Greg Denieffe: ‘Hitler Oaks’

Jack Beresford and Dick Southwood: Olympic Champions in the double sculls, Berlin 1936.

Yesterday’s HTBS post, which mentioned rowing legend Jack Beresford, reminded HTBS’s Greg Denieffe about a story. Greg writes,

They were possibly the oddest sporting prizes ever awarded. Along with gold medals, the champions of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin were each presented with an oak sapling by Adolf Hitler.

Many of the 130 oaks disappeared without trace, but others were dispersed around the world and planted in the athletes’ home towns so that they would grow into mighty oaks. Among them was the tree won by Jack Beresford, which he donated to Bedford School. He had been a pupil at Bedford from 1913 to 1917. The sapling was planted in the School grounds and was known as the ‘Hitler Oak’.

Many years later when Bedford School was having some building work carried out, the tree had to be removed. The timber was put to good use, and Dean Abraham, a friend of mine and ex-captain of Milton Keynes Rowing Club, showed me the result in November 2009 which I photographed.

Dean Abraham and his partner in the pairs, D. Pinkney, won the silver medal at the 1989 National Schools Regatta and were subsequently selected to represent England in junior pairs at the Home International Regatta between Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales. The regatta was held on 29 July 1989 and England won the junior pairs in a time of 7.22.28.

Bedford School Presentation Plaque photographed 2 November 2009.

The School made a presentation to the crew to mark their achievements that year and the plaque presented was made with the timber of the ‘Hitler Oak’. The crests are of Bedford School (L) and of the England rowing team (R). The inscription “Home International Champions of Great Britain” is misleading as Ireland is also involved. Each country takes it in turns to host the event which was first held in 1962.

Dean Abraham with his ‘Hitler Oak’ plaque.

The crest of the Home International Ties: from top anti-clockwise: Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales.

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