1946-59 Executive committee member (representing USA)
1959-69 Vice President
1971-72 Chair of Council
1973-74 Deputy chair of Council
1974-75 Vice President and Council member
Badminton Association of England
1947 Represented Berks, Bucks and Oxfordshire on the Council
1959-83 Vice President
1970-75 Chairman of Council
1983-2001 Honorary Vice President on retirement
Humphrey Chilton was involved in badminton for 80 years, having started playing at the age of 10 as a junior member at the Park Langley club in the Kent town of Beckenham.
His involvement may not have been so profound but for an eye injury suffered while indulging his other great passion, cricket, against his old school, King’s Canterbury, in 1938. He ended up in Bromley Hospital where he had to lie absolutely still during treatment, even when left behind when all the other patients were evacuated!
This injury – he lost the sight in his right eye - eventually forced him to give up playing badminton – but not before impressing Queen Elizabeth II with his deception and speed in an exhibition match at the opening of the Slough Community Centre in Berkshire.
He had, in fact, played badminton for his county and had been captain of the Berks, Bucks and Oxford Badminton Association from 1936-38.
Incongruously, ‘Jim’ (as he was sometimes known) made more of an initial impact within the International Badminton Federation than at home with England. In fact, he represented the USA on the IBF in the post-war era.
This came about because he had been a Major on the British Army Staff during the Second World War. The cricketing injury prevented him being called up for active service in 1939 – his comment about Nelson also only having one eye did not go down well with the Recruiting Officer.
But in March 1942 he was commissioned into the Royal Army Ordinance Corps and, after a spell in the War Office, Major Chilton was posted to Washington in 1943 as Deputy Assistant Director of Ordnance Services. He made many friends in the States and, having started playing again, on one occasion found himself on the same court as the famous Frank Devlin.
It was a result of his American badminton friendships that he was elected to represent them on the IBF even though he was only in his mid-30s at that time.
It was to his credit that in the early post-war years Chilton was able to juggle badminton and other commitments with family difficulties. His second daughter was born in 1947 but Chilton suffered serious illness and then lost his wife, Veronica, to cancer, leaving him to raise two daughters.
He married his second wife, Joan, in 1950 and she provided him a third daughter, Elizabeth. in 1954 to go with Sally and Lindsay.
In 1969 Chilton achieved the highest honour in a devoted badminton career when he was elected President of the IBF.
Stuart Wyatt (IBF President 1974-76) knew Chilton well and, writing in the 1970 IBF handbook, pointed out “that this was then considered to be a very young age” for such a degree of involvement.
But Chilton could bring a sound business mind to his many roles over the coming years, drawing on his skills as advertising manager with Horlicks, the makers of the malted milk drink.
He worked closely with the renowned J Walter Thompson advertising agency and was involved in the start of commercial television, serving on the Advertising Advisory Committee of the Independent Television Committee for 10 years. The inside knowledge he gained here was to stand him in good stead in his work with the IBF.
And he received a glowing vote of confidence from Wyatt, who wrote: “This long apprenticeship for the office he now holds ensures that he really does appreciate the problems now confronting international sport, not only superficially but in depth and detail, and can readily understand the inevitably different attitudes to the game of various nationalities and, indeed, cultures.”
Chilton took over the presidency from Scotland’s David Bloomer, who was always going to be a hard act to follow. But the demands of the IBF were certainly going to be far greater than the renowned badminton party he organised for more than 20 years following the All England Championships or any of the matches, especially finals, that he umpired.
After retirement in 1975 he was involved in tennis and was asked to be a member of the Honorary Association of Stewards at Wimbledon. It was the era of Borg, Connors and McEnroe and he worked on the Championships every year until 1991, his 80th year.
At the time of his death in April, 2001 he had been working on a history of the
BA of E in conjunction with Betty Scheele. Her husband, Herbert (former IBF general secretary), had started the project until his death left the work unfinished.
Badminton England Museum
Tribute by Elizabeth Lucas (his youngest daughter)
-- By William Kings