When war and sport mixed
A 1944 Empire Day celebration programme would have been just another piece of Wellington resident Peter Jack’s large sports memorabilia collection, but for two special names in its pages.
The names belong to two Wellington soldiers, Corporal Colin Dickie and Squadron Leader Caesar Cohen, who participated in the World War II event at the El Alamein ground in Cairo, Egypt.
Mr Jack said he had collected such programmes for years, and when he got this one he flicked through its pages, just as he did whenever he acquired such an item.
‘‘I have programmes from 1924 up to 2000. They are rubbish to some people, but to me this one has a story.’’
Colin Dickie was already a wellknown Wellington athlete when he left to serve in the Middle East.
‘‘He was a top middle-distance runner, and he knew my father well. A hell of a nice guy,’’ Mr Jack said. ‘‘He told me one day when I was a child that he actually won a cup during his service time overseas and I am thinking that it was this day and this mile race that he was awarded a cup for.
‘‘I remember he told me that dodging bullets and running away from them made him fast.’’
When Dickie returned home from the war, he devoted much of his time to supporting sport.
‘‘He worked as a starter in all the races summer and winter from 1950 to nearly 2000, including the Vosseler Shield mountain races and the Mcevedy Shield.
‘‘He started at the Commonwealth Games in Christchurch in 1974 and even went to the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984.’’
Dickie, who worked for the city council as a draftsman, was the driver behind the building of the athletic track at Newtown stadium and Kilbirnie’s swimming pool, Jack said.
Caesar Cohen served alongside Mr Jack’s father.
In the programme, he is listed as Squadron Leader A S Cohen, RAF, and is named as one of the El Alamein club committee.
‘‘He was a guy who was always smiling and quick-witted. He was a great philanthropist.’’
After Mr Cohen returned home, he helped many returned soldiers who wanted to start businesses.
‘‘He was very sympathetic to them and helped put former All Blacks like Charlie Saxton, Ponty Reid and Bob Scott into the retail clothing businesses.
‘‘He felt that they had done their service for the country and wanted to help them.’’
Mr Cohen was president of the Wellington Cricket Association and the Centurions Rugby Football Club, and was a life member of university rugby and cricket clubs.
Well deserved: Colonel Howard Duffy, centre, with father-and-son New Zealand Defence Service Medal recipients Ian and Andrew Mckie.
Collector’s item: Peter Jack with the historical athletics programme.