|Jack and Wally|
Yesterday’s HTBS item, ‘Heavy Boys’, on the heights and weights of some famous past rowers noted that weights are fairly easy to discover (especially if they rowed at Henley Royal Regatta) but heights are rarely officially recorded. It also contained my suggestion that, if a rower served in the British armed forces in either of the World Wars, their service record containing their personal details may be available online. They are stored at the British National Archives (which is situated right next to the Thames at Kew, I have often rowed past it) and they can be downloaded for £3.40 each. As I am currently writing about W.D. ‘Wally’ Kinnear, the 1912 Olympic Sculling Champion, I recently accessed his papers.
Kinnear’s record reveals that when he enlisted in 1916, at the age of 36, he was 6 foot and 1/2 an inch tall, had a 40 inch chest, brown hair, blue eyes and a ‘fresh’ complexion. He joined the Royal Naval Air Service (which was part of the Royal Navy) but, as the RNAS was merged with the Royal Flying Corps in April 1918 to form the Royal Air Force, he then became a founder member of the RAF. A very telling thing was that he gave his civilian occupation as ‘motor driver’. This was not true, he was a travelling salesman. I think that he wanted to drive and so, as a result of this suddenly acquired skill, he spent the War delivering aircraft parts. It was characteristic of the man that he decided that he wanted something and so made it happen. Speaking in 1965 he revealed that in 1900, having never rowed, he visited Henley Regatta and decided that he would like to win the Diamond Sculls:
‘…I’d already dedicated myself to win the Diamonds and in all the years that I was rowing and sculling and living it was with one view of winning those Sculls and I won them the first time of asking and ten years after I had (first) seen the Sculls, I hadn’t been to Henley in between there you know…?’
The wonderful picture above has not been published before, it is from the Kinnear family album. It shows Jack Beresford (left) and Wally in, I think the 1950s. It shows two men who obviously have great respect and affection for each other and it also clearly shows two powerful men, even in their later years. I imagine they both gave crushing handshakes. From it I think we can deduce that Jack is fraction taller than Wally so he would be about 6 foot 1 inch.
Jack Beresford would certainly have a service record as it was a leg wound received in the First World War that caused him to give up rugby in favour of rowing. ‘Jumbo’ Edwards was, of course, a Group Captain in the RAF and a decorated war hero. Looking at their ages, all the other could have served in the 1939-1945 War and, considering their physical fitness, presumably did. Thankfully, they all survived.