92 and still rowing strong: Dr Francis De Marneffe rows at the Henley Royal Regatta

On Saturday July 2nd a combined boat of King’s Students and Alumni took to the water at the Henley Royal Regatta in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the 1946 Wyfold Cup Win. Amongst this crew was Francis De Marneffe, aged 92 and still rowing strong.

In 1946, The Henley Regatta took place for the first time since the pre-war years. King’s College London Boat Club (KCLBC) were winners of the Wyfold Challenge Cup, beating the Thames Rowing club by 1 ¼ lengths. Now, in the 70th anniversary year of this triumph, a boat organised and lead by Professor Michael Gleeson, head of Otolaryngology and Skull Base Surgery at Guy’s Hospital and President of KCLBC, took part in the lunchtime row past, commemorating an historic victory and celebrating the efforts of the 1946 crew. What makes this even more impressive is that Francis De Marneffe, (Medicine, 1950) a member of the original 1946 crew, took part in the row, aged 92.

Footage of the row is available on the Regatta’s Youtube channel.

Francis de Marneffe is by far the oldest athlete to take part in the history of the Regatta and this was a highly emotional event as he remembers his friends and fellow crew members. Thomas Christie is the only other surviving member of the 1946 crew and although not fit enough to row, he was present on Saturday to cheer Francis on. Francis described Tom as ‘the outstanding oarsman of his generation’ who went on to represent Great Britain at the 1948 Olympics and the British Empire & Commonwealth Games where he won a silver medal in 1954. 

The crew, all of whom had a special connection to KCLBC were representative of King’s past and present. Professor Gleeson and Dr de Marneffe were joined by current King’s Medical Students and David Cooper Scholars; Alice Meakes, Steffi Stone, Simon Deacon and Cameron Bullock and Guy’s Alumni Dr Paul Stuart Bennett, Dr Simon Jefferies and Dr Robert Pinckney.

About Francis De Marneffe
Francis, a keen rower from the age of 8, was born in Belgium in 1924 and fled the Nazi invasion aged 16 in 1940. Arriving in England he quickly adapted to his new life, attending school and starting university studies before joining the RAF in 1943 and serving as a pilot. In 1950 he graduated in Medicine and emigrated to America where he trained as a psychiatrist in Boston before serving for 25 years as General Director of McLean Hospital.

He has maintained his love of rowing, competing in 15 heads of the River in Boston and in 2008 was the oldest participant aged 84. In addition to rowing, Francis ran 7 Boston Marathons between the ages of 53 and 61 years!

Francis’ memoir The Last Boat From Bordeaux details the full story.