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Last weekend saw the release of the much-anticipated biographical film Oppenheimer, which tells the story of the American nuclear physicist J Robert Oppenheimer, often recognised as the ‘father of the atomic bomb’. Situated in a remote part of New Mexico, USA, the secret Los Alamos Laboratory was established by the Manhattan Project to design and build the first nuclear bomb under the direction of Oppenheimer. The film’s release coincided with the arrival of a new archive that links the development of the atomic bomb to English club hockey.

The British Government had earlier established its own atomic bomb project, but once the USA entered the Second World War on the side of the Allies, their economic muscle soon saw the Manhattan Project dwarf its British predecessor. In August 1943, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and US President Franklin D Roosevelt signed the Quebec Agreement ensuring research co-operation between the two nations. This was followed by a British-led team of multi-national scientists travelling to Los Alamos.


Oppenheimer 01     Oppenheimer poster
Cillian Murphy is J Robert Oppenheimer in Oppenheimer, written, produced, and directed by Christopher Nolan.
© Universal Pictures. All Rights Reserved.


The Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (AWRE)

Following the war, atomic energy co-operation ceased and Britain proceeded with its own nuclear weapons programme becoming only the third country to test an independently developed nuclear weapon in October 1952. The British post-war programme was set up in the late 1940s and, by the early 1950s the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (AWRE) was based out of the former airfield at Royal Air Force (RAF) Aldermaston, outside Reading, Berkshire. Their records are held at The National Archives, but an archive relating to the AWRE Hockey Club, founded by workers at the Aldermaston site, has fittingly made its way to The Hockey Museum.


Atomic Weapons Research Establishment Hockey Club (AWREHC)

AWRE HC 01     AWRE HC 02
Parts of the AWREHC archive recently donated to The Hockey Museum.


Among the documents recently donated is the splendidly titled A Long Drawn Out History (Vaguely Remembered) of AWREHC. It explains that by 1953 some of the staff that were to work at Aldermaston had moved into the area with three in particular keen to play hockey. One of these men, John Carroll, managed to arrange a handful of fixtures for the 1953/54 hockey season. Playing numbers were sparse in the early years and the AWRE needed the help of the local/rival Newbury & Thatcham Hockey Club (N&THC) members to fulfil these early scratch fixtures. In 1954, one G D Small was transferred to work at AWRE and promptly joined the fledgling hockey club. The record amusingly states that he was “better known … as ‘Red’ or ‘Big Jim’ and by his opponents as something else”. In that year he was Chairman, Fixtures Secretary, Team Secretary, Treasurer, player and Captain – very much the nucleus of the Club!

The men’s club was formally constituted ahead of the 1956/57 season. The AWRE women’s team initially operated independently but the two sections amalgamated in 1958.

The club struggled to be competitive during its first decade or so. The chronicle reflects on how established hockey clubs in neighbouring towns where the AWRE workforce lived – N&THC, Reading HC and Basingstoke HC – consistently attracted employees away. This “prevented the Club from achieving the success that would have raised it above the level of an average works club”. That said, they had a strong history of mixed-gender hockey from the early 1960s, winning the Penguins Hockey Festival at Worthing on at least two occasions, and the men sent a team to the first two Easter festivals at Weymouth in 1963 & 1964.

Somewhat notoriously in 1963, a (presumably stuffed) bear was ‘borrowed’ from The Bear Hotel in the nearby Berkshire town of Hungerford. After an explosion (ahem) of publicity to the benefit of the hotel, the bear was safely returned by the AWRE membership. The bear then enjoyed a short-lived attempt to be incorporated into the club’s branding, but AWREHC always retained the atomic symbol of its origins.

The club formally changed its name to Aldermaston Hockey Club in 1975. There is no record of the hockey club after 1980 when it seemingly ceased to be (radio)active.

Marjorie Pollard Goes Home

22 December 2017
Marjorie Pollard Goes Home

THM Curator, Mike Smith presents cine films featuring Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation to the Bampton Archive. In the decades either side of WW2, one of the biggest names in hockey was undoubtedly Marjorie Pollard. She played cricket for England as well. Marjorie was a player, coach, journalist, publisher and film...

A Festive Friend: Leandro Negre Visits THM

21 December 2017
A Festive Friend: Leandro Negre Visits THM

Former FIH President Leandro Negre at the Board meeting with the THM Trustees and Museum Mentor, Liz May.Standing: Liz May, Philip Kimberley, David Balbirnie, David Wareham, Mike Barford, Dil Bahra, Lucy Newcombe, Imogen Gibbon.Seated: Katie Dodd, Leandro Negre, Mike Smith. We were delighted that the former FIH President and current...

