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Sam Rockett 1919 - 1989

Sam Rockett was a talented swimmer who was proud to be one of only nine swimmers to finish the First Daily Mail International Channel Race on 22nd August 1950. Rockett was also the first British person in the race to arrive back in the UK.

Rockett was trained by famous Channel swimmer Ted Temme who had swum the Channel in 1927 and 1934. Throughout the race, Rockett was accompanied by the Rose Marie, piloted by Joe Mercer of Deal.

Born in Dorset in 1919, Sam Rockett later made the coastal town of Folkestone in Kent his home. In 1950, when Rockett decided to swim the Channel, he was an ICI Plastics Division factory foreman living in Surrey with his family, including his two young children Gerald and Janet. Rockett was a well-known water polo player whom had played for his county on several occasions. He decided to enter the Daily Mail Race as a new challenge.

After his success in August 1950, Rockett took up the position of Training Supervisor for the Second Daily Mail Race of 1951 and for the Butlins Races.  Rocket also became the Assistant Manager for Folkestone's open-air swimming pool.

Even after the pool's closure in 1959, Rockett continued to train Channel swimmers. He trained successful Channel swimmer Geoffrey Chapman. Rockett also trained Antonio Abertondo who, in 1961, became the first man to swim the Channel both ways none stop.

Rockett wrote the renowned book It's Cold in the Channel, based on his Channel swimming experiences. The book was published in 1956 and remains sought after today. 

Rocket continued to live in Folkestone until his death on 9 November 1989.

Dover Museum is fortunate enough to have been donated a superb collection of material relating to Sam Rockett. The collection includes hundreds of photographs and cuttings relating to channel swimming, including many with the signatures of swimmers. The Archive also contains an impressive amount of material relating to the Daily Mail and Butlins races and correspondence from some of the most famous swimmers of the day.

Interestingly the Collection also includes material relating to Rockett's various appearances on the BBC  and advice he gave to Hollywood films. In this era Channel swims were front page news and were broadcast live on radio and televeision, as well as shown on the Pathe newsreels in cinemas.

The archival material forms a remarkable collection of national importance relating to the Golden Age of Channel Swimming in the 1950's and 60's.

This collection has been donated to the museum by Sam's daughter, Janet Johnson of Sandgate, and her family. It will be held by the museum as The Sam Rockett Collection as a memorial to Sam Rockett, a man who was so influential to Channel Swimming.




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