Crowds cheer Oompa-Loompa soldiers at York dragon boat races

11 July 2011
Junior Soldiers from the Army Foundation College in Harrogate compete in the York Dragon Boat Challenge 2011. 


A platoon of Junior Soldiers dressed as Oompa-Loompas won two prizes at the dragon boat races held on the River Ouse in York on Sunday (10 July).

The teenage troops from the Army Foundation College in Harrogate were the fastest Armed Services team in the qualifying heats of the annual York Rotary Dragon Boat Challenge.

The team from 10 Platoon, Cambrai Company – dressed as Oompa-Loompas from ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ – were also rewarded with the trophy for best-dressed team at the charity regatta.

The Harrogate-based soldiers enjoyed the popular support of the York crowd – and collected their prizes after eventually finishing seventh in the final race.

Junior Soldier James Rowberry explained:

“We’ve been wearing costumes with orange face paint, brown shirts, white dungarees and bright green wigs.”

One of the tallest Oompa-Loompas, 6 foot 4 inch Junior Soldier Cameron Love, added:

“I’ve had about twenty people take pictures of me.  It’s been a good laugh.”


Dragon Boats are the largest flat-water racing canoes in the world, crewed by 16 paddlers and a drummer.

The York event saw 36 teams compete over a 250-metre stretch of the River Ouse between the Scarborough and Lendal Bridges.  Each team participated in three preliminary rounds before the fastest eight teams entered the Grand Final.  This year’s overall winners were local electrical firm Herbert Todd & Son.  Another military team representing 2 Signal Regiment finished in second place.

The annual race is organised by the Rotary Club of York and the total raised for charity this year is expected to be in excess of £64,500.  10 Platoon were raising money for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity as well as cancer charities CLIC Sargent and York Against Cancer.

Their Platoon Commander Captain Neil Taylor said:

“It’s good to get the Platoon out into the public and give the Army and the College a face in York.  We’ve raised nearly £2,000 so far.

“Corporal Nathan Cole from the Yorkshire Regiment has been beating the drum in top hat and coat as Willy Wonka.  The rest of the boys have all come as his Oompa-Loompas with green hair, facepaint, all the works.  It was the boys’ idea.”

He concluded:

“We’ve not done much training – we’ve put more effort into our fancy dress costumes and it shows.

“And although they look very silly today, I’m really proud of them.”

The Army Foundation College is located at Uniacke Barracks on Penny Pot Lane, Harrogate.  The College trains more than 1,200 Junior Soldiers each year over a 42-week course, providing the 16 and 17-year-olds with military training and vocational education ahead of a career in the British Army.


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