Film ID: YFA 4496 Video of YFA 4496 Police Amateur Boxing Tournament 1939 POLICE AMATEUR BOXING TOURNAMENT 1939 Visitor TabsDescription This film documents the West Riding Constabularies annual boxing tournament held at Drill Hall, Wakefield, in 1939. The film consists of three separate boxing matches, which include a juniors contest, followed by middleweight and heavyweight bouts. Towards the end of the film there are also interesting scenes backstage, which capture prominent regional fighters preparing for their own contests. Title –West Riding Constabulary presents. Title – Amateur boxing tournament at the Drill Hall, Wakefield. Wed. Feb 22nd 1939. Title – The youngster from Wakefield City boys’ club and Pontefract boys’ club gave the audience a lively start. The film opens in Drill Hall Wakefield, and the filmmaker captures a boxing match between two young boys wearing vests and shorts. After some brief shots of the boys fighting, the scorers ring the bell, and the boys return to their corners. The audience (predominantly male) applaud the boys efforts, before the bell is rung again and the boys move to the centre of the ring to trade blows. Title – Though “under observation” by the police – these lads seemed well able to look after themselves. The next round starts; the boy’s spa for a period before the bell goes and an announcer stands in the ring to declare the winner. Title – Middle weight competition. P.C. Arthur Knowles, Goole division V P.C. James Prunty, Harrogate division. Two men fight in the ring. After a prolonged exchange they return to their corners. Title – “Each found the other was "a real tough guy". The match resumes with both men punching rapidly. Back in their corners the trainers attend to each fighter, wiping their faces and fanning them with towels. The bell is rung by the scorers, and the filmmaker captures another round of the match. The fight then comes to an end; the fighters flop into their corners drenched in sweat. Title – And the winner…big hearted Arthur. The fighters are presented with their respective trophies by men in suits. They then exit the ring and there is a shot of the spectators applauding. Title – Now for it! West Riding Constabulary Heavy weight final P.C. George H. Roe, of Goole V P.C. Frederic Smith, of Barnsley. The heavyweight boxers sit in their corners waiting for the match to start. Title – The time keeper was watched on his “beat” by Colonel R.E. Sugden. This sequence captures the heavyweight match; the bell is rung by the adjudicator and both boxers fight aggressively. One fighter lands a particularly vicious blow on his opponent’s jaw, who stumbles back, shaken. Title – Bravo, fast fisted Fred. One of the fighters is sprawled out on the deck, while the other rests on the ropes. The bell is rung and both competitors return to their corners. Title – And now behind the scenes to meet Arthur Russell last year’s Fly-weight champion of Great Britain. In a backroom, a trainer massages a shirtless Arthur Russell. Title - …watched eagerly by the Northern Lightweights Richard Shields of Liverpool and J. Malloy of Everton. Two boxers (most probably Richard Shields and J. Malloy) stand with another man, staring at the camera. Panning round the room, the filmmaker captures a scene where several men wearing suit talks amongst themselves, and Arthur Russell is still being tended to by his trainer. Title – B. Woodcock (of Doncaster) and M. Smith (of Derby) are happier with the gloves than the camera. Two boxers draped in towels and blankets walk into a room, where a trainer unties the string around one of the boxer’s gloves. Title – Back to the ringside, where the Chief lets these youngsters off with a caution. Back in the boxing ring two fighters are presented with their prizes by the Chief, who wears a dark suit. The next shot shows a young boy in the ring wearing a long coat, who receives a talking to from the chief. Title – This is where the superintendents shine…but not with their fists. From a raised position a shot captures superintendents mingling in a corridor. Title – And now entering the ring are Chief Superintendent H.S. Steel M.B.E and Superintendent J.L. Dunn general supervisors… The superintendents stand in the ring and briefly pose for the camera. The next shot shows the audience applauding. Title – Whose combined efforts have raised considerable sums for many deserving charities. The final shots show the superintendents posing again to another rapturous round of applause. Title – And so to all concerned many thanks. Context This is one of a large collection of films made by West Yorkshire Police, mainly taken during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. This is in fact the first film made in the Collection, although two others were made later in 1939, one of these being a police sports day, also in Wakefield, on July 28th. Most of these are either public information films or films of events, such as demonstrations, for police use – see Demonstration: Dewsbury November 1975. Many of the later films have credits, but no individuals are credited in the earlier films. Some were made during the war, whilst one, called Silent Witness, made in 1946, demonstrates the ability of police specialists to identify criminals from fingerprints found at crime scenes. Now there’s an idea for a TV series. Boxing in both the police and the army goes back to late Victorian times, as it was seen to encourage discipline and be good for morale, as well as having the