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Last episode of Wilson is taken from The Wizard No. 1099 March 30th 1946.

Wilson’s Climb

Greene, the great athlete, clung on to the rock face and glanced down at me. Then he shifted the rope linking us together and looped it round a projecting spur. “Right Tom,” he said. “You can work your way up the face now.” I left the ledge on which I had been standing and started to climb. If my eyebrows had been long enough I should have used them as well as my finger-tips and toes, for the climb was a hard one. But I made it, and stood on the foot-wide ledge which Greene had reached. Above us was another thirty or forty feet of cliff. Our climb was up Wilson’s climb, in Cumberland. I’m Tom Vale, as you know, and I had been travelling north with Greene to appear in a sports meeting in Glasgow. As we had a day in hand, Greene had suggested breaking our journey for an afternoon in the fresh air, and to attempt the climb of perhaps the most difficult rock face in the district. I’ve told you much about that strange fellow. Ex-Corporal Greene, of the R.A.F., how we first met in a German prison camp, and how by exercises he had cured my crippled leg. I’ve told you how, by methods of his own, he had made me so supremely fit that I became a first-class athlete myself. Greene’s own style, and his tremendous physical feats, often reminded the critics of Wilson, the most famous athlete of all times, who was shot down while fighting in the Battle of Britain as a squadron leader. I’ve told you, too, of the contempt Greene had for awards and prizes. “Where do we go from here?” I asked as I scanned the cliff. “I’m not a human fly.” A grin appeared on Greene’s thin face. I could tell he was enjoying himself. He had told me already that he had made the climb before. “Watch how I go,” he said. With the rope hanging loose behind him Greene began to work himself up. His boots hung around his neck as he was climbing bare-fitted and he wore his suit of rough homespun tweeds. The fact that there was a fall of at least two hundred feet did not seem to worry him. He moved up fast fitting his fingers and toes into the tiny cracks and crevices, and in quick time had gained the next ledge. Very slowly, helped all the time by his advice, I got up to where he stood. “The last twenty feet now,” Greene said, and immediately began to climb again. Greene had told me something about Wilson’s climb. It got its name because Wilson was the man who first made the ascent—some time in 1846, said local history. I took this to be one of the great athlete’s ancestors for I’d never believed the story that the athlete Wilson of modern times was actually over a hundred and fifty years old, and that his long life and his athletic performances were due to his methods of living. “Man can be his own master,” Wilson had written not long before he was missing over the channel. “There is nothing he cannot do if he had the determination to do it. My way of living renews youth.” Fine words, perhaps but I could not credit the claim that Wilson who had been lost in 1940 in the Battle of Britain was actually born in 1795. Greene quickly accomplished the final twenty feet of the ascent, and a minute later I stood by him and drew a deep breath. I saw Greene stoop and pick up a slab of stone. “Come on Tom,” he said. “Everyone who makes the climb adds a stone to the cairn.” I nodded and picked up a stone myself. A little way back from the edge of the cliff was a big pile of stones—quite a monument now to the skill and keenness of British rock-climbers. “Local legend has it that Wilson cleared the space for the cairn and placed the big slab at the bottom,” Greene remarked. We had brought some sandwiches, and ate them in the shadow of the cairn. It was with reluctance that we left the scene, turned our backs on the cliff, and took the easy slope down to the valley. We had a five-mile walk to the station where we caught a local train on to Carlisle. There was only half an hour to wait at Carlisle for the Glasgow train, and so it was not worth while leaving the station. I felt ready to sit down after our day in the open air but as Greene paced up and down the platform I kept in step with him. Presently with the idea of getting something to read I turned towards the book stall. My glance fixed on a pile of books. On the cover