VETERAN FENCING IN BRITAIN
By Joe Garratt, Chair: British Vets Fencing Association
Until the early 1980s, there was no structure in Britain for veteran fencers, so we all had to take our chance along with younger fencers at regular competitions around the country. Henry de Silva, a fencer and coach from the English midlands decided to do something about it and bring us into line with our neighbours in France, Germany and Belgium, where veterans - over 35's or over 40s - were recognised as a category in many regional and national competitions. Henry gathered a group of like-minded people around him and became our ambassador at large, building a network of contacts and fixtures in mainland Europe, South Africa, Australia and indeed the USA. He also inaugurated the British National Championships for veterans - men over 45 and women over 40. By 1987, there were about 100 active vets, enough to form theNational Veterans Association-NVA . We started a series of friendly visits and representative team matches with other European countries. Unofficial British Commonwealth championships are now a regular event - this year in Johannesburg.
The next milestone was the formation of the European Veterans Fencing Committee - EVFC. An inaugural European team championship was held in Leicester, England in 1991 with five countries taking part. Since then EVFC members have taken it in turn to organise team and individual championships in alternate years. The most recent of these in Moulins, France attracted over 500 entries from countries as far apart as Spain to Sweden, Britain to Russia. Meanwhile bilateral international friendly matches continued. Late in 1994 was our first visit from the USA vet squad, Max and Diane Garrett, Jim Campoli, Diane Kallus, Donald Benge, Susan Moss, Ray Sexton and many others who after the match joined us for our Christmas dinner. Together with Germany, Belgium and Italy we were invited back to St Pete Beach, Florida in 1995.
In 1997, NVA became fully recognised by the British Fencing Association as the controlling body for veteran fencing in the UK. Founder Henry became our Life President. The vet fencing movement was recognised by FIE. Men's epee events for the 40+, 50+ and 60+ age groups were included in the official World Championships in Cape Town, South Africa,. The 1998 World Championships in Switzerland again included vets events, men's epee and women's foil. This time we were glad to see a strong USA contingent who carried off the gold in the over 60s epee. We just made the top of the table with gold, silver and bronze. In 1999 Hungary, a leading EVFC member, bravely offered to host the first 5 weapon, 2 age-group vets world championship, where Britain and USA figured prominently.
We probably share with the USA and some other countries the problem of fairly selecting national representative teams. Ranking is based on the results of our annual championships, and were are constantly trying to find ways of improving the selection procedure . But with most members still active in business and travelling round the world in pursuit of fun-fencing we never seem to have the time to organise more national qualifying events.
In Britain, Europe and, it seems all round the world, vet fencing is growing. Our membership now tops 200. We could find somewhere in UK or Europe to fence every weekend against people who in the past few years have become our friends, and be sure of a fair and friendly competitive spirit.
I could fill in all the details and go on for pages, but have some work to do in connection with our friendly international in Germany next week, so I'll quit for now!
29 September 1999
Back to TFA MAGAZINE