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Thomas William Burgess Biography

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Thomas William Burgess 

Yorkshireman Thomas W. Burgess succeeded in becoming the second person to swim the Channel in 1911, thirty-six years after Webb's original success. Burgess was a talented swimmer living in Paris; in 1900 he had successfully won a Bronze model for Water Polo in the Olympic Games.

Burgess was famed for always wearing motorist's goggles while swimming. One of his first Channel Crossing attempts took place in the second Channel race of 1905. Burgess and five other male swimmers were accompanied by famous Australian swimmer, actress and creator of the one-piece swimsuit, Annette Kellerman. Once again, none of the swimmers attempting the Channel Race were successful.

Burgess was thirty-seven when he finally swam the Channel successfully, following numerous unsucessful attempts. Burgess left Dover near the South Foreland Lighthouse and he landed at Le Chatelet in France twenty-two hours and thirty-five minutes later on 8 September 1911. Throughout his swim, Burgess was accompanied by the Walmer boat Elsie, which was being piloted by H.W. Pearson

In his later life, Burgess trained a number of other successful swimmers including Toth, Gertrude Ederle, Temme, Ivy Hawke and Helmi.

Declaration of Witnesses to TG Burgess Swim

 The image above is a declaration made and signed by those who accompanied and witnessed T.W. Burgess' successful cross Channel swim. Hand written, it reads as follows: 

We the undersigned Henry William Pearson of Walmer in the county of Kent, Pilot, Allen Simpson Wauchope Watson of Sydenham in the county of Kent, Food Specialist, Edward Ainslie Jeffreys of 2 Leweston Place Stamford Hill [.....] in the county of Middlesex, Manager, Gordon Lancaster Mountford Fache of 13 John Street Bedford Row in the county of London, Solicitors Articled Clerk acting as Engineer and representing Lloyds [......], John Albert Wiedman of the Dover Swimming Club Dover in the county of Kent, Channel Swimmer, Arthur Henry Whorwell of the Dover Swimming Club aforesaid, Photographer, Robert Flood of Addington Grove Sydenham aforesaid, Clerk, Richard Mercer Senr. of Walmer aforesaid, Boatman, and Richard Mercer Junr. of Walmer aforesaid, Boatman, William Herbert Wyborn of walmer aforesaid, Motor Engineer, and Albert Henry Beer of Dover aforesaid, Journalist representing Spicers News Agency and the Dover Standard do solemnly and sincerely declare as follows:- 1 We were present when Thomas William Burgess started on his swim from the South Foreland on the morning of the 5th instant at 11.15 and accompanied him the whole of the way across the Channel to Le Chatelet about two miles to the east of Cape Grisnez, on the Motor Boat 'Elsie' and the Rowing Boat 'Orchid', and that he swam ashore there at 9.50 am on the 6th instant. 2 That no help of any description was rendered to the said Thomas William Burgess by any of us saving the nourishment and medicinal necessaries which were administered to him in the water, that he did not touch the Boats during his passage across but swam the whole distance altogether unaided. 3 He walked in from the shore at the South Foreland to the sea and swam the whole distance walking out at Le Chatelet aforesaid. And we make this solemn declaration conscientiously believing the same to be true and by virtue of the provisions of the Statutory Declarations Act 1835.

Burgess' attempts England to France

  • 19 August 1904 (failed)
  • 28 July 1905 (failed)
  • 9 August 1905 (failed)
  • 24 August 1905 (failed)
  • 26 August 1905 (failed)
  • 18 August 1906 (failed)
  • 30 August 1906 (failed)
  • 14 August 1908 (failed)
  • 17 August 1908 (failed)
  • 21 August1908 (failed)
  • 19 August 1908 (failed)
  • 8 September 1911 (success)

Burgess' attempts France to England:

  • 13/ September 1906 (failed)


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