obvious benefit of developing physical fitness. For similar reasons boxing was also encouraged among working class youth. In the last decades of the nineteenth century sports of various kinds were promoted among working class boys and youth. There was the added belief among the middle class that sports would also help to keep boys off the streets and away from crime and other forms of socially disruptive behaviour. Hence clubs were set up by various organisations, mainly by churches, with this in mind. From the 1860s there developed the movement of Muscular Christianity, which saw physical exercise as a means of fashioning their version of Christian morality. There was also the wider imperialist context of that time, as Stephen Humphries notes: “The inclusion of games and sports in the school curriculum was justified in terms of their encouragement of a corporate spirit and the development of the physical strength and moral fibre of working class youth – thus contributing to imperial success and stability.” (References, p. 41) A development furthered when it was found that in the Second Boer War in South Africa, in 1899-1902, many of the troops in the British Army were found by the Army Medical Corps to be physically unfit to fight. It wasn’t until 1928 that individual Police Amateur Boxing Clubs were officially set up. The relationship between the police and working class youth was an uneasy one, ranging from boys larking about and name calling, to outright aggression. The police authorities saw boxing as a way of combatting this rebelliousness, hence the boxing competitions witnessed in this film. In fact, Humphries shows that the attitude of working class boys to all authority, including the churches, was one of disrespect, usually taking the form of parodying and mickey taking. It was sport that most attracted boys to the various clubs. Early pioneers of the philanthropic spirit of influencing working class youth were Samuel Barnett and his wife Henrietta. They established settlement houses, the first being Toynbee Hall, in Tower Hamlets, East London in 1884 (which, incidentally, has a close association with the Olympics, see References). These placed university graduates to work among the poor in working class urban neighbourhoods. Others followed, often having boxing clubs. An article on one of these boys’ clubs, Fairbairn House, in West Ham, in 1918 states that in the club, “the beginnings of gambling are soon checked, bullying is discouraged, a foul word is seldom heard, clear eyes look into clear eyes, and boys can grow up to be strong, healthy, clean minded, helpful men.” This attitude to boxing has continued ever since – see the Context for A Family Affair (1960). Boxing originated in the 18th century England, and was initially the equivalent to prizefighting, or pugilism: that is, a bare knuckle fight (which had its own rules going back to 1743). It soon differentiated itself when padded gloves, or mufflers, were adopted by John Broughton, the reigning champion from 1734 to 1758 – although these weren’t properly formalised until the coming of the Queensbury Rules in 1867. The rules were in fact thought up by a Cambridge University athlete, John Graham Chambers, but were published by Sir John Sholto Douglas, who was the 8th Marquis of Queensbury (hence the name). Although in these rules proper gloves were only stipulated for contests – which lasted until one man could no longer fight – rather than for competitions, which are the limited round fights, with a ring and decided by points, that we know today. Prizefighting was eventually deemed illegal through a series of court cases, enumerated by Jack Anderson in his book (References). Various reasons for this were given, which in sum added up to their being a breach of the peace liable to lead to disorder. Some fights led to the deaths of the one of the boxers, leading to the opponent being sentenced for manslaughter. It was claimed that the intent of boxing is not to cause injury, whereas in prizefighting it is, and that boxing is rather is a sport of skill. This argument remains the principal one in defence of boxing continuing to be legal, although many dispute it. Simon Gardiner argues that the distinction is not so clear cut, and that furthermore money is involved in both, at least in professional boxing. Jack Anderson presents a strong case that boxing can already be considered illegal under existing legislation without further reform (at least in a US context). In his hard hitting review of Joyce Carol Oates, On Boxing, Dan Duffy eloquently puts the case for the other side. It was also under the Queensbury Rules that amateur boxing started: in fact they were written for the first amateur championship held in Lillie Bridge stadium in London. Prior to then money was the overriding motive. Ever since amateur and professional boxing have remained apart, although professional boxers invariably start out as amateurs. In Britain the Amateur Boxing Association adopted four weight divisions when it was formed in 1880, which the professional side only recognised later. After the introduction of the Queensbury Rules, boxing in England became increasingly intertwined with that in the US, with the latter taking over the dominance of the sport that England had hitherto had. Here too boxing was encouraged in the police, the armed forces and among the urban poor. Boxing has long, not surprisingly, been associated with manliness. Yet the association has been boosted by all