Living at a Noisy Hotel at the 1936 Olympic

The 1936 Olympic British double sculls, Jack Beresford and Dick Southwood.

14 July 2020

By Julian Eyres

Julian Eyres looks at the accommodations for the oarsmen at the 1936 Olympic Games.

In 1936, Jack Beresford and Dick Southwood went to Berlin to represent Great Britain in the double sculls at the Olympic Games. Before departure they were sent a 40-page guide to the games produced by The British Olympic Association.

BOA cover

Inside the guide, each team and its officials are listed along with the days and times of their respective competitions. On pages 13 and 14 can be found the rowing officials and the rowers.


BOA pages 13 and 14

“Useful Information” on page 17 confirms that the rowers stayed in the accommodation building of the Police Cadet Training Academy in Kaiser Wilhelm Strasse in Köpenick.

BOA page 17

About the school, Daniel James Brown says in his book The Boys in the Boat that ‘The building – all glass, steel and concrete – was brand new and so modern in design that to latter-day eyes it would look as if it had been built in the 1970s or 1980s rather than the 1930s.’

The building was commissioned by the Prussian Construction and Finance Directorate, designed by architect Conrad Beckman and completed in 1931. It still stands today and is now the Teptow and Köpenick Tax Office.

BOA pages 35 and 36

So, it is still possible to gaze up and picture some of the boys from the American eight tipping their cold water out of a window, drenching some rowdy Yugoslavian rowers in the street below as well as the police cadets sent to quiet them down!

Noise from the street was a constant problem for the rowers. Brown states that

The boys from Washington were having a hard time sleeping. Almost every night there was some kind of disturbance in the cobblestoned street below their windows. One night it was brown-shirted storm troopers singing and parading past in hobnailed boots. Another it was military night maneuvers – roaring motorcycles with sidecars, trucks with glowing green night-lights in their cabs, caissons carrying field artillery – all rattling past under the streetlamps.

BOA page 37 – On Friday 14 August was the rowing finals. That these lists were not made by an oarsman is obvious: ‘6 p.m. is the final for Coxswainless Double Sculls’!

In the August 2011 issue of Rowing & Regatta magazine, Mike Rowbottom’s article on Jack Beresford confirms that the noise pollution was a problem not just for the Americans. Jack’s son John recalls his father telling him ‘how on the night before the final, SS troops made a lot of noise outside his hotel by marching and parading’. He goes on to say that his father ‘implied it was a deliberate ploy to distract Dick and himself.’

If it was a ‘deliberate ploy’, it failed to affect the American eight and the British double sculls as both crews went on to win gold!

Julian Eyres, who lives in the UK, is a Special Effects Technician for film and TV. His passion is history and he became interested in rowing after his sons took up the sport, and he became their school’s unofficial boatman. Watching races at Henley Royal Regatta and talking to veteran coaches Geoff Baker and Mike Spracklen, who were the 1958 Commonwealth champions in the double sculls, sparked Julian’s interest in international crews and their histories. He is currently searching for information on the coach Karl Heinz Schulz and his German eight that won the bronze medal at the 1936 Olympics. If you have any information, please contact HTBS’s editor – gbuckhorn-at-gmail-dot-com – and he will forward the information to Julian.

One comment

  1. Interesting information on the Berlin Olympics. I shall be interested to read anything that Julian Eyres finds out about the German eight but unfortunately can’t add anything.

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