John Peake, hockey player who became the last surviving British medalist of the 1948 Olympics – obituary
He was extremely modest about his sporting achievements: his daughter recalls not knowing that her father had been an Olympian until she was at least nine or ten years old, only learning about it when her grandmother mentioned it in passing. His medal remained in a drawer: “I’ve probably only looked at it three times since 1948,” he said in 2021.
John Morris Peake was born August 26, 1924 in Cambridge to Albert, a surveyor, and Ruth, née Morris. He won a scholarship to the Repton School in 1938, then studied mechanical engineering at Clare College, Cambridge. After graduating, he joined the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors – earning a degree in naval architecture at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich – and played hockey for the Navy.
A herniated disc and the demands of the job prompted Peake to retire from hockey at just 28 years old. By then he had joined Baker Perkins, a designer of food processing equipment, where he became managing director and president before retiring in 1987.
Aged 87, Peake was one of the torchbearers for the Peterborough leg of the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay. He donated the torch to his Cambridge primary school, St Faith’s, thanking the school for nurturing his love of sport. He has remained fit and active, completing the Westminster Mile in 2018 at the age of 93.
In 2021 he was interviewed as Britain’s oldest Olympic medalist and explained how times have changed in the world of sport: “It’s a big deal now, isn’t it ? People make a lot of money from sports and they become very famous. When I was at the Olympics, we were given a tube of hair cream and a pair of Y-fronts.
John Peake was appointed CBE in 1986 for services to industry. He married, in 1953, Elizabeth, whom he had met at Cambridge, where she also played hockey, tennis and squash for college. She passed away in 2018 and he is survived by their daughter and son.
John Peake, born August 26, 1924, died March 30, 2022