James Palmer-Tomkinson

Biographical information

RolesCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameJames Algernon•Palmer-Tomkinson (Tomkinson-)
Used nameJames•Palmer-Tomkinson
Born3 April 1915 in Westminster, Greater London, England (GBR)
Died7 January 1952 in Klosters (SUI)
AffiliationsDHO, Wengen (SUI)
NOC Great Britain


The son of Jimmy Tomkinson, one of the all-time great British squash players in the first quarter of the 20th century, James Palmer-Tomkinson was baptised James Algernon Tomkinson, but legally changed his surname in 1933, when he was 18, to Palmer-Tomkinson. Like his father, the young James was also a good squash player at both Eton College and for the Bath Club. After Eton, Palmer-Tomkinson went to Balliol College, Oxford, and was a double Blue at skiing, which he had been partaking in from an early age. He finished third in the slalom at the 1934 Varsity races and the following year he became the first person ever in the history of the Inter-Varsity races to win both downhill and slalom in the same year.

Palmer-Tomkinson took part in the 1936 Winter Olympics at Garmish-Partenkirchen and was captain of the British team at the 1948 St. Moritz Games, where he competed despite an ankle injury. He was the British downhill and combined champion in 1939 and was a former vice-president of the Ski Club of Great Britain, and in 1947 won the Pery Medal as their outstanding skier of the year. It is the highest award made by the Ski Club. Two days before the start of the 1952 British Men’s Skiing Championships at Klosters, Palmer-Tomkinson, along with his wife Doris (a former member of the Swiss skiing team), Peter Kirwin-Taylor and Noel Harrison were surveying the course for potential danger spots when Palmer-Tomkinson fell while descending the Goetschner Grat-Klosters-Schwendi run. He hit his head against a rock, and died almost immediately with his wife by his side. At the time of his death he was the chairman of the committee that was due to select the British team to compete at the Oslo Olympics the month after his death. The late British socialite Tara Palmer-Tomkinson was the granddaughter of James and Doris.


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1936 Winter Olympics Alpine Skiing (Skiing) GBR James Palmer-Tomkinson
Combined, Men (Olympic) 14
1948 Winter Olympics Alpine Skiing (Skiing) GBR James Palmer-Tomkinson
Downhill, Men (Olympic) =74
Combined, Men (Olympic) DNF

Olympic family relations

Special Notes