Jump to content

Fred Perry 1936 Cover Up?


Recommended Posts



Arthur Coatbridge was a 17-year-old greengrocer’s assistant from Pontefract who stunned the English establishment by beating the then two-times champion Fred Perry in the 1936 Wimbledon’s Men’s tennis final.


This was despite never having picked up a racket in his life, and having been dropped on his head as a baby – an accident that left him a simpleton.


Perry: urbane

Perry: urbane

Yet Coatbridge’s astonishing achievement was never officially recognised – indeed all evidence of it was buried and his name airbrushed from history for more than 40 years, until a chance discovery in the BBC sound archives.


The 54-second fragment of radio commentary, by the late John Snagge, features the dramatic climax of the match in which Perry, serving to save his title, loses the point to a freakish Coatbridge backhand.


Rather than congratulate his opponent, however, the usually urbane Perry hits Coatbridge with his racket, causing a near riot on Centre Court.



Fearing a damaging scandal just months after the Abdication Crisis, the match, which was witnessed from the Royal Box by George VI and Queen Elizabeth, was immediately suppressed by the Conservative government under Stanley Baldwin in collaboration with the Lawn Tennis Club of Great Britain, the Press and the BBC.


Spectators who believed they had witnessed the greatest upset in Wimbledon history were assured that they hadn’t, and that in fact Perry had beaten the German Gottfried von Cramm in straight sets. The records were amended accordingly to give Perry his third successive Championship.



von Cramm: shits

In reality von Cramm was indisposed with dysentery, contracted a month earlier during a Nazi-sponsored tour of the Belgian Congo. It was while hurrying to the toilet prior to the final that he met Arthur Coatbridge exiting one of the cubicles.


Shortly before his death in 1976, von Cramm told Stern magazine: “I asked the Englander if he was a player. He said he was there to deliver strawberries. But I was desperate, so I just handed him my racket and wished him luck.”


Despite having never played the game, and wearing a flat cap and hobnailed boots, Coatbridge defeated an off-form Perry 6-0, 6-0, 6-0. After the match, however, he was arrested on suspicion of being a communist sympathiser and detained at Wandsworth Prison until 1952.


Arthur Coatbridge,  who has died aged 94, never spoke of his experience, even after the discovery of the Snagge commentary and the resulting media furore.


Upon his release from prison he returned to his native Yorkshire where he continued to work in the local greengrocer’s. It was generally assumed by his family that he had been murdered in London – indeed many of his closest relatives admitted they were disappointed that he hadn’t.


Arthur William Coatbridge, was born on May 15 1919 in Pontefract, North Yorkshire. He died on October 2, 2013 aged 94.



Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...