was a photograph of an athlete in full stride. I looked at the title and saw—HOW TO BE A WILSON HIS TRAINING SYSTEM IN FULL by E. L. Linter. The price of the book was half a crown, and I brought it. Still standing at the bookstall, I read the foreword— “It is surely the ambition of all young athletes to emulate Wilson, the super-runner and jumper whose tragic death during the Battle of Britain put an end to a glorious career. Who among you would not wish to dazzle the crowds as did Wilson, and emblazen his name among the stars of the athlete world? My purpose in writing this book is to provide you with the system which Wilson, used, and which, if followed faithfully, will enable you to train into stardom. I knew Wilson intimately, and the system which you will find in this book is just as he told it to me in his heyday of fame. Those of you who have no track ambitions will also find his system of great value in the art of keeping fit. – E. L. Linter.” Greene loomed at my elbow. “What have you got there?” he demanded. I turned the book towards him. The wrinkles round his eyes deepened. He put out his hand and took the volume. As he flicked through the pages I saw there were numerous photographs, evidently taken when Wilson was appearing at sports meetings in pre-war days. “I’d like to look at this in the train, Tom,” he said harshly. As the train travelled north Greene sat with the book open in his hands. We had the compartment to ourselves. I said nothing for some time. Greene read the first few pages closely. Then he turned them over rapidly. At last I spoke jokingly. “Learning anything?” I asked. He looked up and his face was angry. “Tom, this is a fraud,” he said. “It’s worse than mere nonsense. Any young fellow trying to follow this system could do harm to himself.” “Is it a fake,” I asked. “It’s deliberately dishonest,” rapped out Greene. “It’s a libel on Wilson. He wouldn’t have had anything to do with the stunts in this.” “The writer must be trying to cash-in on his acquaintance with the great Wilson,” I suggested. “He never even knew Wilson,” Greene said heatedly. “The whole thing’s a sham, a fake! The system is a mixture of rubbish and lies.” He passed me the book and I started to look at it. The author, whoever he was, had put his arguments over in a glib fashion. The text was plentifully sprinkled with Wilson’s name, and there were lengthy passages in the first person as if Wilson were actually being quoted. But to any expert athlete it was obvious that the whole thing was a fraud. It was cheap, trashy advice that was contained under such chapter headings as “How Wilson kept 100 per cent fit,” “How Wilson trained for the mile.” And “How Wilson planned his diet.” Greene, I could tell, was gravely concerned. He sat staring out of the window, but his eyes were not taking in the scenery as the train ran down the upper valley of the Clyde. He was deeply thoughtful and worried. It was not until we left the train at Glasgow Central that we realised that we had acquaintances on the train. I saw Frank Ducker, the British A.A. official, coming down the platform in company with Captain W. S. K. Webb now the sporting editor of a London paper and the chief chronicler of Wilson’s deeds in pre-war days. We joined them. We had a meal together, when the talk was mostly about the meeting next day. Frank was pleased because there was a really fine entry. However, as soon as the waiter had gone Greene opened out about the book. “Have you read ‘How to be a Wilson’?” he demanded and produced our copy. Frank shook his head and picked up the book. Webb spoke emphatically. “A copy came to the office for review,” he said. “I took a look, and then chucked it into the wastepaper-basket.” “It can’t be ignored,” Greene said. “It’s a blot on Wilson’s name.” “Who’s the author,” I inquired. Webb was able to give us the information. “Linter’s a shady type,” he said. “He’s a writer who specialises in sensational stuff. The bar’s been up against him in our office ever since he sold us an article which he said was by a famous American athlete. We published it in good faith, and then discovered it was faked. I expect he’ll be in Glasgow for the sports. He usually turns up at big events.” Greene evidently heard this with satisfaction. “I’ll make it my business to see him,” he said vigorously. “He isn’t getting away with it.”

