By Ian Smith
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Extra info for Bitter Harvest: The Great Betrayal and the Dreadful Aftermath
It was obvious to anyone who knew anything about the sport that the Frenchman was a master-craftsman. About halfway through the first round he let rip a punch, executed with the utmost composure and timing, which connected with his opponent’s jaw and felled him as if poleaxed. I took note of his name from the programme, and it remained in my mind: Marcel Cerdan. So I was not surprised to read a few years after the war ended that he had won the world cruiser-weight title, and in France he was acclaimed the new Carpentier.
I had never thought that one could become physically weary of shivering and one’s teeth ache from chattering. As my feet were not only cold, but soaking wet, I decided to take my boots off. Those eight hours seemed to take longer than the previous twenty-three days of walking. When it was light enough for us to commence our descent I decided to put on my boots, but they were blocks of ice. Within about a mile the bottoms of my socks had disintegrated, and I was slipping across the ice on bare feet, which led me to conclude that if this ever happened again in the future, I would keep my boots on!
After dealing with a few formalities he stood up, shook my hand very warmly and said that he hoped we would meet again one day. Fortunately we did. After the war, when I returned to Rhodes in 1946 to do the final year for my degree, he was still very much in control, and as I was chairman of the students’ representative council for that year, there was much to be done requiring our co-operation. He was, moreover, the President of the Rhodes Rowing Club, so after that memorable victory of ours on the Vaal Dam I wired him: ‘Rhodes wins Inter Varsity Boat Race.