Simon was born in Westgate and moved to Wingham in 1975 where he remained for the rest of his life. He was a wonderful and loyal father, grandfather, friend and fencer.
At school he was a keen sportsman enjoying rugby, cricket, golf and skiing. He started fencing late in his life at the age of 49. He once recalled “In November 1990 I had an idea, out of the blue, to try my hand at fencing. As a small boy I had loved the old Three Musketeers films and had dangerously thrashed around with sticks!”. He was a man with an extremely competitive nature and this combined with the fact that he was an unorthodox left hander made for a formidable opponent.
He started his fencing career at Mallard Fencing Club in Herne Bay and was a regular attendee becoming Chairman for many years. He went on to fence at Deal Fencing Club and was heavily involved in the starting of Invicta Fencing Club in 2007, one-handedly securing a very large grant from the Lottery.
His crowning glory was becoming World Veteran Foil Champion in 2003 at the age of 61 beating a former Olympic Champion in the process! He said “I had gone to the tournament hoping for, rather than expecting a medal” and he did not disappoint.
I enjoyed some good trips with Simon, first getting to know him when we took part in the 2002 veterans’ world championships in Tampa, Florida. He was on excellent form, winning a bronze medal in the Cat B foil. Afterwards, everyone was invited to take part in a veterans’ 3-weapon tournament in Boston a week later. Simon and I decided to drive there, first flying to Washington to hire a car, then spending a few days exploring the area, with visits to Thomas Jefferson’s mansion, Monticello, near Charlottesville and historic Williamsburg before zapping up the interstate highway to Boston, where Simon proceeded to come second (out of 31) in the foil and 9th (out of 40) in the epee.
The following year, with Edmund Gray, we drove to Limoges in Simon’s Volvo – a slightly terrifying experience as he had a habit of braking at the last moment when entering a roundabout. At those world championships Simon’s unique self-taught style came into its own. Twisting like a contortionist in defence and counter-attacking with pinpoint accuracy, he knocked me out in the quarter-finals, then former Olympic silver medallist Jeno Kamuti (HUN) in the semis and completely bamboozled Burkhard Steffen (GER) in the final to win the Cat B foil gold medal. Only a 3-hour wait while he tried in vain to produce a urine sample for the mandatory drug test marred the occasion.
We again drove to the world champs in 2004, this time to Krems in Austria, but in my Skoda Octavia RS, touching 150 mph on the autobahn and visiting King Ludwig of Bavaria’s castles at Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein. Simon was always a good travelling companion and we teamed up for a last trip in 2007 to the European championships in St Gallen, Switzerland, taking Edmund Gray and Bob Turner with us and once again combining fencing with visits to interesting places. In St Gallen Simon showed that he could still confuse the best fencers in his age group, winning another bronze medal in the Cat 3 foil.
It is with great sadness to hear of the passing of Simon Hartley, former chairman of Mallard fencing club and member of Invicta fencing club. He was a true gentleman and a formidable fencer, winning the veterans world championships being the pinnacle of his career.
Although I didn’t get to fence Simon as a Veteran, our paths didn’t cross, but I was able to get to know Simon regularly whilst at University in Kent during the 1990s. Back in those days it was quite a closed shop for non-university fencers to be allowed to fence in Canterbury, however Simon was always able to blag his way into the sports centre for a few hours of fencing.
As he was such a prominent figure in the Kent area we were lucky enough to arrange a few matches between Mallard and UKC and he was always happy to chat and discuss the finer points of the evening fencing in the bar. I still remember how he wasn’t fussed about still wearing his white breeches in the bar afterwards.
From the Exiles of UKC we all are very sorry to hear of his passing.
UKC Captain 1993-96
I had fenced Simon many,many times over the last 15 years or so. He had an impenetrable defence!
Aways courteous and calm and he managed to fence even after his tongue operation for cancer which undoubtedly caused him considerable discomfort &emrule; and never a complaint.
I didn’t know Simon well, but had crossed swords with him many times, so I can only endorse what others have said about him.
My impression was that he epitomised what is good about the sport, a Gentleman, and a unique character. Also the fact that in fencing, it’s not always the youngest, fastest, fittest, technically superior competitor, who wins, it takes something more, which Simon had.
I was just sorting through some old paper work from long ago events and noticed one of Simon Hartley’s poules … see attached. Although I know he went on to more prestige events than the SE Region Foil, perhaps the poule sheet row I’ve scanned here shows why locally we remember him as a fine foilist.
I remember the friendly while respectful little notes that Simon always wrote to me as his competition entries. He was always a pleasure to be with.
Ian de Whalley