Loud-Speaker Argument

Rain had been falling before the start of the sports meeting at Glasgow, and though the skies cleared the ground was sodden. Under the circumstances I was satisfied when I ran the mile in four minutes ten and a fifth seconds, this giving me an easy pace. Greene received a tremendous reception when he appeared to run in the hundred yards’ handicap, for which scores of runners were entered from all the noted harrier clubs of Scotland—Shettleston Harriers, Maryhill, Bellahouston, Dundee Thistle among them. The crowd were surprised by his unimpressive appearance in his black costume. There was nothing unimpressive about his running. On a day when even time would have been excellent he electrified the spectators by clocking nine seconds dead in the final of the race. I handed him his tweed jacket, and he was putting it on when Webb hurried towards us. “Linter’s here,” he said. “Where is he?” snapped Greene. An astonished exclamation broke from Webb. He pointed to the wooden platform occupied by the announcer in the middle of the arena. “That’s Linter, just going up the ladder,” he said. We were close enough to get a good look at the author of ‘How to be a Wilson.’ He was a tall, florid man in a thick, dark overcoat. He was holding his hat in his hand. The announcer said something to him, and then switched on the microphone. “Attention, please, ladies and gentlemen,” boomed the loud-speakers. “Among the many distinguished visitors we’ve here this afternoon Mr Edelston Linter, whom I now have the pleasure of introducing to you. Mr Linter is a link with the great Wilson.” Despite the years that had gone since Wilson was shot down, the mention of his name drew applause. “Mr Linter tells me that he and Wilson knew each other intimately, and that it is upon talks he had with that great athlete that he’s based his new book ‘How to be a Wilson.’ I guess you’d like a few words from Mr Linter, so folk, here he is,” concluded the announcer. Linter waved his hat to all points of the compass as the crowd cheered. “Thanks, friends!” he said into the microphone. “I don’t want to step between you and the next item on the programme, which I believe is the high jump, but I’d just like to say how pleased I am to be with you this afternoon. The war struck down many sportsmen, but surely athletics had no crueller blow than when Wilson died a hero’s death.” Linter’s voice was oily, and I should have liked to have thrown something at him. “I’m certain of one thing—that if Wilson were still alive he’d be with us this afternoon.” Linter went on. “Alas, that cannot be, but I thank you for this opportunity of recalling him to your memory. My fuller tribute, and the inside knowledge I gained from that amazing man, is in my little book. ‘How to be a Wilson.’ and so I will say no more now except cheerio and good luck!” Greene strode swiftly towards the platform. Before Linter could descend he was climbing the ladder. The announcer gave him a hand up, and seemed delighted to be joined by another celebrity. After a brief consultation the announcer again switched on the speakers. “Greene would like a few words with you,” he said. “You’ve just seen him run a cracking hundred yards. Now you’ll hear him speak.” As silence fell Greene spoke into the microphone. “Some of you may have brought the book ‘How to be a Wilson.’ ” He said harshly. “For those who’ve got it, I’ve two words of advice—burn it!” If Linter had been slapped across the face his smile could not have disappeared quicker. The crowd gasped as the loudspeakers boomed out the words. Greene held out a commanding arm. “The system it recommends is bad, thoroughly bad,” Greene rasped. “The so-called exercises are founded on fallacies. Wilson would never have said such utter rubbish, and it’s an insult to him to maintain that he did.” With a shove of his elbow Linter pushed Greene aside, and stood in front of the microphone again. “This sounds like sour grapes to me,” he sneered. “No, it’s the truth,” snapped Greene. “I call on you to withdraw the statement that your book is founded on Wilson’s methods.” Linter uttered a laugh. “I refuse to withdraw a single word,” he said. “I was honoured by Wilson’s friendship, and I regard the book as memorial to him. I stand by what I’ve written, seeking nothing else but fair play.” Webb stared at me and shrugged. “I told you Linter was smart,” he remarked. “He’s swung the crowd his way. He suggested pretty cleverly that Greene’s merely jealous.” Webb was right. I detected cat-calls and jeers as Greene turned away and started to come down the ladder. “Strikes me Greene advertised the book instead of condemning it,” I said. Greene returned towards us his face expressionless. “You were a bit impulsive, old chap,” Webb said. “I warned you Linter was a slippery customer to tackle.” Greene may have realised his error, for the loudspeaker argument would be reported in every newspaper in the country—but he made no allusion to what had happened. His glance fixed on Webb. “I’d be grateful if you could arrange for a party of officials and newspaper reporters to meet me at Wilson’s climb at noon on Monday.” He said. “Wilson’s climb? Oh, you mean that rockface in Cumberland,” Webb exclaimed. “Yes, I’ll fix it,” I caught the note of excitement in his voice. “Gosh, I’ll have them all there.” “Thanks!” Greene said. “I’d like Linter to be there as well.”

The Big Surprise

I stayed with friends in Glasgow over the week-end, and travelled to Cumberland with Frank Ducker and Captain Webb on the Monday morning. Linter was on the train, and a large party of reporters from Scottish newspapers were also making the journey. There was an advertisement in my paper for “How to be a Wilson” and the announcement stated that fifty thousand copies had been sold. I remarked on this to Webb, and he commented. “Fifty thousand suckers.” When we reached the little country station we found the local bus proprietor waiting with his vehicle. He was sure of good business. The driver, near whom I was seated, could not hurry along the rough moorland tracks, and we had to survive some heavy jolts and bumps in the course of the journey. I observed from my knowledge of the district that he was taking the longer route to bring us up the easier slope to the top of the escarpment. I mentioned this to him, and he replied that Mr Greene had instructed him to take the visitors up to the cairn. “Not that I shall get right there,” he added. “They’ll have to walk the last half-mile.” We could see the cairn sticking up on the skyline when we got out of the bus and straggled across the rough turf. A chill breeze was blowing, and there was a hint of rain in the clouds piling up to the west. I heard more than one grumble. Some of the reporters evidently considered they were on some form of wild-goose chase, and this idea was strengthened when we reached the top and there was no sign of Greene. Linter uttered a sarcastic laugh. “I doubt if you will see him,” he remarked. “It looks like a hoax to me.” A faint hail reached our ears. I stepped to the edge of the cliff. At the foot of Wilson’s climb two hundred feet below, stood Greene in his running costume, his feet bare, hands cupped over his mouth he called to us. “I want you to time me, Frank,” he shouted. “When you’re ready give me the word.” “Okay, Greene!” Frank replied and wound up his stop-watch. Several members of the party apparently had no head for heights, and had to keep away from the edge, but most of us stood on the brink and stared down at the tiny figure far below. Frank shouted “Go!” and started the watch. We saw Greene spring forward. At our distance he looked like a fly on the wall. A bulging fold hid him. A few instants passed, and he came up from beneath it, and without a second’s respite, tackled the next steep, forbidding section. From my own climb I could realise the tremendous physical energy that the sustained effort demanded. Greene was coming up the last stretch now and the strain was visible on his face. Thrusting, pulling, balancing, he neared the top, pushed his arms over the edge, and levered himself over on to the level ground where we were standing. Frank had got a raincoat, which he threw over Greene’s sweating shoulders, and even those doubting pressmen raised a cheer. “What was the time?” he gasped breathlessly. “It’s unbelievable,” Frank exclaimed. “Three minutes.” Greene gave a deep sigh of satisfaction. “I’ve another thing to ask now,” he said. “Will you help me to remove the stones from the cairn?” There were murmurs of protest, but Webb walked straight to the cairn and began to pull down the stones. Soon several of us were helping. Gradually the site of the pile dwindled as we demolished the cairn. I remember the growing air of excitement as we pulled the last few stones away. We looked down at the flat slab a couple of feet square perhaps, with square edges. “If legend be true this is the stone laid by Wilson after his climb a hundred years ago,” I said. Greene was the focus of keen attention as he stooped, got his fingers under the stone, lifted it and dropped it aside. He stooped again, put his hand into a hole, and pulled out an object so dirt encrusted that it was difficult to recognise it as a bottle. With a sharp tap he smashed it on a stone, and from the fragments took out a roll of paper. There was a rush to get near as he carefully unrolled the paper. In the act of unrolling it he gazed round at us. “I will repeat from memory what is written on the paper,” he said in a harsh, undramatic voice. “It says—” ‘On the fifth day of March in the year eighteen hundred and forty-six William Wilson climbed the big rock in three minutes. In witness to which we set our names—George Garth, gentleman, Edmund Kemp, farmer.’ ” The hush was broken by Webb, who was gazing at the document. “This is just what it says,” he said jerkily. “Word for word.” “Will you turn over and read what is there?” Greene asked. Webb’s hands shook as he turned the paper over. “ ‘Immediately after performing the climb William Wilson descended the big rock in one minute,” he read out. “In witness to which—‘ ” “Look out!” shouted Manton. “Stop him!” Greene sprang forward. For an instant we saw him poised on the edge of the cliff. Then he vanished with a leap into space. He had not made a suicide jump. I saw him plunge down close to the cliff face, saw his feet touch for an instant on a six-inch ledge, and saw him leap again. He landed on the bulge I’ve mentioned before and took off again, dropping with his arms held close to his sides, and legs together, until he landed on another ledge, from which, without scarcely a pause, he jumped again. With our hearts in our mouths we watched him. But no one spoke. From the physical point of view alone, forgetting the courage required, the time and judgment required when the slightest error could mean death, were amazing. As with a final bound he reached the base of the cliff a long pent-up sigh exploded from us. “I knew it—I knew it!” gasped Webb. “I’ve always thought so, and this is the proof.” Somebody called out that Greene was climbing up again. This time he did not exhibit the same frantic haste but none the less it was a swift ascent. I was the first to grasp his arm as he came over the top. “Well, there it is!” he said, with a shrug. Webb’s mouth opened in a hoarse shout. “Wilson!” he cried. “Wilson!” The man I had known so long as Greene folded his arms. “My second identity suited very well,” he said. “I’d hoped to keep it. I should have kept it but for that man.” He turned and fixed his gaze on Linter. “So I had to prove who I really am to vindicate myself and expose a fraud.” “Wilson alive!” Manton exclaimed. “Gosh, it’ll be a world sensation.” He whirled round on Linter. “What have you got to say for yourself man?” Linter had nothing to say. His high colouring had gone, and he looked pasty. He passed the tip of his tongue over his dry lips muttered something, turned away, and stumbled off. Wilson smiled thinly. “I’m sorry to have been melodramatic, but I could think of no other way to give you certain proof of my identity,” he said. “When I was shot down over the Channel I managed to swim ashore. In the course of the swim I had to discard most of my clothing, and when I was taken prisoner I found the Germans thought I was a member of a bomber crew which had been shot down. I thought it was a good opportunity to lose my identity. Wilson had become too famous. It worried me. I sought to disappear, and, shall we say, start again in the obscurity I prefer. But I don’t seem able to steer clear of the limelight.” I remember how eager the pressmen were to get away to the nearest phone and tell the world that Wilson was alive. We let them go. Wilson, Ducker, Webb, and myself let them use the bus while we walked. “I’d never meant to appear in athletics again,” Wilson said as we went along. “Then I met Tom Vale, and recognised in him the raw material. Sorry to describe you as raw material, Tom.” “I know just how raw,” I chuckled. “The raw material for building into athletic greatness,” Wilson said. He smiled. “In bringing Tom along I again achieved a certain fame, and our partnership isn’t over yet—in fact, it may hardly have begun.”