sorts of ideological factors, and reasons connected to ideas of masculine identity. Kate and Brett McKay cite Broughton as seeing, “boxing as a cure for ‘foreign effeminacy’. The sport was to him a ‘truly British art’ that would preserve British identity and manliness.” His target here was the French. They also cite creator of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle, as linking Britain’s “loss of dominance in the sport with what he perceived to be a parallel drop in manliness”. He may have been thinking of the scene in Dickens’ Great Expectations where Herbert Pocket challenges Pip to a boxing match, and when Herbert combines a somewhat effeminate manner along with his sporting spirit. One interesting difference between amateur and professional boxing is that whereas in the former there has never been a colour bar, in professional boxing there has been. In fact Britain has been more culpable then the US in this regard, with black boxers being banned from British championships until 1948. In 1939 the black British boxer Tommy Martin, having moved up to heavyweight, won all of his fights, but never became an official champion. In the States boxing provided the means for one of the first breakthroughs in racial barriers. At first there was a colour bar, and so there was set up a separate World Colored Heavyweight Championship, a title awarded to black boxers. One of the title holders of this, Jack Johnson, became the first African-American Heavyweight Champion of the World on December 26, 1908. More famously, Joe Louis won it in 1937, and effectively put an end to any colour bar in boxing in the US – paving the way for other battles against the racist Jim Crow laws of the Southern states. It was Joe Louis who, in 1938, defeated the German Max Schmeling, the favourite of Goebbels and Hitler, who held him up as an example of Aryan supremacy. In England it was the Jewish community who excelled in boxing in the 1930s, and used the sport as a means to combat anti-Semitism – see the Context for Judean Club In Leeds (1935). The Drill Hall in Wakefield (there were many similar across the country) was initially built for the Wakefield (5th West York) Volunteers in 1865, and has since been demolished. The tradition of police boxing continues though, with the national Police Amateur Boxing Association being set up in 1988. This oversees the Police Community Clubs, “which seek to develop children and young people into good and active citizens who can make a positive contribution to their communities.” Recently the Bradford Police and College Boxing Academy won the Prestigious Award For Outstanding Sporting Project. Although there doesn’t seem to be one now in either Pontefract or Wakefield, the nearest one being the Hunslett Club situated at Carlton in West Yorkshire. Wakefield does have a boxing club, The White Rose Boxing Club, which was formed more than sixty years ago, originally as a boys club, but now open to girls. Although boxing is now quite popular with girls, more so in the States, Kath Woodward, in her theoretical treatise on boxing, still maintains, quoting Joyce Carol Oates, that “Boxing is for men and is about men, and is men.” (References) This would presumably be disputed by those women boxers who are about to make history by competing as boxers in the Olympics for the first time. Although boxing has been a part of the Olympics since 1904 (with the exception of 1912) – the five weight divisions of bantamweight, featherweight, lightweight, middleweight and heavyweight being adopted in 1908 – it has never had women boxing; and so London 2012 will mark a first with three women's events: Fly, Middle, and Light. Among the 10-strong squad are seven men and three women flying the flag for Britain. References Jack Anderson, The Legality of Boxing: A Punch Drunk Love?, Taylor & Francis, 2007. Shahana Subhan Begum, Toynbee Hall’s Olympic Heritage Toynbee Hall traces its historic connection to the founder of the modern day Olympics, published by Toynbee Hall. Troy Boone, Youth of Darkest England: Working Class Children at the Heart of Victorian Empire (New York: Routledge, 2005), Richard Cox et al, Encyclopedia of British Sport, ABC-Clio, Oxford, 2000. Simon Gardiner et al, Sports Law, Cavendish Pub., London, 2006. Stephen Humphries, Hooligans or Rebels? An Oral History of Working-Class Childhood and Youth 1889-1939, Blackwell, Oxford, 1995. David Levinson et al., Encyclopedia of World Sport, ABC-Clio, Oxford, 1996. Roberta J. Park, ‘Boys’ Clubs Are Better Than Policemen’s Clubs’: Endeavours by Philanthropists, Social Reformers, and Others to Prevent Juvenile Crime, the Late 1800s to 1917’, The International Journal of the History of Sport, Vol. 24, No. 6, June 2007, 749 – 775. Kath Woodward, Boxing, Masculinity and Identity: The ‘I’ of the Tiger, Routledge, 2007. Police Community Clubs Bradford Police and College Boxing Academy Brett & Kate Mckay, Boxing: A Manly History of the Sweet Science of Bruising Dan Duffy, review of Joyce Carol Oates, On Boxing Kate Bradley, ‘The 'Big Society' and the National Citizen Service: Young people, volunteering and engagement with charities in the twentieth century.’ Rowena Hammal, ‘How Long Before the Sunset ? British attitudes to war, 1871-1914’ The Drill Hall Project - Charting a neglected legacy Further Reading Kasia Boddy, Boxing: A Cultural History, Reaktion Books, 2008. Harry Hendrick, Images of Youth: Age, Class and the Male Youth Problem, 1880 – 1920, Clarendon, Oxford, 1990.