Mr F.F. Wolff

The Times 28th January 1988

Mr F.F. Wolff
Berlin Olympics 1936 – British Gold Medal 4 x 400-Metre Relay team: (left to right) Arthur Brown, Frederick Wolff, Godfrey Rampling and William Roberts

Mr F.F. (Freddie) Wolff, CBE, TD, who died on January 26, at the age of 77, was a respected ambassador for the London Metal Exchange. He was, in his day, also a celebrated athlete; and to the end of his life he worked tirelessly in helping the handicapped.

He was a member of the glorious British 4 x 400 metres relay team which won the gold medal at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, to the chagrin of the Americans and Germans, not least because of the Britons’ “slap-happy approach”, as Wolff later described it. The Americans wished that they, too, could run just for the fun of it.

Frederick Ferdinand Wolff was born in Hong Kong on October 13, 1910. He was educated at Beaumont College, Windsor, and in 1929 joined the family firm of Rudolf Wolff & Co., leading metal merchants, and founder members of the London Metal Exchange.

He won his first sprint prize at the Kowloon Cricket Club, in 1919. In the 1932 Olympics he trailed home in the 200 metres, but in the following year he won the AAA 440 yards title.

Fame awaited him, however, at Berlin, where he shared success with Godfrey Rampling, Bill Roberts and Godfrey Brown in the 4 x 400 metres relay, despite drawing the outside lane. Wolff ran the first leg. He was also a keen rugby player and a racehorse owner. He abandoned the track in 1937.

During the war he served with the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, reaching the rank of captain.

After the war he re-joined the family firm, and became a partner in 1951, and, later, senior partner. In this capacity, and as chairman of both the London Metal Exchange and of the Federation of Commodity Associations (1970-77), Wolff embarked on a series of worldwide promotional tours which established the international reputation of the Exchange.

His OBE, in 1975, was for this work; but it was also for his services to the Committee on Invisible Exports.

He was a most colourful City character. Addressing audiences of around 2,000 metal executives from all parts of the globe, he captivated them with his charm, wit, and knowledge of the industry. When he retired in 1971, after more than half-a-century of dealing, the Financial Times described him as “perhaps the best-known metal trader in the world”.

Another side to him was his work on behalf of the handicapped. In 1957, he became involved with the newly-formed charity, the Handicapped Children’s Pilgrimage Trust (HCPT), which was organizing its first pilgrimage to Lourdes. He was a much-liked group leader, and served as a trustee until his seventieth birthday.

In the 1970s he became chairman of the Hosanna House Appeal which was set up to provide a hostel close to Lourdes for handicapped people who had outgrown the children’s pilgrimage. The appeal was a great success, and Hosanna stands as a memorial to Wolff’s endeavours.

His wife, Natalie, whom he married in 1937, survives him with their two sons and three daughters.

Freddie Wolff died on the day when The Princess Royal, President of the British Olympic Association, presented at Buckingham Palace Commemorative Pins to over 200 British Olympic medallists from past Games. It was known a few days before the ceremony that Wolff was seriously ill, so the BOA had the special pin and some flowers delivered to his hospital bedside.