In my previous entry, on 13 January, I asked the question where the Doggett’s winner W.H. Campbell got all those nice medals that he so proudly displays on his chest. Chris Partridge (of Rowing for Pleasure) suggested in a comment that they might have been from the Crimean War. Tim Koch of Auriol Kensington RC in London, who sent the photograph to me, is of another opinion. In a message, Tim writes:
“Chris Partridge thought that Mr. Campbell’s medals may be military ones. It is more likely that they were prizes from Watermen’s Regattas. The ’Portcities’ website shows some nice examples www.portcities.org.uk/london/server/show/ConW… Another reason that they are unlikely to be military is that Campbell has too many of them. Her Majesties armed forces hand out medals very reluctantly. Most American enlisted (wo)men have more decorations than a British Field Marshall!”
Tim continues, “a photograph [on the left] of Frederick Dawson of Mellish Street, Isle of Dogs, waterman and lighterman, is showing him in his rowing vest, standing beside a prize cup and wearing the prize medals won in rowing competitions. He was bound apprentice as a waterman at Wapping from 1877 to 1884 and later won many rowing prizes, including the Veterans Cup in 1904. – Date: c. 1895.”
Tim, who is not only a rowing historian, but also a collector of rowing artefacts, writes, “in my collection of rowing memorabilia I have an example of the only Waterman’s medal still issued. Until 2000, the winner of the Doggett’s got the Coat and Badge and the rest of the competitors got nothing. To celebrate the Millennium, the Fishmongers’ Company decided to give miniature Doggett’s medals to all participants, silver for the winner and bronze for the rest. This was so successful that the practice continues.”
“As an aside,” Tim continues, “we must remember that, until the 1939-1945 War, there were many other Coat and Badge races, often run as an event within an otherwise amateur regatta. London RC warded (I think) a blue coat. A Richmond Regatta Coat and Badge from 1921 is in the possession of Auriol Kensington RC (on the left). The 1920s cutting from The Times newspaper shows that even the fairly lowly Hammersmith Regatta had one of the splendid items as a prize.”
The National Maritime Museum in London has some beautiful rowing stuff. “At the Eastern Thames Regatta of 1902, M.J. Mears won this gold medal [below; photo credit NMM] together with a waterman’s coat and a silver arm badge,” Tim also mentions.
Well, you learn something every day. I had never heard of waterman's medals, and it certainly explains why Campbell's impressive collection is pinned individually on his chest instead of on a clasp as military medals usually are.
Thanks Tim and Goran!