The Boat Race 1946: It’s Oxford!

Bobbie Bourne who followed in his grandfather’s and fathers’ footsteps to win The Boat Race for Oxford.

3 May 2017

The first official Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race after the Second World War, which was the 92nd race since 1829, took place on 30 March 1946. After the war, the Londoners gratefully accepted any entertainment and as you will see in one of the following films from the race, the riverbanks were filled with spectators. Before the race started, the overall record for the event was 48-42 in Cambridge’s favour – to make the math end up correctly, do remember that the 1877 race had been declared a dead heat.

On Boat Race Day, Oxford were the favourites due to Cambridge having suffered mishaps leading up to the race. First M. A. Nicholson in the four seat took ill and was replaced with P. A. G. Dewar, who then had to leave the crew as he suffered from blood poisoning – D. J. D. Perrins had to jump in. With only a week to go, G. L. Thomson, one of the Cambridge coaches, told the press: ‘We took a day off yesterday because some of the crew were feeling off-colour … they appear to be suffering from some internal trouble’.

Cambridge won the toss and picked the Surrey station. The race started ‘in perfect conditions of a south-easterly breeze and with sun shining through a light mist’. Oxford took an early lead and at Craven Steps, they were half a length ahead, which at the Mile Post had increased to two and a half lengths. Eventually, the Dark Blues won in 19 minutes 54 seconds.

For the rowing history buff, it might be of interest that number four in the Oxford crew, R. M. A.  ‘Bobbie’ Bourne, was the third generation who rowed for the Dark Blues, following his grandfather, Gilbert C. Bourne (Oxford crews 1882 and 1883), and father, Robert C. Bourne (Oxford crews 1909, 1910, 1911 and 1912) – altogether seven wins for the Bournes and Oxford!

Here are two wonderful videos from British Pathé:

…the first one is from Oxford’s training…

…and then from the 1946 race:

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