Were you one of the spectators lining the banks of the Thames when Henley hosted the rowing competition at the 1948 Olympics?
If you were then Henley’s River and Rowing Museum want to hear from you – your recollections could feature in an exhibition about Olympic rowing which the museum is staging from 31st March.
Of all the things to do in South Oxfordshire, rowing is probably the most traditional. And if members of your family attended the 1908 Olympic rowing competition, also held in Henley, and you can pass on their memories – then even better!
In 1908 there were only four rowing events (all contested by men) and eight participating nations. Great Britain swept the board – winning gold in each event; an achievement which Team GB will surely find impossible to match in 2012!
Great Britain didn’t have its own way in the 1948 Games – failing to land the gold in the single skulls, coxed pairs, coxless fours, coxed fours and men’s eights.
So, much was riding on the men’s double skulls – an event in which Great Britain was represented by the little-and-large team of Dickie Bernell (6 foot 4) and Bert Bushnell (5 foot 10).
The pair had never rowed together before the Olympics and came from very different backgrounds – Dickie was educated at Eton and Oxford while Bert’s upbringing was less privileged. However, both could count on home support – Bernell came from nearby Wallingford (‘Causton’ in Midsomer Murders) while Bushnell had been educated in Henley.
And, utilising their knowledge of the Henley Regatta course, they beat the more-favoured Danish pair to claim the gold medal for GB! On the same day, the Great British coxless pairs also struck gold.
These were the last gold medals that a Great British rowing team won until someone called Steve Redgrave, together with his coxless fours’ colleagues, triumphed in 1984.
Arguably even more impressively, it is said that Bert Bushnell dated Grace Kelly when the future Princess of Monaco was 18!
Bert died in 2010 at the age of 88 – he was the last surviving British gold medallist from the 1948 Games. How wonderful it is that the achievements of this local hero will again be talked about when Henley River and Rowing Museum’s The Perfect Rower exhibition opens on March 31st.