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Guest VHunter

Mystery - Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race Medal 1918

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Guest VHunter

Hi all,

I have a curly one for you all!

My husbands great grandfather was: Valentine Gordon Hunter
We have a "silver" medal and a plaque that reads: (in full)
7/2219 2ND LIEUT
We also have a newspaper article which reads: (abbreviated)
"While in England he won the single sculls at the Cambridge regatta on Anzac Day, and was
awarded a gold medal. He was also a member of the winning eight, which secured a silver cup on which
the New Zealanders name is inscribed."
Does anyone know about the race?
Does anyone know of the cup mentioned?
All the internet searches I have found says that the race wasn't run during the war.
Attached is a photo of the medal.
Any thoughts??


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Old Owl

Welcome to the Forum.

The Oxford-Cambridge boat race was definitely not held during the period 1915-1919 inclusive, so what we have here quite clearly is a race held between the Oxford and Cambridge Officer Cadet Battalions rather than Universities. The official race was held between crews consisiting of students who were passing through Oxford or Cambridge Universities.

It would appear that perhaps the Officer Cadet Battalions affiliated to the two Universities took it upon themselves to use the facilities available and held their own rowing events and competitions. I think that your husbands grandfather was only associated with the races through his time with the O.C.B. and not the Universities as a student. His name does not appear in either of the Universities' war records

Interestingly the official races were won by Cambridge in both 1914 and 1920.

I hope that this helps to clarify the situation.


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Guest VHunter

Hi Robert,

Thanks for that, it was what we were starting to think as no one seemed to be able to give us any information!

So I guess I need to try and track down the Cadet Battalions somehow.

Any ideas on where I should start looking for that?



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Old Owl

Hi Rachel,

I am not certain where, if any, records would be held for this event, but it is possible that there may be some mention in the University magazine, 'The Cambridge Review' or indeed 'The Oxford Magazine'. I think that the O.C.B.'s were attached to various colleges within the universities.

Probably it would be worth your while to contact both the 'Bodleian Library' at Oxford and the 'Cambridge University Library'. You should ba able to find their contact details via Google.

It may also be worthwhile to post a new topic entitled 'Officer Cadet Battalions at Oxbridge during WW1' or similar, I am sure that someone out there will have some information for you.

Good Luck.


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Resuscitating this old post.


My grandfather (George McLaren - 12/ 2419) was at this race. He was attending Officer Cadet Training at the time - (4th Officer Cadet Battalion (OCB) Oxford - C Company (Keble College) - 7th Course - April 1918) He was rowing training most afternoons after the days work at the Offer Cadet Battalion.


Based on what I can tell in his diary, he got bumped out of his seat (more of a rugby player than a rower) for the big race. In fact, I don't think he had never rowed before.


However, his best mate in the OCB Jack Subritzky did have a rowing background and was part of the team that won the race. I believe they have the same medal in the family.


"Early in 1918 he was in England convalescing in a rest home close to Oxford University. One of the Dons who knew him heard he was from a family of seafarers and invited him to join the prestigious Oxford Rowing team. In May of 1918 Oxford rowed against Cambridge and on that occasion "Jack" was the No 2 in the boat. Oxford University one the race. His medal is a family heirloom."


From George's diary .... and just the rowing entries ... 

27/4/18 Saturday    I was examined on squad drill this morning & passed. Jack & Ted & Harris & I went down the river rowing. We had a great time & I really had to swim at times. 

1/5/18 Wednesday    Drill & lectures all day. Went down afternoon & had a row on the river. I will be some sculler when I get going, “I guess”. 

4/5/18 Saturday    Had an examination on Military Law and I don’t think I done any good. Rowing on the river afternoon. Jack & Harris & Le Noel were in a “four” hot & strong and ran into another boat from E Coy & sunk them & they had to swim for it while we sat & laughed at them. We are getting on fine at rowing and shaking things up a little. Three Chows were punting up the river in their Sunday best. One fellow was looking at us and fell head first into the river. That also was good entertainment for us, 

5/5/18 Sunday    I missed church today. All NZ Cadets were fixing up about uniforms & etc, went for a walk instead of church. “Of course we were too late”. A combined team of Aussies & NZ played South Africa at football afternoon & we were beat 13 to 8. Jack & I were the only two representing NZ, all the rest Aussies. South Africa waited until all our best players were away & then challenged us. “No Bon”. 

11/5/18 Saturday    Easy day today. Battalion paraded & marched past the CO for practice. Rowing afternoon & xxxx nearly rowed that seat of myself. Lovely weather & the county here is just glorious but not all healthy. Very oppressive & close. Very hard to get out of bed in the morning. 

13/5/18 Monday    We were supposed to go out to Wytham Hill & camp there for 4 days for trench digging etc but it rained hard after we were all packed up and it was postponed. Went up the river to the trout farm & done some rowing. Turned out a lovely afternoon. 

18/5/18 Saturday    Got a lovely tin of sweets from Charlie’s wife. Lovely. Also three Truths from Jim & Auckland papers from Sentch. Rowing afternoon.

20/5/18 Monday    Drill all day as usual. Rowing at night.
22/5/18 Wednesday    Out all day on outpost work. Got bumped last night rowing.

23/5/18 Thursday    Per usual. Started our racing tonight. We got bumped.
24/5/18 Friday    Pretty well the same as usual. Got the NZ Chronicle. Got bumped tonight at rowing again. 
25/5/18 Saturday    Had an exam this morning on gas & outposts. I don’t know whether I passed or not, we didn’t study a lot. Finished our rowing races today. The four I rowed in got a win for a change. We crunched E Coy. Jacks team won right through & are the best on the river. “Some crew these diggers”. 


More here: https://www.armymuseum.co.nz/kiwi-soldiers-compete-famous-head-river-rowing-race-may-1918/


I think I may have some photos of the race somewhere .... hope this helps ? 



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Charles Fair

Steve, thanks for posting this.  I'd like to clarify the bumps which is rather unusual type of rowing race for narrow rivers.  He wasn't bumped out of the boat, it means his boat was bumped by the boat behind.  This happened three days in a row and on the fourth day they in turn bumped the boat ahead.  It sounds like normal May Bumps which are over 4 days in May.  Jack's boat must have been Head of The River i.e. the first boat in the first division.


I will write something up on rowing at the Oxford and Cambridge OCBs in due course.  I have seen that in Cambrige the Bumps were rowed 11 times in 2.5 years.  That is far more than in peacetime when the Bumps are only rowed twice a year, in Lent and in May, in both Oxford and Cambridge.  (They have some funny names in Oxford, Torpids I think.)


There is more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bumps_race



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