Among the oarsmen in the 1913 Oxford crew, R. P. Hankinson (New College) was killed during the First World War. He, together with twenty other old blues from Oxford – and twenty-one old blues from Cambridge –, gave their lives so others could live. I sometimes think about these young men, well, boys, who we see smiling into a camera looking invincible and carefree. I think of what they missed in life, and the grief their families and friends must have gone through losing them on a foreign field.
It makes me think of Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s famous poem, which begins
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.