Declaration of Witnesses to Burgess' channel swim

Declaration of Burgess' channel swim (Copy photo)

Channel swim of T.W. Burgess 5th-6th September 1911. The image shows a declaration made and signed by those who accompanied and witnessed T.W. Burgess’ successful cross Channel swim.

Burgess was only the second man to achieve this feat, consequently this is a significant document.

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

Thomas William Burgess 1904 – 1922. The first man to swim the Channel after Webb, some 36 years later. From Rotherham in Yorkshire but living in Paris, he was 39 when successful, on his 17th try. He went on to make 19 attempts in all, but only 1 success. Left South Foreland and landed at Le Chatelet, 22 hrs 35 mins. He was accompanied by the Walmer boat ‘Elsie’ piloted by H. W. Pearson plus Wyborn, Flood, Mercer Snr., Mercer Jnr., Fache, Jefferys, Beer and Watson. Whorwell was the official photographer and Weidman the pacemaker. 

He always more motorists goggles while swimming. In the 2nd Channel race of 1905 Burgess and 5 other men set off  together. As was usual the men were naked, despite having alongside them Annette Kellerman who was wearing a costume though it chaffed her so much she soon gave in.

Burgess trained a number of other successful swimmers including Toth (1923), Gertrude Ederle (1926), Temme (1927), Ivy Hawke (1928) and Helmi (1928).

Burgess had been living in France for many years and held many French records. He was a Member of the Libellule de Paris Swimming Club. He was listed as Burgesse the Frenchman for his first attempt of 6th September 1904 but the papers knew more about him by his 2nd attempt on the 8th. On the 6th, swimming with Weidman of Dover from the tug ‘Gnat’, he gave up after  3 hours but managed to stay in 8 hours a few days later on the 8th.

Burgess was the son of Alfred Burgess, a blacksmith of Rotherham. He was born on 15 June 1872 and died in France in 1957

Witnesses to Affidavit:Henry William Pearson of Walmer, PilotAllen Simpson Wauchope Watson of Sydenham, Kent, Food SpecialistEdward Ainslie Jefferys of Stamford Hill, Middlesex, Manager Gordon Lancaster Mountford Fach of Bedford ,London,Solicitor’s Articled Clerk/Acting Engineer and representing Lloyds Paper John Albert Weidman of Dover Swimming Club, Channel Swimmer Arthur Henry Whorwell of  Dover Swimming Club, Official Photographer Robert Flood of Sydenham, Kent, Clerk Richard Mercer Snr. of Walmer, Boatman Richard Mercer Jnr. of Walmer, Boatman William Herbert Wyborn of Walmer, Motor Engineer Albert Henry Beer of Dover, Journalist representing Spicer’s News Agency and the Dover Standard

England to France: 7/9/1904 (failed), 8/9/04 (failed), 28/7/05 (failed), 9/8/05 (failed), 24/8/05 (failed), 26/8/05 (failed), 11/9/05 (failed),18/8/06 (failed), 28/8/06 (failed), 30/8/06 (failed), 3/9/07 (failed), 14/8/08 (failed), 17/8/08 (failed), 21/8/08 (failed), 8/9/08 (failed), 6+7/9/11 (success)

France to England: 13/9/06 (failed), 27/7/1922 (failed), 2/9/22 (failed)

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