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Olympic gold medal prize 'Hitler oak' memorialised in carving at How Hill

PUBLISHED: 15:21 28 March 2017 | UPDATED: 15:21 28 March 2017

Simon Partridge, How Hill Trust director, with the chainsaw carving of the Lalage, the British gold medal winning yacht in the 1936 Olympics, in the remains of 'Hitler's Oak' tree, given as a sapling to the British winning yacht team. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Simon Partridge, How Hill Trust director, with the chainsaw carving of the Lalage, the British gold medal winning yacht in the 1936 Olympics, in the remains of 'Hitler's Oak' tree, given as a sapling to the British winning yacht team. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

They were dispersed to all four corners of the earth, as gold medallists returned triumphant from the 1936 Olympics with the additional prize of a German oak sapling.

And now one of the last surviving ‘Hitler oaks’ has been memorialised at How Hill in Ludham.

It had been planted by sailor Christopher Boardman at his family home after he led the British team to victory, as helmsman, in the six metre class.

Soon after, the tree and its owner were both drawn into the heat of the Second World War. Mr Boardman saw service as a Royal Naval volunteer reserve officer, while the tree took shrapnel from a German bomber, offloading its cargo on its return from a raid.

In 2013, the How Hill Trust were told it had become dangerous following damage caused in the 1987 gales. Soon after, honey fungus disease was revealed in its roots and the tree had to be felled.

Now, the trust has erected a memorial made from the trunk of the old tree so its story is not forgotten.

Simon Partridge, director of the How Hill Trust, said: “What killed the tree in the end was the honey fungus.

“Chris Boardman was the elder son of the people who built the house. There is quite a bit written about Boardman claiming he met Hitler at the games. That is untrue. He did not meet Hitler because he did not like what was going on in Germany at the time, so he never went to pick up his gold medal prizes.

“It was interesting that the previous damage potentially caused to the tree was by a German bomb. As the planes were leaving from raids over places like Coventry, they emptied their bombs wherever they could, and one dropped just to the back of the house.

“There was some shrapnel and we have got some still in the house after that bomb was dropped.

“If there was a team event there was only one sapling given out for the team and because he was the helmsman of the boat they decided it should go to him.

“Because we are a charitable trust, at the trustees meeting last year it was decided we should have some sort of memorial for it. It was suggested we should have some sort of carving.”

Arnie Barton, a chainsaw carver from North Norfolk, was brought in to create the sculpture, based on a photograph of the gold medal winning boat the Lalage.

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