Many of you would have been aware of the special event held at Henley this year to commemorate the centenary of the 1919 ‘Peace Regatta’. The original competing nations from 1919 were joined by a couple of additional nations to stage an eight-oared race with crews consisting of active members of each nation’s armed forces.
I won’t re-tell the whole story since it is covered very well in other places, especially by the ‘Hear The Boat Sing’ blog here and here.
My small part in this event started a few weeks before Henley when I ended up with an older style blade as part of a job-lot of wooden oars. Being sawn off with only a couple of foot of slightly rotten shaft, I wondered what I might do with it. The same week my copy of the new Australian history of the King’s Cup arrived in the mail.
I hatched a quick plan (and it had to be quick with so little time until the event!) to paint up a blade with the older design Australian ‘rising sun’ military badge, then present it to the Australian team at the regatta.
The blade was repaired, the shaft shortened until ‘good’ wood reached, a design created, and the painting took shape.
Before the regatta I was able to get close to the original King’s Cup as it was afforded ‘guest of honour’ status at a dinner that I attended in London. In much the same way that the 1919 regatta and race was being celebrated, my old school in Australia was celebrating a 1919 ‘old boys’ dinner that was held in London by members of the school community who had served during the war and were gathered in England at the time. Stories were told that echoed those in the history book. Tales of boys made men, and of men struggling to return to home and a ‘normal’ life after the trials of war.
Once the regatta had started I sought out contacts with the event organisers and a plan for handing over the blade was arranged.
I was fortunate enough to meet the Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC, and presented the blade to her as a representative of the Australian Defence Force crew (Linda herself a member of the ADF, a Brigadier with a long service history before being elected as a Senator).
There was no fixed plan in my mind for the future of the blade, with various suggestions including the Australian Defence Force Academy or the Australian War Museum. The Minister suggested that she would get it suitably mounted and put on the wall of the Minister for Defence’s office in Parliament House, and there it will hopefully be on display for many years to come.