Oar vet­eran hits the tar­get

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Points Of View -

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

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