Derham, Norman Leslie
Norman swam the Channel on the 16/17 September 1926 for one of the financial offers made by the National newspapers after American Gertrude Ederle set a new record in 1926 from France to England in the time of 14hrs 39mins.
A News of the World reporter observed the swim. His time was 13hrs 55mins. He received £1000 from the News of the World.
Derham, Norman Leslie, born East Cowes, Isle of Wight, 17 Dec 1897. Attended, as a boarder, Osborne House School in Romsey, owned and run by William Henry Summers. He became a Mercantile Marine officer and moved to East Ham by the docklands of the Port of London but despite his maritime background enlisted as a flying cadet with the RAF in June 1918. He married Ada E Marsh in London in January 1918. After the war, he moved to Southend-on-Sea, Essex, to work as Superintendent of the Municipal Baths. He died there in 1946
London, Sept. 17 – Norman Leslie Derham, an Englishman, reached St. Margaret’s Bay today alter swimming the English Channel from Cap Gris-Nez in 13 hours 57 minutes. He Is the first Englishman to accomplish the feat in fifteen years and the third Englishman to do so in the history of Channel swimming. Derham won a prize of £1,000 offered by Lord Riddell, owner of The News of the World for the first British subject to better the time of Miss Gertrude Ederle the American swimmer, who crossed the Channel in 14 hours and 11 minutes. He also beat the time of both his English predecessors, Capt. Webb, who in 1875 was the first person to swim the Channel, and Bill Burgess who crossed in 1911, and the time of Mrs. Millie Cade Corson, the American woman who crossed earlier this season. But Derham was a full two hours and fifty minutes short of the world’s record, established by Georges Michel, a French baker…Derham lives at Southend and is a partner in a firm of mattress manufacturers. He is 27 and the father of two children. Whether he is the first father to swim the Channel is not known. Unwilling to rest on the record he has made, Derham now intends to tackle Captain Webb’s route from Dover to France… Norman Derham left Cape Gris-Nez at 9 o’clock last night and landed at St. Margaret’s Bay at 10.57 this morning. Norman, the conqueror’s feat makes him a hero even in the eyes of his wife. “The most surprised woman will be my wife,” he said, after the swim. “She did not believe for a moment that there was anything serious in my attempt and treated it as a joke. Now it is my time to smile.” … When Derham was sighted off St. Margaret’s several English girl swimmers went out and accompanied him on the home stretch. Watchers on the shore meanwhile produced large numbers of Union Jacks, which they enthusiastically waved. Derham was accompanied by a rowboat and a fishing smack. When he had struggled up to the beach he was escorted to a hotel by a cheering throng. After a bath he told the story of his feat. “This is my third attempt to swim the Channel,” he said, “and it has been most unpleasant. Fog nearly beat me. Neither my companions in the boats nor I knew early this morning which way we were going. It whs the grandest moment of my life when I felt my feet on the pebbles and heard the roar of welcome on the shore.” Kingston Gleaner, Jamaica, Monday, September 27, 1926
“There was an unusual interlude to the Southend v Aberdare Athletic football match at the Kursaal on Saturday 18th Sepyember 1926, it proved rather distracting too, Mr. Norman Derham, Southend’s channel swimmer was towed to the ground and when he arrived was “chaired” on the shoulders of his friends round the touch-line. He received an ovation, Players, Linesmen and Referee joined in the cheering. Derham on his triumphant passage waved encouragingly to Billy Hick (the Southend centre forward) before he kicked off Play was well underway before Derham left the field ”. Southend Standard 23rd September 1926
Death of Mr. N.L. Derham – Southend’s greatest ever swimmer who became famous with his record breaking swim across the channel has died at the age of 47 years. He was Flight-Lieut. Norman Leslie Derham of East Cowes, Isle-of-Wight who formerly lived at York Road Southend. After two unsuccessful attempts at crossing the channel, one from Folkestone which had to be abandoned after covering a distance of 15 miles and a second from Cap Bianc which was given up within two miles of the English coast. Due to fog. Mr. Derham achieved his greatest ambition in September 1926 with a successful swim taking 13 hours and 55 minutes. A record for an Englishman. On his return to the town he was given an enthusiastic welcome by crowds of Southenders. Flags were hung out and there was a civic welcome by the mayor. At a football match between Southend United and Aberdare at the Kursaal he was chaired round the touchline.
From the Southend Standard 9th May 1946.