The following first episode of Wilson is taken from the Wizard No. 1100 April 13th 1946 under the title:


Unexpected Advice

I had just put on my shoes in the dressing-room at the White City when Frank Ducker, the British representative on the committee, came up to me, writes Tom Vale, the athlete. “Well, do you think you’ll win, Tom?” he asked. I was running in the final of the half-mile at a big international sports meeting, and was the sole remaining representative of Britain in the event. I was up against Glenn Hill, U.S.A. Lemmie, Belgium; Maekers, Holland; Haagno, Finland; and Koble, France. The Finn was the chief danger. He had run the race in one minute forty-nine seconds. “I’d like to see you win,” Frank remarked. “Britain hasn’t had a first yet. All seconds and thirds. If only Wilson was here!” “Um! Yes he might put paid to Stromsov in the mile,” I said. Stromsov was the big Russian who had arrived with such secrecy and mysteriousness that of course the glare of publicity had fixed upon him. He went nowhere without a bodyguard had brought his own cook, and was about as approachable as the Dalai Lama of Tibet. His interpreter and manager, Lukov, was the world’s champion “No-man.” I believe if you had asked him the time you would have got an evasive smile. He would neither confirm nor deny the rumour that Stromsov had run the mile in the terrific time of three minutes fifty seconds. Ducker’s fervid exclamation, “If only Wilson were here.” Had many echoes. But none of us knew where he’d gone. I’ve related the sensational episode in which ex-Coropral Greene, of the R.A.F., revealed himself as Wilson, the most famous athlete of all times. It had been believed that Wilson was shot down while flying a Spitfire in the Battle of Britain, but he had swum ashore and assumed the other identity, largely because he was sick of the publicity attached to his great track performances. I had met him as Greene in a German prison camp where he had cured my crippled leg by means of physical exercises. Subsequently as I have told you, he made a first-class athlete of me by methods of his own. Well after he had revealed that he was Wilson—in order to expose a swindler who was making capital out of the use of the famous name—Wilson had vanished. The British Committee had entirely failed to get in touch with him before the meeting. “Time for the race,” Ducker said. “Good luck.” I pulled on my loose-fitting sweater and started down the corridor towards the arena. My best time in the heats had been one minute fifty-one and one-fifth seconds. Haagno had been well under that timing. I was just emerging into the open air with a glimpse ahead of the crowded stadium, when a uniformed messenger boy ran up to me and gave me an envelope. I tore it open and gave a start of surprise as I read a note scrawled hurriedly in pencil—“Go for it when you see Haagno’s head going back—Yours, W. Wilson.” “Where did you get this note?” I exclaimed. “Man in the crowd gave it me,” the boy replied. “There was a big crush. Didn’t notice him particularly.” I re-read the message. Then I stared round—as if I had any chance of seeing Wilson in that immense crowd! But my pulse was beating faster as I realised he was watching. As for his advice—well, I hardly understood it, but it gave me a clue as to how to run the race. The loud speakers called us for the start. Haagno looked fit and confident. I can see him now, with his mop of light hair and fresh complexion. Lemmie was a dark, stocky fellow, Glenn Hill was the tallest of the bunch. I stood in the relaxed way Wilson had taught me. The gun sent us away to a hot start. Glenn Hill’s long stride took him into the lead, and it was obvious at once that the pace would be a corker. Haagno, on the inside, was up and challenging. He did not intend to be shut in on the curve. The first half was fast but not sensational. Then Haagno went after Glenn Hill and passed him. I put on pace and chased Haagno. The American dropped behind me, and I shadowed the Finn through the rest of the lap. That was the order when we swept into the final lap, and we kept that way for most of the lap. It was about a hundred yards from the tape that my watchful gaze saw Haagno’s head start to come back, and his arms to go higher. At that I cut loose. I heard the mighty roar of the crowd as my burst closed the gap. Fifty yards from the finish I passed the Finn and thrust on. He wasn’t beaten. My ears detected the swift crunch of his spikes hitting the cinders close behind. I saw the flicker of his white singlet as he came up to my elbow. I found a bit more energy from somewhere, and just on the tape I lost him again and burst over the line for a yard win. I finished fresher than Haagno. He was down on his knees pumping for breath, while the loud-speakers competed with the cheering to announce that my time was one minute forty-eight and four-fifths—just a fifth faster than the Finn’s effort, and a new world record. Frank Ducker rushed up and slung the sweater over my shoulders excitedly. “You’ve never ran a better-judged race, Tom,” he said. “You timed your burst dead-on. Haagno was just at his maximum effort when you went for it.” I grinned. “I was tipped off when to go,” I said. “Eh, who could have tipped you off?” Frank exclaimed. “Wilson,” I said, and gave him the note to read. “Well, I’m blessed!” Frank said. “He’s here, is he?” A steward hurried up to Ducker. “You’re wanted in the committee-room,” he said. “There’s some fuss and bother on.” “About Stromsov?” Frank exclaimed, and received a nod. I’m able to record what happened in the committee-room because the door was left open, and a whole crowd of us in the passage could hear what was going on. Frank entering, was greeted with exasperation by Mr Reg Appleton, chairman of the organisation committee. “Stromsov says he won’t run in the mile,” he said. “It is not polite to Stromsov to ask him to take part in the mile against second-class me,” Lukov said. “We therefore regret that he cannot perform.” You’ve left it late,” said Appleton. “You must have known who were his opponents.” Lukov smiled blandly, and indicated with a gesture that to his mind this point was immaterial. “The spectators are anxious to see Stromsov.” Frank said patiently. “It is not possible, unfortunately,” Lukov said. “Stromsov will not run under the circumstances.” Frank glanced at me and I nodded. “Vale’s a world champion for several events,” he declared. “He’s willing to run in the mile.” Lukov’s expression did not change. Mr Vale has just run a race. He could not be expected to do sufficiently well,” Lukov replied. Frank edged out of the room. “D’you think Wilson would take him on?” he asked me. “We might try to get him by public announcement.” “Have a shot at it, anyhow,” I said. Frank put out an appeal over the loud-speakers. “If Wilson is in the crowd would he please come to the offices on an important matter?” he requested, and the spectators seethed with excitement at the mentions of this famous name. It did not get a response. We waited but Wilson did not turn up. A minute or two later it fell to Appleton’s lot to announce that Stromsov would not be running. He put it bluntly. “Owing to the alleged lack of suitable opponents Stromsov will not appear in the mile,” he said. “The committee regret this, but it is not their fault. Tom Vale offered to run again, but was apparently considered as too tired after his great effort in the half-mile. As you heard, we tried to get into contact with Wilson, whom we believe, was on the ground, but without success. I’m sorry, but those are the facts.” The crowd showed how they resented the circumstances and for my own part I felt that Wilson might have responded. It was not until the following day that I discovered he had not heard the loud-speaker appeal. I then got a postcard from him, it was addressed from Staughton Castle, in Warwickshire, and asked me to go and see him as soon as I could.

