Burgess Channel Swim Medal, presented to Wauchope-Watson

Burgess Channel Swim Medal

Burgess Channel Swim Medal, presented to Wauchope-Watson after he completed his swim on the 6th September 1911.

Medal notation reads:Presented to ALLEN SIMPSON WAUCHOPE-WATSON who was one of the eleven occupants of the boat that accompanied BURGESS on his swim accross the English Channel September 5th – 6th 1911 (Signature) Alfred Jonas. 15 only were struck.

Alfred Jonas was born Isaac Jonas in Birmingham in 1861, son of Morris (Moses) Jonas, diamond merchant, and Sarah Boam. His father Morris was born in Nottingham where the family were Jewish jewellers, having originated as tailors in London. Morris and his brothers Isaac and Jonah were jewellers in Nottingham before Morris moved to Birmingham after his marriage to Sarah in London in 1860. Brother Isaac also moved to Birmingham when he married Sarah’s sister in 1861. In the 1870s Morris, Isaac and Jonah formed Jonas Brothers, jewellers and diamond merchants, owning their own diamond mines in South Africa. Morris and Jonah moved to London to open stores at Holborn and Leinster Gardens whilst Isaac ran the Birmingham business. They also retained their father’s Nottingham business after he retired.

Isaac, son of Morris, became, like most of his brothers, a stockbroker. For many years he had a stockjobber partnership with his youngest brother Gerald and they lived together as bachelors in Clarence Gate Gardens, London. They specialised in diamond and gold mining shares and South African securities. In the 1890s he adopted the name Alfred instead of Isaac. Father Morris died in 1906 and Alfred took over his jewelry business. He gave up stockbroking after the 1st World War and became a full-time diamond merchant, living with his unmarried sisters and brother at Leinster Gardens, Paddington.

In 1906, Jonas became a founding member of the Channel Swimming Club and was elected first as Treasurer and then as Hon. Secretary, a position he held until he split with the CSC and formed the CSA in 1927

In May 1908 he founded the Webb Memorial Fund to erect a fitting memorial at Dover to Captain Webb

Jonas had decided that something should be done to keep Captain Webb’s memory alive. The Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) supported his idea and they asked William Henry Grenfell, 1st Baron Desborough (1855-1945), to be the Patron of a Webb Memorial Fund. Lord Desborough was an all-round sportsman who had swam the Niagara rapids twice as well as being one of the Oxford eight who had rowed from Dover to Calais in 1885. He was an excellent Patron and soon enough money was raised to commission a memorial from the well-known sculptor, Francis William Doyle-Jones (1873-1938).

An appropriate site was found on Clarence Lawn in front of the Burlington Hotel, Dover, and on 8 June 1910, Lord Desborough unveiled the finished memorial. It is a bronze bust surmounting a plinth of Peterhead granite and has a bronze inscription surrounded by bay leaves and seaweed. The bust is naked with the head turned slightly to the right but with the eyes looking out towards the Channel. The Mayor, Walter Emden, accepted the memorial on behalf of the town, in a grand ceremony. Among the guests were those who had accompanied Captain Webb on the great swim, including the Captain’s brother and cousin.

The Fund still had money left over after the Webb memorial was completed and conveniently, in the following year on 6th September 1911, Thomas Burgess became the second man to swim the Channel, 36 years after Webb. Jonas used the surplus Fund money to commission a commemorative medal –  just 15 medals were made and were presented by Alfred Jonas to Burgess and his team of helpers at a dinner at the Holborn Restaurant on 9 November 1911.

Jonas medal.

Obverse: Head of Burgess (left). Legend: ‘BURGESS A. D. 1911.’ 

Inscription (on edge): [recipient’s name]

Reverse: Inscription, ‘TO COMMEMORATE THE SWIM FROM ENGLAND TO FRANCE SEP 5-6 1911 BY T. W. BURGESS PRESENTED BY ALFRED JONAS ESQ HON SEC WEBB MEMORIAL FUND’.

In leather case with watch-paper label; ‘Presented to —- who was one of the eleven occupants of the boat that accompanied BURGESS on his swim across the English Channel September 5th – 6th 1911 (Signature) Alfred Jonas. 15 only struck.’

Known whereabouts:-

  1. Mercer – National Maritime Museum (Royal Museums Greenwich)
  2. Flood – Sold by Dix Noonan Webb, Piccadilly, London at auction of James Spencer collection 2013 for £120 (previously purchased by James Spencer at DNW auction 1998)
  3. A. Weidman – Sold (£2-300 estimate) at Baldwin’s of St. James 2013
  4. A.Jefferies – Sold at auction (est.£120-150), DNW 2003 (unsold at DNW auction 2003)
  5. A.S.Wauchope-Watson – Dover Museum/Family ownership

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