Fifty years ago, a call went out in the Farnham Herald that would forever change the lives of those who dared to answer it.

Little did they know, they were about to embark on a journey that would see them representing their town on national television and competing against teams from across Europe in the iconic It's a Knockout contest.

“I had absolutely no idea what would result when I filled in a form in the Farnham Herald," reminisced Rowledge’s Ian Carter, one of around 2,000 applicants to respond to the Herald advert in 1974.

The applicants were put through their paces as the large field was whittled down to a final squad of just 24. And according to Ian, his personal journey nearly ended at the very first meeting when all applicants were asked to attend a fitness test at the Army School of Physical Training headquarters in Aldershot.

Farnham It's a Knockout team Farnham Park 1974
The It's a Knockout contest pitched teams from around the country against each other (R Vandyke)

This involved various exercises to check their heart recovery rate and general fitness. And at the end of the session the Army Physical Training Instructor told all the applicants that if they found the exercises difficult they should pack up now as any future training would be much harder.

“I was completely exhausted as my previous idea of fitness training was to lift another pint at The Hare and Hounds and playing for Rowledge’s football team in Guildford league division two! I decided it was probably better to give up there and then,” said Ian.

He was persuaded to stay on though after it was suggested his 6ft 6ins might come in useful. “I returned to the gym and the rest is history,” Ian added.

More than three months of strenuous training with pull-ups, press-ups, rope climbing and cross-country running followed. It started once a week and towards the end became twice a week, under the instruction of Sgt Major Jim Wilson of the Army School of Physical Training who had also been an Olympic gymnastics coach.

Farnham It's a Knockout Farnham Park 1974
A mixed team of men and women from Farnham took on Swindon's Thamesdown team at Farnham Park in a series of wacky events (R Vandyke)

“He and his fellow Physical Training Instructors certainly put us through it,” said Ian. “I have never been so fit in my life and I’m sure that was true of most of my fellow team members.”

The Farnham team then faced a Thamesdown team from Swindon in Farnham Park on Sunday, May 12, 1974.

The town threw its support behind its competitors. The Farnham Maltings Association producing a souvenir programme – sold locally for 20p – supported by many local businesses from Calloways Garage in Shortheath Road to James Smyth outfitters in East Street, John Hibberd Photographic in South Street and Farnham Cycles in East Street.

Clark & Co in The Borough supplied all clothing and footwear for the Farnham squad, and Crosby Doors provided equipment.

Farnham It's a Knockout Farnham Park 1974
The event was commented by the voice of Rugby League Eddie Waring and the latterly-disgraced broadcaster Stuart Hall (R Vandyke)

At the park, places in the standing enclosures were sold at 10p per person, seating in the open for 30p and seats in the covered grandstand £1.50. And as well as the It’s a Knockout action, there was a display by members of HMS Mercury, Swindon Brass Band, Swindon Town Girls, a children’s fair and refreshments.

When the action commenced, Farnham got off to a flying start, winning the fireman’s throw by five goals to three. Those at the back of the crowds knew by the roars that Farnham were cruising home and so it proved, because after only 20 minutes Farnham were leading 12-0.

Despite a few hiccups in the water trapeze and marathon ball race, they could not be beaten and rounded off their 14-6 victory with a dominant performance in the push and slide event.

Farnham It's a Knockout Farnham Park 1974
The final scoreboard as Farnham beat Thamesdown 14-6 to proceed to the international heats in Switzerland (R Vandyke)

A tired, dirty but happy team completed a lap of honour and the ‘Action Re-Play’ was broadcast by the BBC on Friday, May 24, 1974, with commentary by Eddie Waring and Stuart Hall.

Two months later, at the end of July, the team packed their bags for Avenches in Switzerland where they entered the international Jeux Sans Frontières competition.

More on that next week...