Lady Sandy Trewby will have front row seats when the Olympic torch passes her front door in July – and just yards away in pride of place on her wall hangs a genuine 1948 Olympic torch.
Lady Trewby’s late husband Vice Admiral Sir Allan Trewby was charged with designing the torch used during the post-War Games and organising the relay from Mount Olympus to Wembley Stadium. And, as a thank you, he was presented with one of the 1,688 torches produced.
That torch, inscribed with the words ‘XIV Olympia to London with thanks to the bearer’, is now one of Lady Trewby’s most treasured possessions, displayed for visitors to her home at Thamesfield Retirement Village in Henley-on-Thames to see.
Sir Allan recorded his involvement with the 1948 Olympics in his memoirs, written before he died 11 years ago in 2001.
“I was asked to organise the carrying of the torch. I looked up the history and found that in the distant past the torch was ignited by 12 virgins on the slopes of Mount Olympus. We had to fall back on more conventional ways. The design was subcontracted to the Fuel Research Station at Greenwich. The German torch in 1936 had been based on their wartime incendiary bomb, but we decided to try a solid fuel device of the type used by Boy Scouts. Testing was carried out by my officers, under instruction, running in Greenwich Park. Various changes were made to the configuration so that once burning it was impossible to extinguish. The only complaint we had was that the combustion was so good it did not appear to be burning at all! This was cured by adding camphor to the fuel which produced smoke which satisfied onlookers that the torch was alight.
The torch was ignited on the slopes of Mount Olympus and carried by a team of runners through Greece, Italy and France and taken aboard a Royal Navy destroyer for the voyage across the Channel.
A further team of runners then carried it to Wembley Stadium in London.”
Lady Trewby’s memories of that time are scant but she’s now looking forward to seeing the 2012 Olympic torch on July 10. It is to be carried by a team of rowers on the Thames from the River and Rowing Museum to Thamesfield where it will come ashore, pass through the grounds, past Lady Trewby’s apartment, and continue on to Bisham.
“I’m sure there will be lots of excitement as it passes through the grounds of Thamesfield,” said Lady Trewby, now in her 90s. “We’re all planning to watch. I shall be making sure it’s well alight, just as my husband had to!”