Get involved! Send photos, video, news & views. Text WILTS GAZETTE to 80360 or email us
Carrying the torch
As arrangements are made for the Olympic torch to run through Wiltshire on its way to London for the opening of the games in 2012, memories return to the last English Olympic relay in 1948.
One of the men who took part in that event was Detective Sergeant Joseph Peare, who became mayor of Devizes in 1971/72.
Mr Peare got to keep the torch he carried on August 1 1948 along the two-mile stretch between the Pembroke Arms in Fovant and Stainer’s Autos in Swallowcliffe, as the Olympic flame made its way from the stadium in Wembley to the aquatic centre in Torquay.
His son, Hugh Peare, who also joined the police service, now has possession of the torch his father bore.
He said: “Dad was very modest and didn’t like to talk about it. But he did say he remembered being followed along the course by an AA patrolman with a pocketful of matches in case the flame went out.”
Det Sgt Peare was a good all-round sportsman, one of the reasons he was chosen for the torch relay. He played cricket and football for the police and shot for the county.
Born in Bredon, Worcestershire, where his father was landlord of the Fox & Hounds pub there, he was educated at Dean Close School in Cheltenham and then at Bishop Wordsworth’s School in Salisbury when his family moved to Bulford.
He joined Wiltshire Constabulary in 1929 and was their longest serving officer when he retired in 1964. He and his wife, Joyce, had two sons and lived in London Road, Devizes.
At the time of the relay, Det Sgt Peare was posted to Swindon.
Some 1,416 runners were recruited to carry the torch from Athens to London and then to Torquay. The torch, designed by Ralph Lavers, was made of aluminium and had a solid fuel burner in the cup.
Hugh Peare said: “It was just after the war and Britain was still trying to get back on its feet. The Olympic village in Wembley was just a collection of old Army camps.
“The torch is a valued family artefact. I feel honoured to have it.
“I thought as the next London Olympics are being planned, people would be interested in hearing about what it was like all those years ago.”
The decision to carry out the relay was made by the Olympic Organising Committee in September 1946. It was agreed that the torch would be kindled in the traditional manner at Olympia in Greece and carried across Europe to London.
It was soon discovered that to repeat the arrangements of 1936 would be prohibitively costly and ways were sought of making the process cheaper.
So the aluminium torch holder with a canister of solid fuel replaced the stainless steel one with a magnesium candle and each runner had to cover two miles, or three kilometres, instead of one kilometre in 1936.