Sweet letter written to Olympic hero 76 years ago discovered under floorboards


A note written to Olympic bronze medallist Michael Wheeler from his mum has been found under the floorboards of his old school, 76 years after it was sent in 1945

Two students at Taunton School holding the letter written by Michael Wheeler's mum. They are in school uniform and are sitting in a classroom.
Students at Taunton School say finding the letter has been ‘exciting’

A 76-year-old letter written to a would-be Olympic hero has been unearthed from under the floorboards of his old school.

The note was addressed to Michael Wheeler and was from his mum – and was sent 11 years before he bagged the bronze medal for team GB in the 4x400m relay at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games alongside Peter Higgins, John Salisbury and Derek Johnson.

Penned in 1945, the letter was found at Taunton School in Somerset by painter and decorator Andy Budge, who was completing refurbishments on the property.

He said: “I was hunting around to see if there was anything there, I found a few old coins and stamps, then I found the letter.

The letter was found by painter and decorator Andy Budge
(

Image:

Taunton School / SWNS)

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“Someone else might have seen an old piece of paper and put it in the bin but I’m interested in history, so I was curious.

”It made me feel quite sentimental to think that this letter is part of the history of the school.”

Michael’s first three years at Taunton School were during World War II, during air raids and food shortages.

And the letter sees his mum explain that she had to travel to 15 different shops to find him the perfect Scouts uniform.

It reads: “In very great haste. Darling Mick, Hope you are pleased with your parcel. I went to 15 shops to get the scout’s uniform. If too long, matron will no doubt alter them for you.

Michael Wheeler won bronze in the 4x400m relay at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games
(

Image:

Taunton School / SWNS)

“Longing to see you Paddington 18th. All my love Mummy xx”

During his time at Taunton School, Michael broke several school records in running events, then went on to compete internationally, propelling him towards Olympic success.

Taunton School archivist John Brown said: “We dusted off the old registers and it was certain that the boy in the letter is the young athlete who went on to compete in the Olympics.

“Michael Wheeler was one of the best athletes Taunton School has ever produced.”

The letter has even been helpful in teaching current Taunton School pupils about World War II, as 10-year-old Ellie Onesti said it was “really exciting” to learn how different school life would have been in Michael’s day.

She said: “We learnt about the war in school recently so it’s really exciting to see this letter.

It was written not long after the war when Michael was the same age as me, life for him would have been very different.”

Michael retired from athletics in 1966 and went on to become a teacher, before he sadly passed away in January 2020 at the age of 84.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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