|All That Was Left: The remnants of Bede Company from the Durham Light Infantry|
In 1910 a crew from the Durham University’s College of the Venerable Bede won the Grand by three-quarters of a length.
This “excellent” crew – R Wheldon (bow), RH Robson (2), JO Wilson (3), CE Walker (stroke) and cox AW Bramwell), won the cup by three-quarters of a length and were later to join the Durham Light Infantry alongside other students from the ‘Bede’.
‘A’ Company of Durhams were known as the Bede Contingent, comprising more than 100 students from the college. They were soon thrown into the front line trenches on Gravenstafel Ridge during the second battle of Ypres.
The Bedes’ spirit was not extinguished by their first experience of gunfire and the regimental history records that “'through the darkness came the voice of some irrepressible Bede College member of ‘A’ Company as a shell passed over: “Aye it reminds yer of Durham regatta. Now lads, up goes another! All together! Bang! Mind the stick!” Then someone called “Who’s won the Grand?” And there were rival cries of “City!” and “Bede!”
In the fighting which followed on April 25, the Bede men helped save Ypres, but they suffered grievous losses with 17 killed, 10 wounded, and 31 taken prisoner. A picture after the conflict, shows the Bedes poised rather like a athletes posing for a post-race picture, with poignant message: All that was left.
The Bede men had good reason to wonder about the Grand at Durham - the regatta would have been due within a week or two – and the soldiers would not have been forgotten that the Bede had won the Grand Challenge Cup for the first time in 1910.
Of the Bede crew who had won the Grand in 1910, Robson was killed, Wheldon lost an eye, and the cox Bramwell became a prisoner of war. Only Wheldon is in the photograph.