Oar veteran hits the target
Compared to a life-or-death wartime river escape, a ninemile row was probably a breeze for 95-year-old ex-Royal Naval fighter pilot Keith Quilter.
And sure enough, when he picked up a set of oars on Sunday to row from Newenden Bridge to Star Lock, Rye, on the river Rother, the Second World War veteran reported the task was “surprisingly easy”.
Keith was shot down in Japan in July 1945. He ditched his aircraft, found a boat and rowed for his life before being rescued by America submariners.
In memory of his daring-do, Keith decided to replicate his daring row last week for two good causes – Wittersham Church and Centrepoint, the charity supporting young homeless people.
“I was lucky because there was a following wind,” said Keith. “It can be an absolute bugbear if you’re battling a headwind. I knew if I rowed at a steady pace I would get there.”
He completed the row in around three hours and 45 minutes – well inside his own estimated time of up to four and a half hours.
“I got to Star Lock so early that people who had come to see me later found that I’d already packed up and gone,” he said.
The pensioner, who lives in Stone, was cheered on by family and friends, and celebrated with them in the King’s Head pub in Rye.
One day later, Keith was still in high spirits – if a “bit weary, muscle-wise”.
Keith supports Wittersham Church as he is a member of the congregation, and Centrepoint as his adoptive parents gave him a “perfect life”.
You can still donate online at justgiving.com/fundraising/ keith-quilter. Or at the church.
‘I knew if I moved at a steady pace I would get there...’
Keith Quilter gives a wave before his nine-mile row on the River Rother. Right, Keith in a Corsair in spring 1945