Wilson’s Job

Staughton Castle tower, rising over the trees was my guide as I walked along a winding lane from the station. Then as I approached the lodge at the entrance to the park. I saw a military ambulance coming out, and stopped aside to let it pass. At the side of the gateway was a notice—“Army Convalescent Hospital.” An orderly stepped out of the lodge. As soon as I identified myself he said he would like to shake hands “with the man who licked Haagno.” I grinned and stuck out my hand. “You’ll find all the lads crazy on athletics since Wilson came here,” he said. “So that’s what he’s been doing?” I exclaimed. “Might have guessed it!” “You’ll find him somewhere in the park,” the soldier said. I walked on a quarter of a mile, so big was the park, before I saw him. A tree had fallen, Wilson, in his old black running costume, was standing on top of the trunk. A group of young fellows in gymnasium kit were standing round. One of them walked back with a slight limp. He ran at the tree, but at the instant when he should have taken off for the jump swerved and stopped. “I couldn’t trust my leg,” he said ruefully. Wilson spotted me and waved me to come up. “Over you go,” he chuckled. It wasn’t a big jump, and I gave a laugh as I went over. “Could you have done that two years ago?” Wilson asked. “Gosh, no,” I exclaimed. “I was a helpless cripple. Couldn’t even move my left big toe.” “It’s a fact, lads,” Wilson said, still standing on the tree and looking down on the soldiers. “Tom was smashed up much worse than any of you chaps, but he hasn’t done so badly, has he?” “I’ll say he hasn’t,” exclaimed the young fellow who had turned aside from the jump. “How did you get your confidence back, Mr Vale?” “It was a slow job,” I said, and Wilson nodded emphatically. “One day I thought it was hopeless, the next I was on top of the world. If Wilson tells you that you can do a thing, even though it sounds crazy, you’ll find he’s right.” As I was speaking a bugle sounded near the castle, and the soldiers ran to pick up their tunics. Wilson called out that we’d see them later, and as they cantered off we were left alone. “So this is where you’ve been hiding yourself,” I said. “I don’t know about hiding,” Wilson chuckled. “I came along and suggested to Major Paull, the doctor commanding here, that I could be useful, and I’ve become a member of the staff. It’s a great job, Tom. Servicemen who’ve been injured, come here for us to try and get them back on to their legs again with exercises and so on.” “I should think the job’s right up your street,” I said. “But thanks for your tip at the White City. You were in the crowd?” Wilson nodded. “I’d a couple of the lads with me,” he replied. “Two cases I’m very interested in. I took them along to see you run. A grin appeared on his thin face. “I wanted to show them what my first patient could do.” “Perhaps you had left before you were called over the mike?” I said. “They wanted you to run against Stromsov.” “We went off as soon as you had run,” Wilson said. He looked hard at me. “Who’s Stromsov?” Wilson, with his complete lack of interest in headlines, had never heard of the fellow who had been the main headline of the papers for weeks. I told him about Stromsov, but he didn’t seem to be interested. “I’m hoping you’ll find time to give me a hand,” he said. “I’ve a shack near the lake that’s big enough for two.” I told Wilson I’d be pleased to help in any way I could. I’d several jobs to clear up in London, and then I would join him. He was pleased. I could see that. “I’d like you to take Cliff Ford out for a run before you go today,” he said. “He’s one of the lads I took to the White City. He was a paratrooper, Tom, and got a bad stomach wound. Physically he’s cured. The doctors swear he’s as good as new, but he can’s let himself go. But you’ll see for yourself.” While we were waiting for the troops to have their mid-day meal I went across the park to Wilson’s shack. It was just as primitive as I’d guessed. Cliff Ford turned up early in the afternoon. I liked his physicial built. His thick chest suggested that he would not lack staying power and his legs were not too heavily muscled. “What’s your distance, Cliff?” I asked him. “The mile,” he said. “I did four minutes twelve seconds a month before I was shot up.” “Tom will take you out,” Wilson broke in. Cliff gave a nod that might have meant anything. I stripped out into a spare set of Army kit, and we crossed the park to an avenue of elms called the Woodland Mile. It was dead straight for that distance, and you had a view of the castle at the far end. Wilson collected a bunch of fellows for some jumping, and Cliff and I set off on our own. He had got a nice stride, but from the start I noticed that he was holding himself in. He was bunched up a bit, and his body muscles were stiff. To begin with I took it very easy, and he came along all right. It was little more than a canter till we were about halfway. Then I put on a little pace. Cliff strode out with me for a hundred yards. Then he turned his head towards me, and I saw he was sweating hard. He slithered to a stop, bit his lip, and doubled up. “It’s got me across the stomach again,” he gasped. “It’s like a knife twisting in my muscles.” I helped him to get to a log, and he sat down, pumping for breath. After a couple of minutes he was more or less himself again. “You see how it is,” he said. “The doctors say I’m okay, but I wouldn’t seize up like that if I was all right.” “It might be just a touch of cramp,” I said. “It’s worse than cramp,” Cliff replied. “It goes too deep for cramp.” After he had a rest we ran again, but with no speed. It was no more than a jog-trot. He was unable to let himself go. “I’ll never be any use again as a runner,” he said when we knocked off. “Might as well get used to the idea.” I thought it was wiser not to argue about it, and owing to a mistake about train times I found I had only a few minutes to get to the station, and had to dash off with only a quick farewell to Wilson. The visit had given me plenty to think about, and I was glad to think I should soon be returning to Staughton. It was not to be quite as soon as I had hoped. A family business had got in a bit of a tangle and took him time to straighten out. I had pretty nearly got things straightened out when Frank Ducker looked me up. “Well, you’ve heard of Stromsov’s latest?” he asked. “I read the papers,” I said. “I noticed there’d been a fuss at Manchester.” “Fuss?” snorted Frank. “We’d twenty thousand spectators at Belle Vue waiting to see Stromsov. Everything seemed to be fixed up at last. He was going to run against Gil Howe, who’s no dud. At the last moment he discovered that his pride would receive a fatal blow if he ran against anyone less illustrious than Wilson. Gosh, I’d give a hundred quid to see Stromsov put in his place. For the love of Pete, can’t you persuade Wilson to tackle him?” “When I mentioned Stromsov to Wilson he wasn’t the slightest bit interested,” I said. “There’s a meeting at Birmingham next week,” Frank said, pulling out a programme and tossing it to me. “Do what you can to bring Wilson along.” I did not answer straight away, for my glance had fixed on an item in the programme. I read through it. In brief, the promoters of the Birmingham meeting had hit on an excellent idea of developing a section of the meeting to events for servicemen and ex-servicemen only. There was to be a mile, half, and quarter mile for them, in addition to field events. “Frank, I think I could at least get Wilson to Birmingham,” I said. “I’ve got something in mind that I’d like to pull off. Have Stromsov at Birmingham ready to run against Wilson!”

