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History of Leichhardt Rowing Club

On these Bright Waters - A Centennial History of Leichhardt Rowing Club 1886-1986
Reproduced with permission of the author Merle Kavanagh

10. The Second World War

The opening of the new clubhouse in May 1940 was a great boost to the club, membership was beginning to dwindle because of the war. When the war began, the club had 40 active members and each year lost about 10 of these. The Annual Report of 1940/41 acknowledged the enlistment of 14 club members plus others and the 1941/42 season saw some regattas abandoned owing to the lack of oarsmen. After the war the Honour Roll would list over 90 names of members who served in the forces.

In 1942 the Secretary, Geoff C. Davies, wrote on behalf of the committee "To our present members a torch of tradition has been handed down - perhaps at this present crisis not burning so brightly, but we, that might be left, must carry on, do all possible for the club's welfare, it's our duty to members who have gone before us, and to those representing the sport generally on the battlefield in many corners of the Globe." The Honor Board was re-erected.

However, despite the loss of members, in both 1941 and 1942 the club won the J.B. Sharp Cup for winter competition.

On 19th March 1943 a special meeting was held to deal with correspondence from the Australian Military Forces giving notice of the government's intentions to occupy position of park and foreshore including the clubhouse. A committee of three was elected to liase with the authorities.

As the club was asked to vacate the premises within 14 days, homes were found for the boats, with Haberfield Rowing Club offering to house the eights and fours and Mr. W. Degan, the pair-oars. Discussions followed and with the help of Leichhardt Council, arrangements were made for the re-erection of the clubhouse on the new site. This was done by August 1943, though there were some delays with the pontoon and staging, electric light, the filling of the ground surrounding; the clubhouse and the track to the clubhouse from the top of the park. It would be several years before the club would receive compensation from the Army.

All this had involved a temporary cessation of the club's activities so club fees for the March/September 1943 period had been suspended. An Opening Regatta and Dance were held early in 1944, the floor was sanded and polished and things were returning to some order, although in 1945 the club was still concerned about adequate restoration of the roadway to the clubhouse.

Monthly social dances continued up until the clubhouse was moved to its new site, including the 56th Annual Ball with over 200 present, and a New Year's Eve Ball. An Old Boys' Day was held in June 1942 and others in September 1943 and May 1944. From monies raised by the collection of quart beer bottles, a hot water urn was purchased by the social committee of that time.

1946 NSW crew with club member Lance Robinson in the stroke seat

1946 NSW crew with club member Lance Robinson in the stroke seat

By 1946 the Annual Report announced the start of the Leichhardt Union of Old Oarsmen under the guidance of Geoff Reid, Col Davies, Stan Jones and J. Henderson. This group would be a wonderful support, its first great success being to organise the 60th Jubilee Celebrations of the club.

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