THM Takes On New Trustees

02 October 2017
THM Takes On New Trustees

These are exciting and challenging times for THM. The Trustees recognised the need to take on additional museum and business skills at the strategic level to ensure we deliver on our ambitious plans to develop hockey’s heritage and bring it to a wider audience. We are therefore delighted to announce...

Helen Richardson-Walsh Donates Her Rio 2016 Astros On The Anniversary Of GB's Gold Medal Triumph

17 August 2017
Helen Richardson-Walsh Donates Her Rio 2016 Astros On The Anniversary Of GB's Gold Medal Triumph

One year on from the women's hockey final of the Rio de Janiero 2016 Olympic Games, Great Britain gold medallist Helen Richardson-Walsh has continued her support of The Hockey Museum by donating her astro shoes from the Games (right). Helen's donation will help to keep the memory of GB's success...

Remembrance Corner At World League Semi-finals

29 June 2017
Remembrance Corner At World League Semi-finals

Photograph courtesy of Steve McCarthy   As well as the excellent hockey on display at the Hockey World League series in London last week, there was also a small display, put together by the Hockey Writers' Club, celebrating the work of the late hockey journalists and photographers Peter Savage, Bill...

The Hockey Museum Visited By England Masters Over 55s

13 June 2017
The Hockey Museum Visited By England Masters Over 55s

  A few Wednesdays ago, twelve of the England Women’s Masters Over 55s rode in to The Hockey Museum (THM). Led by Ruth Hine, the ‘Red Riders’ regularly saddle up for the day as part of their team building and training. Having chosen somewhere to visit, they meet up at...

Staff Appointment And New Volunteers

09 June 2017
Staff Appointment And New Volunteers

THM's Curatorial Assistant Holly Parsons.   Holly Parsons completes the Museum’s curatorial team. She joined as Curatorial Assistant in February. Since leaving the University of Portsmouth in 2011 she has been volunteering at museums in London and the South, including the Old Police Cells under Brighton Town Hall, Marlipins Museum...

Seoul Gold Medal-winning Manager Roger Self Passes Away

07 June 2017

The Hockey Museum is deeply saddened to learn that former GB and Wales Manager Roger Self has passed away after a long illness. Read his full obituary, penned by Bernie Cotton, on THM site here.   Funeral Arrangements Roger's family are holding a private cremation next week, however, there will be...

The Amazing Story Behind The Wheeler Plate

11 May 2017

Jo Halpin, journalist and THM supporter, recently came across this fascinating article in the Irish Times featuring the 107-year-old former Irish international Dorothea Findlater. Findlater turned 107 years old on 27 December 2016 making it 81 years since she won her first Irish cap in 1936. It earned her a slow...

WA Baumann Exhibition

03 April 2017
WA Baumann Exhibition

   Wilhelmina Augusta Baumann   Exhibition: Wilhelmina Augusta Baumann The Hockey Museum is currently showing a small exhibition on Wilhelmina Augusta Baumann, one of the most respected and important women in hockey during the 1920s and '30s. The exhibition, which explores Baumann's playing and pioneering administrative career, ties in with...

Juan Calzado Visits THM

02 April 2017

Last Tuesday (28 March 2017) THM was delighted to host former International Hockey Federation (FIH) and European Hockey Federation (EHF) President Juan Calzado and his family. Following his visit Mr Calzado said: "It was a real pleasure to visit The Hockey Museum. The work that you are doing is fantastic...

Just Over 1 Month Left To Apply For THM PhD

22 March 2017

The Hockey Museum and The University of Wolverhampton are delighted to announce that the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) have approved funding for a collaborative PhD post to be jointly supervised by The University of Wolverhampton and THM. The title of the research project is An Oral History of...

THM Wins Funding For An Exciting New Collaborative Research Project

06 February 2017
THM Wins Funding For An Exciting New Collaborative Research Project

THM is delighted to announce that the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) have approved funding for a collaborative PhD post to be jointly supervised by THM and the University of Wolverhampton. The title of the research project is An Oral History of England and Team GB Women’s International Hockey...

The National Hockey Stadium Featured In Milton Keynes 50th Anniversary Exhibition

17 January 2017
The National Hockey Stadium Featured In Milton Keynes 50th Anniversary Exhibition

      The Hockey Museum has provided imagery to an exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of Milton Keynes. Held at in the central forum of thecentre:MK, Milton Keynes shopping centre, A New City comes to Life celebrates the stories, innovations and communities that have made Milton Keynes the vibrant...

Trustee Opportunities At THM

16 January 2017
Trustee Opportunities At THM

The Hockey Museum (THM) is seeking enthusiastic and experienced people to join its Board of Trustees. Trustees will be strong advocates for the organisation, support the implementation of the Museum's vision and help to raise its profile. We are looking to increase the number of Trustees to give the Board a more...


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