The Kingston 1966 British Empire & Commonwealth Games - We Are England
The Kingston 1966 British Empire & Commonwealth Games
England v Australia fencing

The Kingston 1966 British Empire & Commonwealth Games

England's aquatics and fencing teams stole the show in the Caribbean's first and so far only Games.

As with Perth four years earlier, England fell behind in their fundraising targets despite help from Her Majesty's Government and the Sports Council (now Sport England) but nonetheless opted to send a full team to Jamaica. Doubts had been raised over the suitability of Kingston as a host city and indeed Jamaica as a host nation, but unusually things were more problematic in London where the team convened and stayed before flying out - accommodation was sparse, particularly in London, owing to England hosting football’s FIFA World Cup.

It was in fact through no small contribution from England that the Games took place in Jamaica at all, after the hosts made it clear in their application to be selected that  they would require 'considerable help' from other Commonwealth countries. England offered 'every help', with UK delegates nominated by International Federations to ensure that competitions were suitably and successfully staged.

England's fencers continued their Commonwealth Games dominance by completing a clean sweep of the titles available, beating arch rivals Australia in the épée, sabre and foil team events. Janet Wardell-Yerburgh and Bill Hoskyns both won a pair of gold medals, the latter being beaten to the foil title by Allan Jay in an English 1-2-3 podium finish, Graham Paul winning bronze (top of page: England's champions Richard Oldcorn, Ralph Cooperman and William Rayden congratulate the beaten Australia sabre team).

Brian Phelps retained both gold medals in diving with Kathy Rowlatt and Joy Newman taking the women's 3m springboard and 10m highboard titles respectively. In swimming Linda Ludgrove, still a teenager, retained her 110 and 220 yard backstroke titles won in Perth.

South African-born weightlifter Precious McKenzie (above) made his Games debut and won gold in the bantamweight event. He would go on to win two more titles at the next two Games before switching allegiances to New Zealand. His English citizenship was fast-tracked by then-Sports Minister Denis Howell in time for the Games, and he went on to become a cult hero for his three consecutive Olympic Games appearances for Great Britain in 1968, 1972 and 1976.

The introduction of badminton to the sports programme was a welcome one with England setting a precedent for the next few years of competition by claiming three of the five titles plus two silver and bronze medals. Angela Bairstow, Helen Horton and Ursula Smith all impressed.

Following a difficult Games for England's athletics team in Perth there were some notable success stories in Kingston. David Hemery secured the 120 yards hurdles title, two years before taking his Olympic crown in Mexico City. 1964 Olympic champion Mary Rand beat Sheila Sherwood to the long jump title, who would then herself win Olympic gold two years later. Howard Payne retained his hammer throw title and would do so once again four years later.

English athletes excelled despite predictions that they would suffer in the heat and humidity of Jamaica - something that was not forecast for the next edition of the Games, four years away in Edinburgh.