The Auckland 1950 British Empire Games - We Are England
The Auckland 1950 British Empire Games
England 1950 team

The Auckland 1950 British Empire Games

After a 12 year absence England picked up where they had left off to record a second successive runners-up spot.

Despite the excitement surrounding the competition's return, the Commonwealth Games Council for England (CGCE) were short of the money required to send a team to the southern hemisphere, and had to act fast.

They did so by establishing the 'Empire Games Appeals Committee' and following some frantic fundraising efforts, finance was eventually found and a team of 72 athletes and a further 13 officials was chosen. Seven officials even elected to pay for their own passage to Auckland, a journey that took five weeks by boat.

A lengthy and at times perilous journey was not to get in the way of cyclist Cyril Cartwright's preparations however. Knowing his fitness would be difficult to maintain whilst at sea he cycled from Manchester to London and back over a single weekend prior to departure, clocking up a total of 24 hours on the road. En route he used a set of rollers as well as cycling from port to starboard, often combating the spray of the sea in rough weather.

It paid off as he won the 4000m individual pursuit title, and in addition to his gold medal he was awarded a certificate from the Games' organisers for setting the fastest ever time in New Zealand.

With tough competition from both Australia and hosts New Zealand, England faced a real challenge in aiming to improve upon the Sydney Games but were still able to record a respectable medal tally - even beating the Kiwis by an impressive nine gold medals, finishing with 19 gold, 23 silver and 28 bronze.

Boxing proved to be a success for England as light heavyweight Don Scott, a silver medallist at the 1948 Olympics in London, won gold along with Terry Ratcliffe and Ronny Latham in the welterweight and lightweight categories respectively. The addition of fencing to the sports programme was a welcome one for England, as they claimed five gold medals and three silver out of the six events.

There was little doubt that the Games had captured the imagination of the home crowd as more than 250,000 spectators attended the week-long event. The friendly atmosphere between competing nations was particularly evident when England officials could not spot their own team at the Closing Ceremony, as athletes from across the Commonwealth had swapped items of kit.

As for the five week journey home, in an interview with Cycling Weekly some 40 years after the Games, Cyril Cartwright recalled:

"As we boarded his ship the captain didn't say 'Congratulations, nice work.' His words were: 'I've locked those rollers of yours in the hold for the voyage home. You were nothing but a nuisance on the way here but we don't want to have to put up with it on the way back."

Four years later, the Games headed back to where they had begun, Canada.