Ethel Warneford Thomson has recently made badminton headlines by being inducted into the WBF Hall of Fame during 2009 over one hundred years after she won the last of her eleven All England titles.
The first we heard about it was when the National Badminton Museum in Milton Keynes received a request from Kuala Lumpur for a photograph to accompany the citation! One was duly forwarded, but this lead to more correspondence. Badminton records were searched for details and WBF found her having won 16 All England titles – we were to inform WBF that we could only find 11!
It was felt that the citation should be resubmitted, but happily the revised details were accepted and she has been inducted into the WBF Hall of Fame.
Ethel was one of the outstanding badminton ladies of her era. She was born in 1879 in Islington where her father was a doctor. After the death of her father, Ethel and family moved to Devon where her mother originated from and lived with her grandmother. She started playing badminton at Budleigh Salterton in 1896
Ethel was the first ladies’ singles winner of the Badminton Association Tournament in 1900 – the first year that singles were included. She was winner again in 1901 by which time the tournament had become the All England Championships. She won the singles in 1903, 1904 and 1906 to make five titles in all.
In 1902 the famous partnership of Miss Thomson and Miss Lucas, both from Devon commenced – they remained unbeaten throughout their playing careers and were winners of the ladies doubles at the All England in 1902, 1904, 1905 and 1906, thus winning the cups outright.
In 1903 and 1906 partnering George Thomas she won the mixed doubles.
In 1906 she married Dudley Larcombe and retired from competitive badminton.
In 1912 Mrs Larcombe returned to competitive badminton and in the November 1912 issue of Badminton Gazette we read that Mrs Larcombe had made a welcome return to the badminton world after an absence of six years, having been one of the few players who had reached the top of the tree without a hard climb.
Also an outstanding lawn tennis player Mrs Larcombe won the ladies’ singles at Wimbledon in 1912. She considered tennis a better game than badminton, played outdoors with more variety of strokes possible, but badminton needs absolute accuracy!
The Badminton Gazette also relates that Mrs Larcombe golfs when there is time, is a brilliant pianist, a notably good bridge player with interests in needlework, music, walking, reading, writing and a devotion to animals, especially cats and dogs.
She died in Devon in 1965.