25 January 2019
By Tim Koch
An exciting press release from Henley Royal Regatta reads:
In commemoration of the centenary of the 1919 Royal Henley Peace Regatta, Military VIIIs will once again compete against each other at Henley Royal Regatta after a one hundred year hiatus.
For the first time, male and female military athletes will row in the same boat at an elite international event. The King’s Cup will see crews from the original six nations of Australia, Canada, France, New Zealand, the UK and the USA, joined by Germany and the Netherlands, competing in a knock-out format over the final three days of the 2019 Henley Royal Regatta.
Sir Steve Redgrave, Chairman of the Regatta’s Committee of Management, said: “The Regatta is delighted to host such an important commemoration. The 1919 Royal Henley Peace Regatta was a key milestone in our sport and was staged by the rowing community to help heal wounds and hasten the return to normality of the Allied nations and their troops recovering from the First World War”.
Chris Hartley, who has been coordinating the international participation, said: “The 2019 King’s Cup campaign has been several years in the making and has strong support from all eight nations. It once again demonstrates the power of sport to build positive change. As military forces around the world embrace gender inclusiveness, the prospect of mixed crews racing at the Regatta is tremendously exciting. As in 1919, the Regatta is breaking new ground and we anticipate highly competitive racing”.
At the 1919 Peace Regatta, the Australian Army crew won the King’s Cup, presented by King George V. That original trophy is now awarded annually to the fastest State crew in Australia. Crews at Henley in 2019 will be competing for a newly commissioned King’s Cup.
Tim continues the story:
The Rowing New South Wales website has a nice history of the Interstate Eight-Oared Championship, later renamed The King’s Cup.
The significance of the King’s Cup in Australian rowing cannot be underestimated nor can the importance of the story of how the trophy was won by a group of battle-hardened soldiers at the end of WWI. The Interstate Championships continue to be the most loved regatta in Australia and the King’s Cup the most revered trophy. The King’s Cup story is also an important part of Australian history. It highlights the bravery of our soldier rowers who saw action in some of the worst battles of WWI. It demonstrates their ready resumption back to the joy and honour of sport. It describes the successful battle with wartime officials who confiscated the Peace Cup as a ‘war trophy’ for display in a museum. But most importantly, it illustrates the winning of The Peace. The unsettling adjustment back to civilian life after the atrocities of war. The rehabilitation through sport of the physical wounds of war, but more so, the role of sport in the recovery from the severe psychological scars of war.
Not only will there be a book on the events of 1919, Scott Patterson and Andrew Guerin of New South Wales based Slamcam Films are producing a documentary, The Oarsmen. I have witnessed the large amount of work that they are putting into this and am looking forward to the end result. The project has a very interesting Facebook page, notably the photo and video sections. There is also a Twitter feed, @1919HenleyPeace.
New Zealand is planning to make a major contribution to the Peace Regatta Centenary with the 1919 Army Eight Project. Remarkably, the eight used by the Kiwi forces at the Peace Regatta is still in existence in New Zealand. It was built by Sims of Putney in two-and-a-half days in January 1919, used at Henley, taken the eleven-and-a-half thousand miles home by its crew and used by the Union Boat Club on the Whanganui River until the 1960s. It was originally hoped that the restored boat would be taken to Henley, but I can find no indication that this will now happen.
Newsreel of New Zealand’s Peace Regatta crew training at Putney in 1919 is on YouTube.
As the pictures below illustrate, there were numerous other smaller ‘Peace’ and ‘Victory’ Regattas in 1919 as people desperately tried to return to normalcy after four years of war.
The 2019 Henley Royal Regatta runs from 3 to 7 July with events in the new King’s Cup from 5 to – 7 July.