9 August 1948: The Final Day At The Olympic Rowing Regatta In Henley

Olympic champions Jack Wilson (stroke) and Ran Laurie (bow) in the foreground after they have won the Coxless Pairs at the 1948 Olympic Regatta in Henley. In this photograph is also silver medallists Hans Kalt (stroke) and Josef Kalt (bow) of Switzerland. Italy took the bronze.

Although, the Olympic Rowing Regatta at Eton Dorney is over, HTBS is not done with Olympic rowing. Let’s take a look at the 1948 Olympic Rowing Regatta in Henley-on-Thames through some old photographs. Today, 9 August, it is exactly 64 years ago the finals were rowed on the Henley course. One photograph is easily recognized (above), showing Jack Wilson and Ran Laurie after they have just crossed the finish line in the final that gave them the Olympic gold in the Coxless Pairs – or the ‘Pairs Without Cox’ or ‘Coxswainless Pairs’ as it was called at that time. The other photographs from this regatta I have never seen published before. Enjoy!

All the equipment from the 1948 Henley Royal Regatta was left untouched to make things easier for the Olympic Regatta in Henley. However, an additional stand to take 4,000 spectators was erected, as was a special Press Box (on the right) which could take 150 members of the media.
*Update: This has been proven to be wrong, it’s the Royal Canadian Henley, please see more here.

In this photograph from a repechage heat, the British double, with Bert Bushnell and Dickie Burnell, is way ahead of Holland and third-placed Argentina. Burnell writes in his Swing Together (1952): ‘Personally I do not like the repechage system, because I find it demoralizing to know that the first heat has not got to be won’. However, this being said, Bushnell/Burnell deliberately lost their first heat, so they would not meet the Danish double of Ebbe Parsner and Aage Larsen in the semi-final as the Danes were the favourites to win the gold. But take a look at the photograph again: despite the difference in the oarsmen’s heights – Burnell was 6ft. 4in. (193cm) and Bushnell was 5ft. 9in. (175cm) – they are beautifully well together in the water. Burnell wrote about their stroke: ‘Bushnell was inclined to over-reach; I was on the short side in my forward swing. The result was … we reached naturally to about the same place.’ (in Swing Together)

Olympic champion in the Single Sculls Mervyn Wood of Australia is congratulated by silver medallist Eduardo Risso of Uruguay. Romolo Catasta of Italy came third. Wood had won the 1948 Diamond Challenge Sculls by beating Bert Bushnell in the final.

In the final of the Coxed Pairs Finn Pedersen, Tage Henriksen, and Carl-Ebbe Andersen (cox) of Denmark easily won over Italy with Hungary coming in third.

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