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Between Wars

Breaking Records and Increasing Popularity

After Thomas Burgess successfully followed in Matthew Webb's footsteps and successfully swum the English Channel, swimmers across the globe were reminded once again success was possible.

The period between the First and Second World Wars saw numerous attempts in either direction. Argentinian swimmer Enrico Tiraboschi was the first confirmed swimmer to swim from France to England.

In 1926 Gertrude Ederle was the first woman to swim the channel, followed shortly afterwards by Amelia Gade Clemington Corson. Ederle and Corson's successes proved Channel swimming was a sport for women as well as men. 

Henry Sullivan 1913-1923

Henry Sullivan, August 1923

Henry Sullivan, from Lowell, Massachusetts, was the third man to swim the Channel. Sullivan was successful on his seventh attempt at the age of 34 in 1923.

Sullivan departed from Dover's Shakespeare Cliff and landed at Calais sands twenty-six hours and fifty minutes later. Sullivan was accompanied by the Folkestone lugger 'Day Spring' and two Dover galley's. Sullivan later won the Channel Swimming Cup and £1000 prize from the Daily Sketch.

Sullivan's attempts England to France:

  • 26 August 1913 (failed)
  • 25 August 1920 (failed)
  • 9 September 1920 (failed)
  • 9 September 1921 (failed)
  • 21 September 1921 (failed)
  • 5-6 August 1923 (success)

Sullivan's attempts France to England:

  • 25 August 1921 (failed)

Enrico Tiraboschi 1921 - 1923

Enrico Tiraboschi became the first man to swim from France to England. Later, due to the favourable tidal conditions, swimming the Channel from France-England was to become the favoured route for many swimmers. 

 The Argentine swimmer won the Daily Sketch race prize of £1000 but gave it to the International Swimming Federation. Tiraboschi landed at Shakespeare Beach after swimming for sixteen hours and thirty-three minutes, accompanied by the Calais tug 'Champion' piloted by E. Douay. Tiraboschi had been  swimming with Richards, Toth and Marciel who all failed.

By completing the swim in sixteen hours, Tiraboschi set a new Channel swimming record. He finished five hours earlier than Captain Webb, the previous record holder.

Tiraboschi's attempts France to England:

  • 12 August 1921(failed)
  • 29 August 1922 (failed)
  • 12 August 1923 (success)

Georges Michel 1922 - 1926

Georges Michel was a French swimmer who successfully swam the Channel on his seventh attempt, landing at St. Margarets Bay in eleven hours and five minutes. Michel set a new record which he held until 1950.

Michel's attempts England to France:

  •  8 August 1923 (failed)

Michel's attempts France to England:

  •  3 August 1922 (failed)
  • 14 August 1922 (failed)
  •  21 August 1922 (failed)
  • 2 September 1923 (failed)
  • 8 August 1926 (failed)
  • 9-10 September 1926 (success)

 

Omer Perrault 1922 - 1926

Perrault was a Canadian swimmer who made five unsuccessful attempts to swim the Channel during the 1920s.

Perrault's attempts France to England:

  •  16 August 1922 (failed)
  •  5 August 1923 (failed)
  • 2 September 1923 (failed)
  • 8 August 1926 (failed)
  •  10 August 1926 (failed).

Romeo Marciel 1923

Marciel, an Argentinian, made one attempt to swim from France to England in the Daily Sketch Race on 12 August 1923  but gave up after 42 hours.

Marciel competed along with with Richards, Patterson and Toth, who all failed, and Tiraboschi who succeeded.

Charles Toth 1923

Bostonian Charles Toth successfully swam swam from France to England in 1923, landing between St. Margarets and Kingsdown. Toth was trained by Burgess and accompanied by the Boulogne tug 'Alsace.' The successful swim was Toth's third attempt in less than a month and he completed the swim with a time of sixteen hours and fifity-four minutes. 

Toth's attempts England to France:

  • 12 August 1923 (failed)
  • 2 September 1923 (failed)

Toth's attempts France to England:

  • 9 September 1923 (success)

Sam Richards 1923

Sam Richards, also from Boston, failed in his single attempt to swim the Channel which took place on 12 August 1923. Richards attempt took place as a part of The Daily Sketch race. Richards was accompanied by Marciel, Patterson and Toth who also failed and Tiraboschi who succeeded.

