Harry Whittle (1933-1940) was a European and Olympic athlete. He competed in the 400m hurdles at the 1948 Olympics in London and he captained the British athletics team at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki where he finished fifth in the 400m hurdles and also competed in the long jump.
Harry’s sporting career began at School and is well documented in The Boltonian. He was a member of the First XI football team, represented Manchester house in gymnastics and played for the First XI cricket team. However, it was on the athletics field that he really made his mark. He was initially a sprinter, but as he progressed up the School he competed in a variety of disciplines, including the high jump, long jump and javelin. He was awarded the Victor Ludorum in 1940, with The Boltonian of that year reporting: ‘Although it is generally undesirable to stress individual achievement, that of H Whittle certainly deserves mention. His easy, but none the less efficient, style won for him first place in both the Mile and the Half-Mile, and he also won the High Jump and Long Jump.’
On leaving School Harry went to Manchester University and won his maroon (the equivalent of a blue) for football and athletics. Army service with REME followed, during which time he equalled the Army long jump record. On being posted back to England in 1947 he joined the Reading Athletic Club and entered the AAA Championships. After having been undefeated for seven years (1947-1953) in the national championships in the 440 yards hurdles, he retired from athletics – but not before he had won national titles in three other events: the 220 yards low hurdles, long jump and the decathlon, and not before he had captained the international athletic team from 1950 to 1953, including the Olympic games at Helsinki.
After war service in the Army, Harry began a long career with ICI, becoming a senior engineer with their Organics Division. He maintained his links with Bolton School, returning as Guest of Honour at the Old Boltonians’ Dinner in 1950. In 1982 he presented a new trophy to be awarded at the Scout Troop Athletic Sports (he himself had been a Scout).
Harry Whittle died in 1990 and his obituary in The Boltonian described him as ‘probably Bolton School’s most distinguished athlete’. His achievements were recognised during the School’s Sports Reunion Weekend in July 2015. At this event, which was part of the School’s 100/500 year celebrations, Sir Philip Craven, President of both the IPC and (at the time) the Old Boys’ Association, proudly unveiled ten new boards on the Boys’ School corridor which showed those former pupils who had competed at Olympic, Paralympic or World level – naturally, these included Harry, and members of his family were in attendance to witness this tribute.
Harry’s 1952 Olympic blazer is on display in the Boys’ Dining Room.
Photo: Bolton School 1st XI 1939/40
Back row (L-R): Derek Warburton, Peter Unsworth, Frank Hoyle, Norman Tate, Harry Whittle, Sidney Reddyhough
Front row (L-R): Geoffrey Banks, Roy Stark, Bob Haslam, Bert Moores, Jimmy Loxham