T.W. Burgess with Alexander Channel Swiming Cup (I)

T.W. Burgess with Channel Swiming trophy

T.W. Burgess, the second man to successfully swim the English Channel, pictured here with the large trophy, The Alexander Channel Cup, he was awarded.

In November 1906 Adolph Alexander founded the Channel Swimming Club and became its first and only President, with swimmers Montague Holbein, Thomas Burgess and Jabez Wolffe as vice-Presidents. It was formed at a meeting on 16th November at the St. Dunstan Rooms, Anderton’s Hotel, in Fleet St.  Its first committee meeting was on 9th April 1907 at 9 Parliament Chambers, Westminster. Several new prizes were given by committee members to the Club for the encouragement of long-distance sea swimming and initially a ten mile sea race and a relay team crossing were to be instigated:-

 “For over a distance of ten miles Mr. W. Proctor has presented  a Challenge Cup, another member, Mr. H. Proctor, a similar trophy for fifteen miles, while Mr. Allen (Manchester) offers a third for a 25 mile swim. The trophies are to be won twice in succession or three times in all before becoming the property of the competitor, while medals and diplomas are to be awarded for each contest. The club’s hon. treasurer, Mr. A. Jonas, has presented a challenge trophy to be known as the “Webb Memorial Shield” for a relay race across the Straits of Dover, by teams of four swimmers. In addition, there is the Alexander Channel Cup for the swimmer (amateur or professional), irrespective of nationality, who emulates the feat of Captain Webb, made 32 years ago.”

‘The Alexander Channel Cup (I)’ was commissioned and purchased for £250 by Alexander for the Channel Swimming Club in 1907 and was won by Burgess in 1911. It comprised 250 oz. of silver, made in Sheffield, 3ft high, 43in. circumference. Engraved with swimmers battling with the waves, surrounded by dolphins, nautilus and other shells. Lid surmounted with figure of Victory blowing a horn. Over-sized gadrooned goblet body on a black onyx base with inscription plate and two flag plaques, one inscribed ‘1875’ and a blank one later engraved ‘1911’

Whereabouts unknown. Last heard of in Burgess’s possession at his death, 2 July 1950 in Levallois Perret, Paris, France

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.

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