The son of a doctor, David Burnford followed his fatherâs footsteps and entered the medical profession. After schooling at St. Paulâs he went up to Jesus College Cambridge where he soon joined the rowing club, and in 1934 made his debut in the Jesus B team in the Thames Challenge Cup at Henley. Shortly afterwards he won the junior sculls at the Kingston Regatta. His finest achievement came in 1935 when, with the Australian Thomas Cree, he won the coveted Silver Goblets, representing Jesus. Unfortunately they failed to defend their title the following year, losing in the semi-final to the eventual winners, the Offer brothers from the Kingston Rowing Club. 1936 was not a bad year for Burnford, however, as he won his Blue when he rowed number four in the Cambridge boat that won the Boat Race by five lengths, and later gained selection for the British team at the Berlin Olympics.
After leaving university Burnford became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons and worked at Guyâs Hospital. While there, he continued rowing and represented Guyâs in the Hospitalsâ Regatta on the Thames. He also played for their rugby first XV. Burnford joined the RNVR (Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve) and achieved the rank of lieutenant-commander. In 1941 he married Sheila Every, who went on to became a famous writer, and is best known for the book The Incredible Journey, which was later turned into a Disney movie. David and Sheila emigrated to Canada in the 1950s and they died a few weeks apart in 1984, although David had since re-married and was living in the United States at the time.