A Prop Blade?

Tim Koch writes from England,

I do not know if any of you HTBS readers saw the Antiques Roadshow on the BBC on 6 January? They showed an illuminated Oxford oar spoon from the 1938 Boat Race that had been found on a rubbish dump. The interest was that No. 2 was H.M. Young, one of the ‘Dambusters’. The expert identified it as the real thing but I have my doubts, I think it may be a prop from the 1955 film, The Dam Busters.

Firstly, the blades in the feature film and on the Roadshow seem exactly the same, look at the pictures taken from my computer screen (above and below). The film is on YouTube, a shot of the blade is 1 hour 56 minutes in:

The item on the Roadshow can be viewed until next Sunday on iPlayer and starts at 34 minutes 10 seconds in (I am sorry, you outside of the U.K. will not be able to view this).

I think this is the prop made for the film for two reasons. Even allowing for some fading, the blade was never ‘Oxford blue’ – however, it would be acceptable for a black and white film. Secondly, it is headed ‘Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race 1938’. While I expect that such blades were produced ‘unofficially’ and to no set pattern and usually only for ‘bumps’, I do not think I have ever seen a blade headed ‘Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race’. They usually say ‘Oxford / Cambridge University Boat Club’. As CUBC and OUBC only exist for the Boat Race it seems unnecessary to include the words ‘Boat Race’. In a film, however, you need to make things as clear as possible.

Incidentally, the film’s interiors were shot at Elstree Studios which is 30 miles from where the spoon was found at Bletchley. This does not prove anything but is interesting.

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