The Wangle

The next time Cliff Ford saw me—I had only been back at Staughton half an hour—he came at me angrily. “What’s the game?” he demanded. “I see there’s a list up of fellows who’re going to compete in some races at Birmingham, and my name’s down for the mile. You’re the organiser, they say, and I’d like to know—” I winked at him. “Keep this under your hat, but it’s a conspiracy,” I said, glancing round as if to make sure there was no eavesdropper lurking behind a tree. “You’ve heard of Stromsov, the Slav? Well, what I’m aiming at is to get Wilson to Birmingham in the hope I can get him to run against Stromsov.” Cliff lost his anger. His face showed his interest. “Has Wilson bitten?” he demanded. “Yes, he’s swallowed the bait,” I said. “He thought it was a grand idea to take a party along from Staughton and so I made a list out.” Wilson was approaching at a canter with a group of men he was taking for a run round the park. When he saw us he stopped. “Glad to see your name down for the Services Mile at Birmingham, Cliff,” he remarked. I winked at Cliff, and gave him a hint what to say by nodding. “Don’t expect I’ll shape very well,” Cliff said, playing up. “You’ve the stamina to win it,” Wilson replied as he jogged off again. I felt that I had made some progress with my plans. I left the next item till Friday, the day before the sports meeting. Then I took Cliff out for a jog along the avenue. “Cliff, I’m going to try a burst,” I said. “Don’t try and keep up with me. It’s just in the way of training. If Wilson needs a pacemaker tomorrow I’ll need all the speed I’ve got.” I started off and did a quick hundred yards, waited for Cliff to catch up, and then put in another burst. It was on the third sprint that I put on my act, pausing in the middle of a stride, hopping and then rolling over on the grass. Cliff rushed up and hauled me to my feet. “What’s the matter?” he gasped. “Thigh muscle,” I said. I put my right foot tenderly to the ground. “Pulled it, I suppose.” That was the alibi for the limp and walking stick I took with me to Birmingham next day. A full motor coach made the journey. Ten of the troops were down on my list to take part in the various Service events, and the other places in the coach were filled by convalescents who were glad of the chance to see the sports. I was feeling a lot of anxiety as to how the day would turn out. I had to admit to myself that there were not a few “its” and “buts,” in the scheme I had fixed up with Frank. There were long queues of spectators waiting outside the gates at the football ground where the sports were to be held. I remember Cliff edged up to me as we went in. “Don’t forget I’ve got to scratch,” he said. “I’m not going to make a fool of myself.” “Okay, Cliff,” I replied. “Don’t worry.” One of the dressing-rooms had been set aside for the Service competitors. Twenty or thirty young fellows had either changed or were getting out of their uniforms. In the middle of getting ready the door opened, and Frank walked in. His gaze caught mine for a moment. Then he made an announcement. “I’ve brought a famous visitor along to say a ‘How-d’ you-do,’ ” Frank said in his breezy way. “This is Stromsov.” Out of the corner of my eye I was watching Wilson, and I saw him frown. There were murmurs of interest as the Russian entered the dressing-room with his shadow Lukov. Frank pointed to me. “This is Tom Vale,” he said. “I think you saw him run at White City. He’s out of action today. Pulled a muscle.” “Very unfortunate,” purred Lukov. “But where is—” I spoke hurriedly. “I understood Stromsov was a soldier,” I exclaimed. “Wouldn’t he like to turn out in the Services’ mile?” Lukov began to gesticulate. “No, no!” he said. “The proposal is absurd.” “Why is it absurd?” I flashed back. “Is he too high and mighty to run against soldiers and ex-soldiers?” “There is nobody in the race good enough,” Lukov snapped. Wilson brushed by me, and I saw anger in his eyes. Gosh, I thought that’s sent the balloon up. He stopped in front of the Russian. “If you’re not a fake and a fraud get stripped out!” he said. “My name’s Wilson, and having a race with these lads doesn’t strike me as absurd.” “Wilson!” cried Lukov. “You are Wilson? Stromsov did not know you were in this race. He thought—” I know what he thought. Frank had brought him to Birmingham under the firm impression that Wilson was to meet him in a special race. The outcome must have puzzled the Russian, but we couldn’t help that. Frank looked like an angler who had hooked the biggest salmon of the season as he hurried Stromsov out to another dressing-room. I caught Wilson’s glance for an instant, and then turned to Cliff. “I’m out of it, but Wilson’s got to have a pace-maker,” I said. “It’s up to you, Cliff.” I saw the quick gleam of understanding in Wilson’s eyes. “Me? What use will I be?” Cliff gasped. “You can give me a start, lad,” Wilson said promptly. “That’s all I’ll need. Go as fast as you can till you have to pack up. Okay?” “Me! Pace-making Wilson?” Cliff muttered in a dazed sort of fashion. “Gosh!” What was to have been a minor event in the programme had suddenly taken on world-wide importance. The Birmingham fans seethed with excitement when the news was broadcast that in the Services’ mile, the long-sought meeting of Wilson and Stromsov was to take place. I had had a look at the track, and it was in good shape. There was a moderate