The All-England Badminton Championships that was Played on Ice

Written by Geoff Hinder

    1947- THE ALL ENGLAND – That was Played on Ice.

In 1939 the Badminton Association of England decided that their All-England venue at the Royal Horticultural Hall, Westminster, London was now no longer big enough, they had been using the venue for 25 years.

After the Second World War the All-England did not resume until March 1947 and it was decided to move to the 12,000-seater Harringay Arena, North London where seven courts could be laid.

Harringay Arena
It would be a tournament of firsts: –

The first Championships after the Second World War. First Championships at Harringay Arena. The first Championships with Herbert Scheele as referee, he would be the referee for the next 24 years. The first Championships when RSL shuttles were used, they would be used for the next 36 years until in 1984 when Yonex started to sponsor the event. The first Championships when an English player did not win an All-England title. The first year with proper seeding and the first time of having an official dinner on the evening of the final day of the All-England Championships.

 Men’s Singles winner Conny Jepsen from Sweden

The start was remarkable as they were the first Championships to begin with 25mm of snow on the courts. The seven courts had been carefully laid in this vast arena, but on the night before the opening a blizzard hit London, and the winds forced snow down the ventilators in the roof. This could, of course, be swept away, but as the floor had been laid on a permanent ice rink and in the absence of any heating being permitted, the remaining moisture immediately froze to produce a slipperiness of unimaginable extent. A fuel shortage meant there was no heating in the arena and the temperature remained low. Next day ‘charwoman ’mopped vigorously with hot water, only to see it freeze almost immediately, only two courts were able to be used for part of the day.

 On the first day only six matches were played in all! Never can any big event such as this have begun with such dismal feelings on the part of the organisers. Indeed, on the first night it was seen long odds that the tournament would ever be completed. Those not present may wonder how the weather could interfere with Badminton. It is one of the boasts of badminton that no matter what the weather, we can always play, hail, rain, snow, or sleet. But it was a combination of these very elements that cause the trouble.

On the Thursday, other remedies had been found reasonably successful, so the tournament was resumed two hours earlier than intended, in order to endeavour to make up for lost time. It thus came about that, probably for the first time in its long history, play in the All-England Championships occurred without one spectator being present. This was due to a strange aspect of the new fuel restrictions of the Ministry of Fuel which did not allow any paying audience to be permitted until after 4 pm. In all, 99 matches were played off on that day, somewhat of a record.

 The 1947 Championships saw a record number of overseas players entering, there were ten Danes, two Indians, two representatives of Sweden, nine Irish players and one Scot.


Prakash Nath and Devinder Mohan both players from India.

The two Indian players Prakash Nath and Devinder Mohan who’s clever and deceptive play was much admired. Prakash had knocked out the holder Tage Madsen in the first round and together they also eliminated the defending doubles champions. They were both drawn in the same half of the draw of the men’s singles and met in the third round. It was reported that Prakash with the toss of a coin went through to the semi-final fresh with a walkover. Another first. Prakash Nath would win his semi-final to play Conny Jepsen in the final. Conny would lift the trophy with a 15-7, 15-11. victory.


Pakash Nath and Conny Jepsen
Marie Ussing from Denmark


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Neither the two Danish finalists in the woman’s singles final had been seeded! In fact, Kirsten Thorndahl was ranked in her country only in fourth place and was the reigning junior titleholder in her country. Marie Ussing was not ranked at all and had never won any event in the Danish National Championships. In the final Marie Ussing beat Kirsten Thorndahl 11-6, 6-11, 12-10.


Maria Ussing and Kirsten Thorndahl 
                     Almost a complete rout by Denmark

The Championships would almost be a complete rout by the Danish players with all the finalists coming from that country with the exception of the men’s singles. Even in the men’s singles, winner Conny Jepsen was a Dane who had changed his allegiance to Sweden. Jepsen came to the Championships as a representative of the Swedish Association, but he was in fact a Dane who had learnt his game in Denmark. He had been a resident in Stockholm, Sweden for only four years. He left Denmark in 1943, settling down in his new environment where he was married and likely to stay. Two months before his 18th birthday he had been successful in becoming the Danish National singles champion, and one month after that he represented the country of his birth in an international match against Sweden. This fact now barred him from playing for Sweden in future international matches, this would be bad news for him and for Sweden.



Men’s Singles: – Conny Jepsen (SWE) beat Prakash Nath (IND) 15-7, 15-11.

Women’s Singles: – Marie Ussing (DEN) beat Kirsten Thorndahl (DEN) 11-6, 6-11, 12-10.

Men’s Doubles: – Tage Madsen and Poul Holm (DEN) beat Jorn Skaarup and Preben Dabelsteen (DEN) 4-15, 15-12, 15-4.

Woman’s Doubles: – Tonny Olsen and Kirsten Thorndahl (DEN) beat Aase Jacobsen and Marie Ussing (DEN) 15-8, 15-7.

Mixed Doubles: – Poul Holm and Tonny Olsen (DEN) beat Tage Madsen and Kirsten Thorndahl (DEN) 15-13, 13-15, 15-12.


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2025 Yonex All-England Badminton Championships
Tuesday 11 March 2025 to Sunday 16 March 2025.
At the Utilita Arena, Birmingham.
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