensland and Australian Rules in Victoria, NSW and Western Australia continued, along with the running of major horseracing events, including the Melbourne Cup, and the athletics Stawell Gift. Boxing was also popular and tournaments were often major fundraising events for the war effort. 

During the war years at most sporting events there were campaigns to raise money for the various patriotic funds that contributed to the war effort. An example of such an event was the demonstration in aid of the patriotic ‘Australia Day Fund’ that was held on 31 July 1915 at the Sydney Cricket Ground, where 10,000 children from the Public Schools’ Amateur Athletic Association formed a tableau of a red cross on a white map of Australia, before singing patriotic songs. 

40 Olympians enlisted in World War I

Claude Angelo: Wrestling – Paris 1924 

Frank Beaurepaire: Swimming – London 1908 (1 silver, 1 bronze), Antwerp 1920 (1 silver, 1 bronze), Paris 1924 (1 silver, 1 bronze)   

Malcolm Boyd: Athletics – Paris 1924 

Edwin ‘Slip’ Carr: Athletics – Paris 1924 

Daniel ‘Danny’ Carroll: Rugby – London 1908 (gold) and Antwerp 1920 (gold, in US team).

Served, and was decorated, with US Army during WW I 

Frank Cummings: Rowing – Paris 1924 

Simon Fraser: Rowing – Stockholm 1912 

Harold Hardwick: Swimming – Stockholm 1912 (1 gold, 2 bronze) 

Henry ‘Harry’ Hauenstein: Rowing – Stockholm 1912

Awarded a Military Medal in WW I. 

Harry Hay: Swimming – Antwerp 1920 (1 silver) 

Cecil Healy: Swimming – Stockholm 1912 (1 gold, 1 silver)

Known for his medals and great sportsmanship at Stockholm. This Manly surf lifesaver who was recognised for his bravery in the surf was the only Australian medallist to die in WW I.  He was killed at Mont St Quentin, near Peronne on the Somme, 74 days before the end of the war. 

Keith Heritage: Rowing – Stockholm 1912

Was a reserve for the rowing eight at Stockholm, having rowed in the crew that won the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley on the way to the Olympic Games.  He was replaced in that crew by Hugh Ward.  A very early volunteer for WW I, he served in New Guinea and Gallipoli.  He then served in France where he was awarded a Military Cross a month prior to being killed at Pozières in July 1916.

Stinton Hewitt: Athletics –Antwerp 1920 

John ‘Darb’ Hickey: Rugby – London 1908 (gold) 

Ernest Hutcheon: Athletics –London 1908 

Walter ‘Wally’ Jarvis: Rowing – Paris 1924 

Wilfrid Kent Hughes: Athletics –Antwerp 1920

In WW I he was awarded a Military Cross and was mentioned in despatches (MID) four times.  He also served, and was decorated, in WW II.  He became the Chairman of the Organising Committee for Melbourne 1956. 

William ‘Billy’ Longworth: Swimming – Stockholm 1912

Joseph Lynch: Athletics – London 1908 

Malcolm McArthur: Rugby – London 1908 (gold)

Awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal in WW I. 

Charles McMurtrie: Rugby – London 1908 (gold)

Cecil McVilly: Rowing – Stockholm 1912

Awarded a Military Cross in WW I. 

Sydney Middleton: Rugby – London 1908 (gold);  Rowing – Stockholm 1912

Served at Gallipoli.  Within weeks of the armistice became organising secretary for the AIF Sports Control Board that provided sporting activities for soldiers waiting return to Australia from England prior to demobilisation.  His wartime decorations included being appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), being awarded the Distinguished Service Order and once MID.

William Murray: Athletics – Stockholm 1912 

Thomas ‘Tom’ Richards: Rugby – London 1908 (gold)

Was at the original Gallipoli landing.  Awarded a Military Cross on the Western Front. 

Claude Ross **: Athletics – Stockholm 1912

Enlisted in the early days of World War I and served at Gallipoli.  He later transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and in August 1917 lost his life over France. 

Harry Ross-Soden: Rowing – Stockholm 1912 

John ‘Jack’ Ryrie: Rowing – Stockholm 1912 

Frank Schryver: Swimming – Stockholm 1912

Served at Gallipoli. Awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal and a Military Medal in WW I.   

Arthur Scott: Rowing – Paris 1924 

Ivan Stedman: Swimming – Antwerp 1920 (1 silver), Paris 1924 

W. Allan Stewart: Athletics – Stockholm 1912 

Harvey Sutton: Athletics –London 1908

Twice MID and appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his military service in the Middle East.

Theodore ‘Theo’ Tartakover – Swimming – London 1908, Stockholm 1912 

ED ‘Ted’ Thomas: Rowing – Paris 1924 

Ronald ‘Ron’ Thomas: Tennis – Antwerp 1920 

Robert Waley: Rowing – Stockholm 1912 

Hugh Ward: Rowing – Stockholm 1912

Awarded Military Cross and 2 Bars in WW I. 

A James ‘Jim’ Willard: Tennis – Paris 1924

Awarded a Military Medal and Bar in WW I. 

AW ‘Nick’ Winter: Athletics – Paris 1924 (gold), Amsterdam 1928 

With thanks to Bruce Coe and David Tarbotton.


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