David Winser – One Whom The Gods Loved

David Winser

1 November 2019

By Göran R Buckhorn

Göran R Buckhorn remembers David Michael de Reuda Winser, one of the fine Oxford oarsmen during the 1930s. He died 75 years ago at age 29.

The last time David Winser – or ‘Doc Winser’ as he was called by the men in the 48 Royal Marine Commando – was seen, he had been observed going over the dunes with his medical rucksack. When he had been gone for some time, the orderlies at the aid post were getting worried. They told Padre Revd Maurice Wood, who went searching for him. Revd Wood would later say:

I went looking for him and had only gone a fairly short distance when I came across his body. He was lying with his medical orderly close to Captain Davies, who was also dead. All of his medical equipment and bandages were strewn around him. He had obviously been tending to the Captain when he had been hit by a mortar bomb which had dropped beside him. He showed no visible signs of injury and lay there as though he had just fallen asleep. I was a very great shock to us all to lose such a fine man. He was one of the finest doctors I have known. He was only a year older than me, but I regarded him with something close to hero worship. He was just great; all of our men loved him. He was in every way estimable.

It was 1 November 1944.

David Michael de Reuda Winser was born on 12 March 1915 in Plymouth. David’s mother, Elizabeth Marjorie, née Routh, died when he was born. His father, Alfred Michael Winser, was at sea, a Commander of a submarine, so David lived with his mother’s parents in Hampshire being looked after by a nanny.

David was educated at Winchester College where he proved to be a good marksman and oarsman. While David studied at Winchester he was also awarded the prestige King’s Gold Medal for English verse. David earned a scholarship to Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where he rowed in the Blue boat in 1935, 1936 and 1937; that last year, the Dark Blues won. At Oxford, David continued to write poetry, and in 1936, he won the Newdigate Prize for his “Rain”. After Oxford, he was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship to study medicine at Yale University.

The Oxford crew of 1936. David Winser at stroke.

He left for America in the autumn of 1937. His Commonwealth Fund Fellow scholarship covered two academic years, 1937/38 and 1938/39. As a brilliant oarsman, with the best possible credentials from Oxford, David tried to sign up for ‘crew’ at Yale, but the Bulldogs’ coach Ed Leader turned him down because his Oxford rowing style did not fit in with the style they used at Yale.

Back in London, David did his clinical training at Charing Cross Hospital. He was a stretcher-bearer in the beginning of the war before he became a Medical Officer in the 48th Royal Marine Commando. There David was awarded an M.C. for gallantry.

It was during ‘Operation Infatuate’, the Battle for Walcheren in the Netherlands, he was killed. He is buried on Bergen-op-Zoom War Cemetery in the Netherlands.

What is less known about David, at least today, is that he was not only a brilliant rower and a prize-winning poet, he was also an author of fiction. In 1937, he published the novel A Gay Goodnight and two years later Time to Kill (1939). Under the pen-name John Stuart Arey, he later published three more novels: Night Work (1942: Am. title Night Duty, 1943), There was no Yesterday (1943; Am. 1944), and Students at Queen’s (1944). Most interesting for us rowing history buffs is probably his short story “The Boat Race Murder”, which was published in 1940.

In a memory piece about David, published in the 1950s, rowing journalist and writer Hylton Cleaver wrote how much David was loved by everyone: ‘one whom the gods loved’.

Note: Göran R Buckhorn is working on an essay about David Michael de Reuda Winser and his life as an oarsman, author and soldier.

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