Stoke Mandeville - the village that gave birth to the Paralympic movement

Great Britain's Charlotte Henshaw during a training session at the Aquatics centre Credit: Press Association

The Paralympic flame begins it final journey to London today. Cauldrons have been lit in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales over the past week and tonight the four fires will be united at the "spiritual home" of the Paralympics - Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire.

From Stoke Mandeville a 24-hour torch relay will take the flame to the Opening Ceremony in Stratford to mark the start of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. The flame will be carried ninety-two miles, by 580 torchbearers, working in teams of five.

Stoke Mandeville

The village of Stoke Mandeville, on the edge of Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire is where neurologist Dr Ludwig Guttmann worked with injured serviceman after the second World War.

He revoluntionised treatment of spinal injuries and laid the foundations of the modern Paralympic Games.

Dr Guttmann was the top brain surgeon in Germany before he was banned from practicisng medicine in 1933 by the Nazis.

The Jewish doctor fled to Britain in 1939 and set up the first specialist treatment centre for servicemen in 1944 at Stoke Mandeville hospital at the request of the government.

He is credited with introducing the concept of sports rehabilitation for soldiers paralysed from the war. On July 28, 1948 - the opening day of the London Olympics he organised the first Stoke Mandeville games for his paralysed patients. Sixteen men and women took part in archery and javelin competitions. From such small beginnings, the games grew, until war veterans and disabled people from around the world began taking part.

Then in 1960, a week after the close of the 17th Olympic Games, the first Parallel Olympics were held in Rome. Later this evening Stoke Mandeville will celebrate their unique and largely unknown role in the modern Olympic movement that became the Paralympic Games.

Dr Guttman died in 1980, but his daughter Eva says the London 2012 Paralympic Games will be very emotional for her, as they will be the realisation of her father's lifelong dream. In an interview with the Guardian she said: