He was educated at Lincoln School before he went up to Jesus College, Cambridge.
At Cambridge University he coxed the winning Cambridge crews in the 1934, 1935 and 1936 Boat Races. In 1936 he coxed the Great Britain eight which came fourth at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. He was ordained in 1936 and appointed a chaplain to the forces in August 1939.
During the Second World War he served as chaplain to the 2nd Battalion, Cambridgeshire Regiment, and was sent out to Malaya in 1941.
Duckworth was captured by the Japanese at Senggarang when he elected to remain with a group of wounded soldiers. He spent time in Pudu Gaol, in Changi Prison, a prisoner-of-war camp where he acted as chaplain.
His work in the camp was documented in Russell Braddon"s The Naked Island. Immediately after the war he was appointed Chaplain of Street John"s College, Cambridge.
In 1948 he took a post as Chaplain and Dean of the then newly created University of Ghana.
Here, apart from his university work he became a canon in Accra cathedral. He returned to England in 1957 to become Chaplain at Pocklington Grammar School in Yorkshire. He was also a staunch defender of women"s rowing, acting as coach to the Cambridge University Women"s Boat Club (whom he referred to as the "Perspiring Persephones" and the "Sweaty Bettys") and helping to organise their defence campaign when the President of the Cambridge University Boat Club attempted in 1964 to have them banned from the Bumps races, an attempt which ultimately failed.
He retired in 1973.
He was also the subject of Desert Island Discs on 9 October 1961.