wind. Stromsov was an impressive figure in blue with a gold “V” to his neck and gold stripes on the legs of his trunks. Wilson in his black costume was hard to pick out as he went for the start. I heard him speak to Cliff. “Don’t worry about Stromsov,” he said. “Just give me a nice, fast, even pace as long as you can.” Lukov fidgeted round Stromsov till the starter took over. At the crack of the gun the Russian was off like a bullet. Cliff rocketed into movement. I chuckled to myself. Wilson dropped in behind the soldier and let him set the pace. Stromsov was building up a good lead as they went round the first lap. He was a strong, vigorous runner, with a free flowing style. My gaze shifted to Cliff. His face was set and determined, and he was thrusting away resolutely. I kept on watching him. The first lap ended, and he was still going. At practice he would have packed it in long ago. Stromsov was drawing farther and farther away. I was near enough to hear Lukov muttering to himself. He was shrugging, spreading out his hands, and eyeing Wilson as if he was something that had crawled out of a drain. Cliff finished the second lap—and still kept on going. He had run half a mile and was still plugging along. Wilson as yet made no attempt to pass him, but I began to think he was leaving things a bit fine. Stromsov was so far away on his own that I know I should have wanted a motor bike to catch him. The crowd had gone glum and silent. At the end of the third lap Stromsov had got a lead of at least a hundred yards, with, of course, only a quarter of a mile to go. The quite, sullen crowd erupted into a roar. Wilson was on the move. He came up and turned his head as he passed by his pace-maker. I was on the edge of the track and heard him. “Thanks, Cliff!” he exclaimed. “Stick it!” Then like the wind he was gone. I saw Lukov stop his shrugging and freeze still. Alarm had him in its grip. Wilson’s arms seemed to tear the air as a swimmer clears the water. His feet drove against the cinders and he flew with long urgent strides. On he came round the bend in hot pursuit. Stromsov sensed the danger and sprinted, going all out to hold his lead. Compared with Wilson he looked as if he were crawling. Fifty yards—yes, fifty yards—from the tape Wilson flashed by him. Such was his terrific speed that in four incredible seconds—I got the timing afterwards—he had covered that last fifty yards and was over the line. Stromsov slowed to a crawl. In trying to hold Wilson he had cracked up. He kept moving but only just, and he was still short of the broken tape when I uttered a hoarse cheer. Cliff galloped by him, and ran over the line with his chin up. A smack on the back nearly knocked me over. Frank Ducker had a heavy hand. “Look at Lukov,” he said. “He’s nearly having fits.” “It must be a shock for the poor beggar,” I said. “What a face!” Frank pointed to Cliff, who with Wilson’s arm round his shoulders, looked on top of the world. I felt pretty good. I reckoned I’d done a job on Cliff. I remembered to limp as I hurried up full of congratulations. “I don’t know how you stuck it, Cliff,” I said. He gave his stomach a flat-handed smack. Then he grinned. “I felt the pains coming on, but I wasn’t going to crack and let Wilson down, so I kept on going, and the pains went,” he said. There was a gleam of humour in Wilson’s eyes. “You can chuck that stick away Tom,” he said. “I wondered what your game was, so I came along; but, next time you want us to think you’ve pulled a thigh muscle, don’t walk as if you’d sprained an ankle.” “So you knew it was a wangle?” I gasped. Wilson glanced towards Cliff. “And well worth while,” he said. “You made Stromsov look small,” I remarked. Wilson shrugged. “Oh, him!” he grunted. “I wasn’t interested much in him. It was Cliff I was interested in.”


The Truth about Wilson 16 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1029 - 1044

The Further Truth about Wilson 25 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1049 - 1073

Has Wilson come Back? 19 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1081 - 1099

The Great Wilson – The Champion of Champions 11 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1102 - 1113

Wilson – Seeker of Champions 32 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1114 - 1145

It’s Wilson Again 12 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1146 - 1157

The Black Olympic Games 17 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1169 - 1185

The Truth about The Ship of Shivers – Revealed by Wilson 11 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1314 - 1324

Wilson – The 1952 Exploits of the Ageless Super Athlete 9 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1373 - 1381

The Year of the Shattered Stumps 15 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1421 - 1435

I Met the Barefoot Stranger 2 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1459 - 1460

The Barefoot Stranger was Wilson 7 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1461 - 1467

Wilson did It 17 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1491 - 1517

The Man from Camp 90 19 episodes (Reprint of ‘Has Wilson Come Back?’) appeared in The Wizard issues 1565 - 1583

Wilson – Trainer of Champions 29 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1625 – 1653

There were other reprints which are not listed.

© D. C. Thomson & Co Ltd 

Vic Whittle 2004