Residents share their stories of Cambridgeshire's own Harry Kane

Harry Kane's connection to Cambridgeshire has been told by residents who knew him, and his namesake.

Residents have shared their stories of ex-Olympian Harry Kane, who attended Soham Grammar School, and arrived in Cambridgeshire as an evacuee. Left: some of the school's pupils in 1946, thought to include Harry Kane. Right, England football captain Harry Kane. - Credit: Peter Roe/Nick Potts/PA Wire/PA Images

There is no argument that England football captain Harry Kane has become one of the most well-known athletes in the world. 

But for one namesake who moved to the Fens, sporting prominence on the global stage was already on the horizon. 

Harry Kane, thought not to be related to the Three Lions' skipper, was one of a number of Jewish children who evacuated to Cambridgeshire after the Second World War, many of those living in Stretham. 

“Harry lived on Short Road and we went to school together,” John Baylis, who lived near Harry, said.  

“He went to Stretham primary school then to Soham Grammar School, but I did not see him much after then.” 

Harry Kane moved to Stretham as an evacuee after the Second World War

Some of the pupils at Soham Grammar School, which is thought to include Harry Kane, who arrived in Cambridgeshire as an evacuee. - Credit: Peter Roe


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Born in London to an Orthodox Jewish family, Harry’s mother and younger brother were both killed in a house fire when he was 10 years-old. 

After moving to Stretham to live with Alfred and Gladys Reeves, Harry made his mark at Soham Grammar School in athletics as he began to take part in inter-county competitions. 

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“Harry went to the school where he is remembered as an excellent sportsman,” Cambridgeshire historian Mike Petty said.  

“He took part in the school athletics in 1947, beating Robert Norman of Haddenham.” 

England's Harry Kane following the UEFA Euro 2020 Final at Wembley Stadium, London.

England football captain Harry Kane, who shares his name with an ex-Olympian who moved to Stretham in Cambridgeshire as an evacuee. - Credit: Nick Potts/PA Wire/PA Images

Robert Norman sometimes ran in events alongside Harry, who was in the same house as him at Soham Grammar School after first meeting each other on the school bus. 

“He was a normal lad, nothing extraordinary but strong,” Robert recalled.  

“He used to race in the cross-country event and we raced against your age group. He probably assisted me with points at school championships.   

“He was a keen competitor and compared to the current Harry Kane, I think he would have the same demeanour.” 

Having been spotted while at Hackney Downs School in London, Harry then went onto compete at international competitions, and with it came success. 

In 1952, he won the 120 and 200-yard hurdles events at the British Athletic Championships, followed by victory in the 400m hurdles at the Maccabiah Games in Israel in a record time of 50.50 seconds. 

His record-breaking feats did not stop there, though. 

Aged 21, Harry was in action at the British Athletics Championships in the 440-yard hurdles event in 1954, setting a British record and came second at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games the same year. 

“Harry Kane returned to Stretham several times to visit the couple with whom he was evacuated,” Mike said.  

“One such visit was reported in the Ely Standard for September 1955, shortly after success in an international athletics match against France at Bordeaux.” 

A report from the Ely Standard newspaper on Harry Kane

A report from the Ely Standard newspaper on Harry Kane's return to Stretham after winning an international athletics event. - Credit: Archant

Harry’s brother, Gerry, also came to visit the area. 

Les Gotobed was one resident who knew Harry and used to keep an eye on his progress.

"John knew him and we went up the road to watch Harry hurdle jumping on the television,” he said. 

“He was a tall fella’ with dark hair. Everybody knew everybody then; as soon as you got a stranger in the village, you asked who they were.  

“Harry said ‘hello’ to you when he went by. The evacuees knew nothing about the village and kept themselves to themselves.” 

Perhaps one of Harry’s greatest achievements was representing Great Britain at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, competing in the 400m hurdles. 

After winning silver in the 200m hurdles, he then won the 400m hurdles at the Maccabiah Games a year later. 

But the skills he learnt and his persona towards others while at school were important on his path towards sporting glory. 

“He integrated into the school fairly well, he wasn’t bullied; he looked after himself,” Robert said.  

Harry was not short on intelligence, either, according to Les, who said if you went to grammar school, “in that day, you had to be pretty good to go there.” 

A friendly man away from the track, Harry moved away from Cambridgeshire as his athletics career progressed, but he did not fail to leave a lasting impression. 

“He was quite good at football and must be around 85-90 years-old,” John said.  

“When we had sports days in the village, he won the running and hurdle races; he was a nice lad.”   

What memories do you have of British Olympic hurdler Harry Kane and his links to Cambridgeshire? Share your photos and stories by emailing Daniel.Mason@archant.co.uk. 

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