R: Stan Roberts

Stan Roberts

"He Broke the Hearts of the Yanks"

David Roberts enjoyed watching the antics of Les Kellett, Jackie Pallo and the like on television. He especially enjoyed seeing Doctor Death hurled from the ring at the Granada Cinema in Greenford.

But David had more serious things on his mind.

As a child he had heard that his uncle Stan had been a wrestler in the 1930s but knew little about him. A little over ten years ago David met Stan's son who told him that his father had not only wrestled in Britain but also in Canada and the United States. 
Amongst the photos given to David was one of uncle Stan in the ring with Black Butcher Johnson (left). It was this photograph that inspired David to find out more about his famous sporting relative and since then he has been seeking information on both his wrestling uncle and his father Gwilym (Gill).

Albert Stanley Roberts was born in Saffron Walden on 22nd July, 1911, the son of Edward and Alice Roberts. His father, a dog trainer, had been born in Bala, Wales, and mother in Devon. During his wrestling career Stan  was often billed as from Ilford, though during his adult life he lived in Rochford, Romford and Leigh On Sea.
His older brother, David's father, Gwilym (Gill) was already interested in wrestling and it was an interest that Stan also pursued. Gill had a short wrestling career, with Black Butcher Johnson and Rene Dupont amongst his opponents.

With practically no professional wrestling as such in Britain during the 1920s there were few opportunities for aspiring wrestlers. Things had started to change in North America with the introduction of new rules increasing the popularity of the sport.

On 22nd July, 1929, on his 18th birthday  Stan Roberts set sail for Quebec, Canada, on SS Montreal.  His occupation was listed as farmer.  Whilst there he began to not only pursue his interest in wrestling, but also get paid for it. We have uncovered matches of Stan wrestling in British Columbia and Alberta, Canada, in 1931, and in Texas, USA at the beginning of 1932.

By the end of 1932 we find Stan back in Britain, wrestling at Blackfriars in London. On his return prospects for young wrestlers were looking much brighter, with Atholl Oakeley and Henri Irslinger having introduced all-in wrestling to the country. The business was booming and Stan was ready and able to take advantage of these new opportunities.  Stan received bookings in Britain with posters proclaiming “The Cockney Kid who broke the hearts of the Yanks by making their big beef look cheap.” On 25th September, 1933, Stan wrestled at the Palais Des Sports in Paris, France, where he lost to the world rated  American Ben Sherman.

For the remainder of the decade Stan was a regular worker throughout the country, though mostly in southern England, often cited as Eastern Counties Heavyweight Champion. Opponents were the top heavyweights of the decade, including Islington Hercules Bert Assirati, Jack Pye, and, of course, Black Butcher Johnson. 

Our last recorded match for Stan Roberts is in July, 1939 against Aussie the Butcher. Shortly afterwards, with the outbreaks of war, Stan was called up to the Royal Air Force where he served as a Physical Training Instructor.
Stanley Roberts died on 12th September, 1998.
Sadly, David Roberts died in 2019. We are fortunate that his son, Glynn, has continued to show an interest in Britain’s wrestling heritage and has sent us this cutting of Stan, and others in action. 

Memories are made of this.

If anyone can help provide further information about Stan or Gwilym Roberts please contact the Roberts family c/o Wrestling Heritage.

Page revised 20/09/2020: Addition of newspaper cutting