Con Cherry: ‘The Mayor of Leander’

HTBS’s Tim Koch writes from London,

Those interested in yesterday’s story on Jock Lewes, Oxford Blue and co-founder of the SAS, may like to have a look at the 1936 British Pathe newsreel, Meet the Oxford Crew. It is very much of its time and place with unfathomable private jokes, period humour and a mildly homo erotic description of the stroke, David Winser. The film shows the final crew, though not in their final order. On race day, Ashby, Lewes and Garside remained at bow, 2 and 3, but Sturrock went from 4 to 6, Cherry from 5 to 7, Wood from 6 to 4 and Sciortino from 7 to 5. Winser and Kirke remained at stroke and cox.


Sadly, Jock Lewes was not the only member of the 1936 Oxford crew who had only a few years left to live. Number 7, John Conrad Hazlehurst ‘Con’ Cherry (1914-1943), the ‘Mayor of Leander’ was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve. On 1 February 1943 his ship, the minelayer HMS Welshman, was torpedoed by a U-boat off Tobruk, on Libya’s eastern Mediterranean coast, with the loss of 157 lives, including Cherry.

Con Cherry was educated at Westminster School, where he rowed in the first eight, and Brasenose College, Oxford. He went up to Oxford in 1933 but did not get into the Blue Boat until 1936. His Times obituary continues:

“[…] here was a No. 7 of unusual merit. The next year he at seven and Sturrock at six were the backbone of the first winning Oxford crew in 14 years, and in 1938, as president, he was the keystone of another winning crew. Cherry rowed at 14 stone (89 kg). He was one of the best heavyweight oarsmen of all time, but he will be even better remembered for his absolutely faultless style, so rare in a big man. Rowing at No. 7 he could give a crew the quality that usually needs a stylish No. 7 and a thrusting No. 5, and those who saw him row realize what the orthodox style could be at its best […] His easy style of rowing, so deceptive of its power, was seen to even greater advantage in a four than an eight, and in 1937 he rowed No. 3 in the fine Leander four that won the Stewards’ Cup at Henley.

Cherry also rowed in the British eight that came forth in the 1936 Berlin Olympics and was Captain of Leander in 1938. His Commonwealth War Graves Commission certificate is here and it states that he was Mentioned in Dispatches, an award for ‘gallant or meritorious action in the face of the enemy’. Clearly, he was a worthy crew mate to Jock Lewes.

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