From Both Sides: A Tale Of Two Skating Soldiers

Photo courtesy Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1977-64-11.

Though they lived their lives separated by the Atlantic Ocean, the two men whose stories we are going to explore today on the blog have two things in common: they made important contributions to the skating world as writers and died while serving their countries in World War II. You may not have heard their names before today, but I think you'll agree that their stories are both sad and fascinating.

WINFIELD A. HIRD


Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Born May 5, 1916 in Lowell, Massachusetts, Winfield Arthur Hird was the the only son of British immigrants Arthur and Lydia (Isherwood) Hird. His father was an overseer at a local cotton mill. Fascinated by the figure skating world as a teenager, he studied journalism at Boston University for four years. After completing his degree, he was hired by the USFSA to take over as the managing editor of "Skating" magazine. At that time, it was decided that the magazine's Publications Committee would serve only as an Advisory Council to Winfield and the production of "Skating" moved out of Theresa Weld Blanchard's home and into its own office.

In his capacity as "Skating" editor, Winfield reported at USFSA executive and governing council meetings. He overhauled the design of the magazine, increasing the size of the type page and font allowing for easier reading. By 1942, subscriptions to the magazine had risen from five thousand, three hundred to six thousand, four hundred. Advertising revenue and the number of advertisers both rose and a marked increase in Canadian subscriptions was noted.

Not only did Winfield make great strides in overhauling "Skating" and making it a more profitable venture, he also regularly contributed well-researched articles on figure skating history. Perhaps most notable was a wonderfully researched piece on the great Jackson Haines. You'd think Theresa Weld Blanchard would have harboured a little resentment toward the man who temporarily took over her job, but instead she expressed gratitude towards him. At the October 1941 annual meeting of the USFSA executive committee, she remarked, "Mr. Hird is doing a splendid job and has relieved me of much detail. His good work has been reflected in our improved financial position."

Everything changed on March 27, 1942, when Winfield was voluntarily drafted into the United States Army Air Corps. He returned "Skating" magazine to the capable hands of Theresa Weld Blanchard. She organized the donation of several of the magazine's typewriters to the war efforts and lobbied to send "Skating" free of charge to USFSA members serving in the military... including Winfield.


Sadly, after reaching the rank of Lieutenant in the Air Corps, Winfield was killed in action on Asiatic front in October 1943 at the age of twenty seven. The same year he had enlisted, his sixty two father voluntary signed up for the draft. Instead, Arthur and Lydia Hird were left behind in Lowell to mourn the loss of their only son and Theresa Weld Blanchard was left with one fewer "Skating" magazine to send to China.

ARTUR VIEREGG


Born in 1884 in Berlin, Germany, Artur Vieregg devoted much of his life to athletic pursuits. From 1923 to 1934, he served as President of the German Motorcyclist Association, organizing numerous motorcycle races at the Nürburgring in Nürburg and Schottenring in Vienna. In the winters, his 'need for speed' translated to the ice. Though a seven time medallist at the German Championships in men's figure skating, he quite never managed to defeat his chief competitors Werner Rittberger and Paul Franke. Internationally, he placed eighth at three European Championships and sixth at the only World Championships he attended in 1923.

Andor Szende, Kathleen Shaw, John Ferguson Page, Ethel Muckelt, Dunbar Poole, an unidentified Swiss skater, Georges Gautschi, Werner Rittberger, Artur Vieregg, Zsófia Méray-Horváth and Gillis Grafström in Switzerland in 1925. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

After 1926, Artur worked as a figure skating instructor and judge. He lectured at the German University of Physical Education (Deutsche Hochschule für Leibesübungen) in Berlin and served for five years as the Technical and Sport Director of Berlin Sportpalast. He also served for two year's as the German Federation's Secretary.

However, Artur's most important contribution to the skating world was his dedication to educating the masses. He contributed to the book "Der tanz auf dem eise" and penned the highly popular and widely read instructional text "Der Eisläufer", later re-released by his friend and former rival Werner Rittberger as "Schule des Eislaufs". He produced one of the earliest instructional skating films, which was shown in Berlin and featured - according to "Skating" magazine - moving pictures of "the correct and incorrect methods of executing and teaching all school figures, also jumps and spins. It shows in addition a model program for free skating and for pair skating (Weise and Vieregg)."

When World War II broke out, Artur joined the Wehrmacht and served as a Heer major in the army that fought in support of Hitler's vision. Captured as a German prisoner of war during the advances of the Red Army, he endured starvation and forced labour and died in Soviet captivity in 1946. After his death, Werner Rittberger - the inventor of the loop jump - recalled his late Nazi friend thusly: "I'm fond of my longstanding friendship with Artur Vieregg. [We] intimately connected through many nice sport experiences. A tragic fate snatched this sports man from us unfortunately all too soon."

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