Story of boxing champ, the Belfast soldier, and a German army captain

Posted By: August 14, 2017

Andrew Madden. Irish News. August 14, 2017


 INTRIGUING LINK: From left, Jimmy Magill who won three Irish middleweight boxing titles, three ABA titles and three European police titles before retiring in the late 1930s; William Hutchinson, who was seriously injured during the Second World War; former Olympic boxing silver medalist and German army captain Richard Vogt. The intriguing story linking all three men is contained in a book written by Paul Magill, nephew of the late boxer.


FOLLOWING the release in cinemas of Christopher Nolan’s Second World War epic Dunkirk, tales of Irish connections to the dramatic events of 1940 are having the dust blown off their jackets.

And one such story featuring a boxing champion, a Belfast soldier and a German army captain is particularly remarkable.

It begins in 1936 when Jimmy Magill, one of Ireland’s greatest ever amateur fighters, went toe-to-toe with a German Olympic medalist named Richard Vogt.

In front of a sell-out crowd in Belfast’s King’s Hall, the man from the small village of Cairncastle, near Larne, was victorious.

Four years later, the war was in full flow when a Belfast-born soldier stepped on a land mine on the battlefields surrounding the French port of Dunkirk.

William Hutchinson, a young member of the Irish Guards, lay in the mud and dirt, his body perforated with shrapnel wounds and half of his left leg missing.

A German army captain approached the wounded soldier, noticed the badge on his uniform and asked where he was from.

“Do you know an Irish boxer called Jimmy Magill?” he said.

Bill had often heard of the great Magill from his father’s boxing stories and he nodded to the German officer looking down at him. “VOGT”, the name on his uniform read.

Captain Vogt – who would later defeat former world heavyweight champion Max Schmelling in his last ever bout – asked whether, if he was spared, the Belfast man would he return home and convey his regards to the fighter who defeated him that night in the King’s Hall.

He said he would and Vogt then picked up the wounded soldier, crossed over to British lines and gave instructions that he was to receive priority medical treatment.

Hutchinson returned home following the war and did not pass away until 2002 in the Somme Nursing Home in Belfast.

Amid renewed interest in the battle and evacuation of Dunkirk following the release of Nolan’s critically-acclaimed movie last month, Jimmy Magill’s nephew Paul spoke to The Irish News about his unlikely connection to the Second World War.

“I had never heard about the story from my uncle, but I’m sure he was aware of it. It was actually a nephew of William Hutchinson who got in contact with me,” he said.

“He rang me and we exchanged a few letters. He told me the story and when I first heard it, I thought it sounded like something out of a Hollywood film. Like Saving Private Ryan or something. It was incredible.”

As well as a talented boxer, Jimmy Magill was a constable with the RUC and he boxed under its affiliation throughout his career.

Over the course of more than 150 amateur bouts, the Cairncastle fighter was only defeated nine times.

He won three Irish middleweight titles, three ABA titles and three European police titles, before retiring in the late 1930s.

His career was not without its disappointments, however.

Magill was twice selected to box at the Olympics and, on both occasions, failed to reach the dressing room never mind the podium.

He was selected for the Irish team for the 1932 games in Los Angeles, but the RUC would not allow it.

Four years later, Irish boxing authorities blocked his selection for the British team during the build-up to the Berlin games, where Richard Vogt won a silver medal.

The sports bar at the PSNI’s country club at Newforge was named after Magill in 2004.

Paul Magill says his uncle, who died in 1991, seldom spoke of his ‘could have been’ career, or his unlikely link to the

battlefields of northern France.

“I guess that was just his way, he was a quiet man. Although he

never mentioned it, I’m sure he knew of the story of William Hutchinson at Dunkirk, and I’m sure he was proud,” he said.

The story of Jimmy Magill and William Hutchinson is featured in the book The Magills of the Meetinghouse by Paul Magill.



Former Olympic boxing silver medalist and German army captain Richard Vogt.


Paul Magill told the story of William Hutchinson in his book The Magills of the Meetinghouse


William Hutchinson