T. W. Burgess and pace swimmer Weidman wading ashore after his cross Channel swim
T.W. Burgess. Image shows T.W. Burgess and another swimmer (the Dover swimmer Jack Weidman) wading ashore after Burgess’ successful Channel swim. He was the second man to achieve this, after Captain Webb in 1875.
Thomas William Burgess had 17 unsuccessful attempts to swim the Channel. He made three attempts in 1904, five in 1905, four in 1906, one in 1907, and four in 1908.
On the 28, Aug. 1906 he set off from St. Margaret’s Bay at 7.26am, at 1.30 pm, he met a tide that was taking him backwards, so he turned around and swam back to England, arriving at 5.28 pm. having swum for 10hrs 02mins.
More than 70 attempts had been made on the Channel between the Captain Webb swim and William Burgess successful swim on the 5th of September 1911. He swam from the South Foreland to Cap-Gris-Nez in 22hrs 35mins. His swim was finally recognized by the CSA 16th August 1928. He used lard as his protection, and for food hot chocolate, hot milk, grapes, and chicken. The water was so calm that the sails became useless and they had to put the row boat out to tow the main boat, for the remainder of the swim.
Thomas Burgess received a Congratulations telegram from the King, a £1000 cheque from the Daily Sketch, and the Alexander Challenge Cup, donated and presented by Mr Alexander, President of the Channel Swimming Club.
He made a further attempt in 1922, whilst training Georges Michel. He sportingly gave up in mid Channel to pilot Michel.
Burgess went on to train many swimmers including Charles Toth 1923, Gertrude Ederle in 1926 and Ishak Helmy in 1928. All of these swimmers were successful.