This podcast from Grace Huxford, from a collection of short papers on aspects of sport and leisure history, has its origins in two North-West British Society of Sports History regional symposia hosted by Manchester Metropolitan University on its Crewe campus. The contributors come from many different backgrounds and include some of Britain’s leading academic sports and leisure historians alongside early career researchers and independent scholars in the field of sports and leisure history. The full collection of papers were later published in book form, Sport and Leisure Histories, please click here for more details and purchase information



Sport has an unparalleled significance within the history of the British Army; from the professionalization of the army in the late nineteenth century, sporting activity became a central part of soldierly life and training.Furthermore, historians have explored the pervasiveness of the discourses of ‘fair play’, imperial masculinity and social hierarchy perpetuated by sport in the modern military. Yet what significance did sport have for the soldier no longer fighting on the front line, but instead confined to a prisoner of war camp? Was sport as wedded to the prisoner of war experience as it was to general military life? Whilst the sporting endeavours of British servicemen imprisoned during the Second World War have received academic and popular attention, the efforts of those taken prisoner less than a decade later in the Korean War (1950-1953) are frequently overlooked. Owing to the ambiguous war aims and inconclusive resolution of this conflict, the Korean War and the experiences of 1076 British servicemen taken prisoner during it remain largely understated in both popular memory and academic study. Yet one overlooked sporting event in particular has great significance for historians of both sport and military captivity: the 1952 ‘Inter Camp Olympics’ held at Pyuktong, North Korea. The event comprised of twenty-three athletic events held over two weeks in November and involved military participants of varying nationalities who had served with the UN Force in the Korean War. Servicemen noted how this event was an overt ‘propaganda’ display by its Chinese Communist organizers and the Chinese contrasted these prisoner of war Olympics with the official event taking place that year in Helsinki, Finland. This event, the Chinese argued, was borne out of the benevolence of the Chinese ‘Lenient Policy’ towards prisoners of war in the face of the United States’ continued warmongering. The souvenir booklet produced by the Chinese People’s Volunteers even stated that the 1952 Inter Camp Olympics represented the ‘finest spectacle in your P.O.W. history’.


To listen to the rest of the paper – press play below:

Article © Grace Huxford