Wyndham Halswelle

Biographical information

Medals OG IG
Gold 1 0
Silver 0 1
Bronze 0 1
Total 1 2
TypeCompeted in Olympic Games, Competed in Intercalated Games
Full nameWyndham•Halswelle
Used nameWyndham•Halswelle
Born30 May 1882 in Mayfair, Greater London, England (GBR)
Died31 March 1915 in Neuve-Chapelle, Pas-de-Calais (FRA)
AffiliationsEdinburgh Harriers, Edinburgh (GBR)
NOC Great Britain


After a notable athletic career at Charterhouse and the RMC, Sandhurst Wyndham Halswelle was commissioned into the Highland Light Infantry in 1901. While the Regiment was in South Africa, Halswelle’s ability was noticed by Jimmy Curran, a former professional athlete who later coached at Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania, where he guided the great James “Ted” Meredith to Olympic honors in 1912. When the HLI returned to Edinburgh from the Boer War, Curran persuaded his young subaltern to take up the sport in earnest. The results were quick and encouraging and in his first year of serious competition, Halswelle won the 1904 Army 880 yards championship.

In 1905 he turned to quarter-miling and won the AAA and Scottish titles in addition to finishing first in the Scotland vs. Ireland match. The following year, Halswelle won medals in both the 400 and 800 metres at the Olympic Games in Athens and, on his return for the British season, he won the 100 yards, 220 yards, 440 yards and the 880 yards – all on the same afternoon – at the Scottish Championships. Halswelle also won the 1906 AAA 440 yards title in 48.8 seconds, which was easily his finest performance to date. After winning the 100 yards and 200 yards at the 1907 Scottish Championships, Halswelle broke down in the 440 yards and did not complete again that summer but in the Olympic year of 1908 he soon showed that the setback was behind him. He set a world record of 31.2 seconds for 300 yards and then posted a British 440 yards record of 48.4 seconds before facing the work’s best at the Olympic Games. Halswelle had the fastest time in both the heats and the semi-finals and in the final he faced three Americans, John Carpenter, William Robbins and John B. Taylor.

The race was not run in lanes and the starter warned the runners against jostling, but subsequently events were to show that the warning was not heeded. Coming into the home-straight, Halswelle made a move to pass Carpenter who responded by starting on a crab-like course across the track and within 30 metres he had forced Halswelle to within 18 inches of the outside edge of the track. At this point, one of the umpires signaled to the judges to break the tape and after an hour of deliberation a verdict of “No Race” was declared and Carpenter was disqualified. A re-run, in lanes this time, was ordered but Robbins and Taylor, who were both entitled to compete, sided with Carpenter and refused to run, so Halswelle appeared alone and won the 1908 Olympic 400 metre title on a walk-over. He thus became the first Briton to win gold, silver and bronze medals in individual Olympic events.

The whole incident soured Halswelle’s attitude of the sport and, as he was also under pressure from his senior officers, who felt he was being exploited, Halswelle made a farewell appearance at the 1908 Glasgow Rangers Sport and never ran again. At the age of 32, Captain Halswelle was killed in action in France. On 12 March he was wounded in the Battle of Neuve Chapell in France. Despite his injuries he refused to be evacuated and just over a week later, while attempting to rescue a fellow officer, he was killed when shot through the head by a sniper’s bullet. For his actions he was mentioned in dispatches. Halswelle was one of 80 members of his Regiment killed during an attempt to gain just 15 yards of ground.

Whilst both Halswelle and his father were born in England, Wyndham was referred to as being Scottish, probably because his maternal grandfather, Major-General Gordon, was born in Hamilton, Scotland. Halswelle’s own father Keeley was a famous artist and illustrator of books for the Illustrated London News, and for the likes of poets Byron and Wordsworth. He died when Wyndham was just nine. In 2003 Wyndham Halswelle was inducted into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame.

Personal Bests: 100y – 10.2 (1907); 100 – 11.1 (1906); 220y – 23.0 (1908); 440y – 48.4 (1908); 880y – 1:59.4 (1905).


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1906 Intercalated Games Athletics GBR Wyndham Halswelle
100 metres, Men (Intercalated) 3 h3 r2/3
400 metres, Men (Intercalated) 2 Silver
800 metres, Men (Intercalated) 3 Bronze
1908 Summer Olympics Athletics GBR Wyndham Halswelle
200 metres, Men (Olympic) DNS
400 metres, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold

Special Notes