Old Bloxhamist Set to Make History at Henley
26/05/2016
Old Bloxhamist, Francis de Marneffe is set to be the oldest person to row at the Royal Henley Regatta.

In 1946 Francis de Marneffe (Wf 40-41) was the stroke in the winning King’s College London coxless four which won the Wyfold Challenge Cup at Henley, and this year a representative KCL crew will row over the Henley course on the Saturday of the Regatta in celebration of the 70th anniversary of that event. At the age of 92, Francis will become the oldest oarsman to have taken part in the Royal Regatta. He says that he is in pretty good shape for his age, having kept up his rowing until 2008 and having recently been in training at Harvard. His wife, three children and other family members and friends will be at Henley to support him in this remarkable feat.

Francis is no stranger to extraordinary challenges. As a 16 year old, he left his home in Brussels on his bicycle with 500 francs in his pocket five days after Hitler invaded Belgium; keeping one step ahead of the advancing German forces, he crossed over to England on the last ship out of Bordeaux before the French surrender. He arrived in Bloxham on his own on 24th June 1940, living with his aunts in Courtington Lane and attending the school as a day boy before joining the RAF in 1943. After graduating from medical school in London in 1950, Francis de Marneffe went to the United States and settled in the Boston area, where he enjoyed a distinguished career in psychiatry. He trained at Massachusetts General Hospital and McLean Hospital and eventually was appointed General Director of McLean Hospital in 1962, a position he held until 1987. He is now the President Emeritus of the Hospital and is a faculty member of the Harvard Medical School. He is also a Chevalier of the French National Order of Merit. We wish Francis all the best in what is sure to be a momentous day at Henley.

You can read more about the remarkable story of Francis’ wartime exploits, and his Bloxham schooldays, in his book ‘Last Boat from Bordeaux’, which is available on Amazon.
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