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Pulling Through – The Story of the King’s Cup

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Pulling Through – The Story of the King’s Cup – Bruce Coe

The story behind the winning of the 1919 King’s Cup by the Australian Imperial Forces No. 1 crew is fascinating. Wartime authorities created diversions for war weary soldiers who needed activities as they waited for up to two years for transport home. The recovery from the ravages of war through sport became a significant benefit of these activities. The selection processes had the added difficulties of locating, gathering, maintaining and dealing with men recovering from the rigors of war. War-hardened soldiers demanded coaches to coach them in the style they had been used to before the conflict. But in the end, they enjoyed tough racing, and then success in winning the King’s Cup at the Henley Peace Regatta, the regatta at which they all sought to race.

The story did not end there. War time authorities sought to keep the King’s Cup as a trophy of war. The rowers and astute administrators of the time had other ideas. After failing through traditional channels to claim the Cup, they petitioned the King to allow the trophy to become the perpetual trophy to be presented to the winners of the Men’s Interstate Eight-Oared Championship of Australia. Given the large number of rower soldiers in WWI, the request could not be denied, eventually confirmed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Winston Churchill. The story, and the recognition of rowers who served in WWI, will continue, in perpetuity, as the states battle to win this prized trophy each year.

“It’s hard to imagine being in the first King’s Cup; the horrors of the war still fresh, the sacrifice of so many soldiers—and then the joy of the Peace regatta. The King’s Cup creates a deep sense of history, rivalry and camaraderie. This elevates the racing and—in my view—is the match of any Olympic regatta. The King’s Cup simply inspires.” —Drew Ginn, triple Olympic Champion, and multiple King’s Cup winner

“It is now the turn of sport to win the Peace” —The Daily Telegraph, 25 Mar 1919

“There is no greater celebration in Australian sport than to honour the bravery, camaraderie and spirit of our AIF and to compete resolutely for their King’s Cup with your crewmates” —Michael McKay OAM, Dual Olympic Champion and 13 time King’s Cup winner

“The King’s Cup is the pinnacle event in Australian Rowing, representing a wonderful history, carried forward with great state rivalry and honour” —James Tomkins OAM, Triple Olympic Champion, IOC Member and the most prolific winner of the King’s Cup

“The King’s Cup holds a special place in the hearts of Australian rowers. The fierce rivalry, tribal elements and intensity of racing make it a most coveted trophy. It’s also an annual reminder of the 5,000 rowers who served in WW1, and the fighting spirit of the winning AIF crew in 1919 that is an inspiration not only to rowers but all Australians” —Robert Scott, President Rowing Australia