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VAD Coxswains

Celebrating the VADs who acted as coxswains for our blind veteran rowers


Rowing was actually a very popular activity for blind veterans in the 1920s when the charity was stationed at St Dunstan's Lodge in Regent's Park. Veterans would have spent hours on the lake, training as a team and honing their rowing technique. They were tought to row by the Vesta Rowing Club which was founded in Putney in 1870. One person in particular from the Vesta Rowing club to have aided the veterans was the club's president Mr Calcutt.

A formal address written in 1920 from the Blind Veterans UK chairman and founder Sir Authur Pearson to thank him, citing that 'the high standard of rowing attained by the men of St Dunstans will ever be recognised as an eloquent tribute to the efficacy of his coaching.'.

The veterans put their rowing skills to the test with regular regattas where they could team up and race each other. These regattas were held in Putney and were a fantastic opportunity for the veterans to work together in a team and have some fun. When rowing as a team, especially for the visually impaired, it is important to have direction from the head of the boat by a coxswain. These people regulate the rhythm and speed of the
rowing as well as the direction. The voluntary aid detachments working with the veterans at Blind Veterans UK served as coxswains for these boat races.

Regatta 1937 - 214th July 1926

One such VAD Coxswain was Zoe Stein. During the Blind Veterans UK regatta of 1919, a boat containing her and four blind veterans capsized into the river at Putney. Zoe managed to support the one veteran who could not swim while directing the other three to a point of safety on the riverbank.