Two 1920 HRR Debutants

Although there had been a four-day regatta organised on the Henley Reach in 1919 – the Royal Henley Peace Regatta – it was never recognised as a real Henley Royal Regatta due to the fact that many oarsmen were still serving in the armed forces. Instead, the first official Henley Royal Regatta after the War, where the usual Henley trophies were presented, was in 1920.

Henley Stewards 1920 – click to enlarge

As a matter of curiosity, in my small collection of rowing memorabilia is a Henley Royal Regatta Programme for the regatta’s first day, Wednesday 30 June, 1920. The list of the Stewards is literally a list of famous oarsmen’s ‘Who is Who’ with names such as Desborough, Ampthill, Pitman, Lehmann, de Havilland, Rowe, Gold, Steward, and Burnell. It is also in this programme the rowing world for the first time would lay their eyes on the name of a 21-year-old who would bring glory to his club and country for decades to come: Jack Beresford Jr. of Thames RC, who was racing against The Hon. The Master of Gray of Viking RC, in the first heat of the Diamond Challenge Sculls, Beresford on the Berks side and Gray on the Bucks side. Beresford would eventually win the final of the Diamonds beating Donald Gollan, First Trinity, Cambridge by three lengths.

Gully Nickalls

There was another 21-year-old debutant at the 1920 Henley Royal who would do well and serve British rowing for decades to come, and he had, just as young Beresford, rowing in his blood as his father, too, was a well-known oarsman. Of course, I am referring to Guy Oliver ‘Gully’ Nickalls, who rowed for Magdalen College, Oxford, both in the college’s eight in the Grand Challenge Cup and in the Silver Goblets & Nickalls’ Challenge Cup (coxless pair, with Richard Lucas). Magdalen won the Grand by beating Leander by two lengths, and Nickalls and Lucas won the Silver Goblet by easily over-powering a crew from Thames RC with Ian Fairbairn (son of Steve Fairbairn) and Bruce Logan. It is noteworthy that Gully’s victory in the Silver Goblets marked the twelfth triumph in this event for a member of the Nickalls family.

Both Beresford and Nickalls would later in 1920 take two silver medals in the Olympic Games in Antwerp, Beresford in the single and Nickalls as a member of the British eight.

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