Gertrude Ederle 1926

Twenty-year-old, American swimmer Gertrude Ederle was the first woman  to successfully swim the English Channel. Ederle was a Gold Medal winning Olympian who trained with Jabez Wolffe, who infamously never fulfilled his dream of swimming the Channel and the two did not always see eye to eye. Ederle's first attempt was not a success, but she went on to achieve her dream on 6 August 1926.

Ederle swam from France to England in fourteen hours and thirty-four minutes, setting a new world record. Ederle reportedly said of her achievements: "people said women couldn’t swim the Channel but I proved they could.”

 Amelia Gade Clemington Corson 1923 - 1927

Amelia Gade Clemington Corson was a Danish born, American mother of two children. In 1926, Corson became the second woman to swim the Channel, after Gertrude Ederle's success in 1926.

Corson was trained by Kellingley and accompanied by the 'Viking' of Folkestone. Corson's husband rowed alongside her throughout, supplying her with food and drink. She successfully arrived at Shakespeare Beach in fiften hours and twenty three minutes.

Corson's attempts England to France:

  •  6 September 1927 (failed)

Corson's attempts France to England:

  • 6 August 1923 (failed)
  •  27-28 August 1926 (success)

Ishak Helmi 1925 - 1928

Ishak Helmi was an Egyptian champion swimmer who succeeded on his sixth attempt at swimming the Channel. Helmi's success sparked a Channel Swimming craze in Egypt. Helmi successfully landed at Folkestone in twenty-three hours and fourty minutes. He was trained by Burgess and accompanied by the French tug 'Alsace'.

Helmi's attempts England to France:

  • 27 August 1926 (failed)

Helmi's attempts France to England:

  • 14 September 1925 (failed)
  • 8 August 1926 (failed)
  • 27 August 1926 (failed)
  • 7 August 1927 (failed)
  •  31 August 1928 (success)

Edward Harry Temme 1927 - 1934

Temme holds the distinction of being the first swimmer to successfully swim the English Channel both ways. Temme swam from France to England in 1927 and from England to France in 1934.Temme was  twenty-three years old when he first completed the Channel Swim.

 In 1927, Temme swam from Cap Gris Nez in France to England's Abbots Cliff, accompanied by the tug 'Alsace' and trained by Burgess.

 In 1934, Temme swam from South Foreland Lightouse in Dover to Cap Blanc Nez with the DHB tug 'Lady Brassey', captained by Pearce with pilot H.W. Pearson. Temme's trainer was Storey.

Temme's England-France swim beat Webb's fastest crossing. 

In 1928 and 1936 Temme competed in the Summer Olympic Games, playing water polo. Later in life, Temme trained fellow Channel Swimmer Sam Rockett for his 1950 swim. He married fellow swimmer Willy Van Rijsel, who herself had attempted to swim the Channel twice unsuccessfully in 1949.

Temme's attempts France to England:

  • 5 August 1927 (success)

Temme's attempts England to France:

  •  8 September 1928 (failed)
  •  15 August 1929 failed)
  •  11 August 1932 (failed)
  •  29 August 1933 (failed)
  • 18 August 1934 (success)

Ethel 'Sunny' Lowry 1932 -1933

  

Sunny Lowry

Ethel 'Sunny' Lowry was twenty-two years old when she successful swam the English Channel. The daughter of a fish wholesaler from Levenshulme in Manchester, Lowry applied with 300 other girls for a training position with Jabez Wolffe in Brighton. Lowry was successful and was chosen as Wolffe's third female Channel Swimmer. She trained with him in Westgate-on-Sea in Margate in Kent.

Lowry was successful on her third attempt, leaving Cap Gris Nez and landing at St Margaret's on 29 August 1933 with a time of fifteen hours and fourty-five minutes. Lowry was accompanied by the Boulogne tug 'Isabelle' under Captain Courtez.

Lowry famously eschewed the constricting heavy one-piece swim suit recommended for women and instead wore a two-piece suit, which was lighter and allowed for more flexibility in the water. This swimsuit is on display in Dover Museum as part of the Channel Swimmers exhibition.

Lowry's attempts England to France:

  •  19 August 1932 (failed)

Lowry's attempts France to England:

  •  27 July 1933 (failed)
  • 28-29 August 1933 (success)

This list is based on research for Dover Museum's collection - it is not a complete list of all swimmers. If you have information to contribute to this page please email the museum including source references for your information museumenquiries@dover.gov.uk

 

 

 

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