Wolffe, Jabez

Jacob Jabez ‘Jappy’ Wolffe (Glasgow)
19 Nov 1876 – Oct 22 1943

Jabez Wolffe was born in Glasgow in 1876, son of a German-Polish Jewish immigrant jeweller, Samuel Wolffe. He made 22 unsuccessful attempts to swim the Channel from 18 July 1906 to 15 July 1914.

Samuel Wolffe had a brother, David Wolffe, who was a watchmaker in Glasgow. He too had a son Jacob Wolffe, born 1874; to avoid confusion between the two cousins, Jappy was always known by his middle name of Jabez (Samuel and David’s father was named Jacob). Friends called him ‘Jappy’. The other Jacob Wolffe emigrated to Kenya as a young man

Jabez apprenticed as a cabinet maker and moved to London in the 1890s to become a furniture maker. He married Florence Adeline Hurwitz in London in 1898

Training at St. Pancras under Walter Brickett and then, from 1908, at Brighton under Billy Kellingley, he made three attempts on the Channel in 1906. Two in 1907. Four in 1908. Two in 1909. Two in 1910. Two in 1911. Two in 1912. One in 1913 and one in 1914. The First World War then put a stop to his attempts.

Wolffe served as a Lieutenant and P.E. Instructor in the Duke Of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex Regiment), enlisting at Brighton in 1914. He was wounded in 1916 and repatriated home. He was awarded a Silver War Badge for wounded ex-soldiers on 23 Feb 1917. At the time of signing up he was living at 10 Cavendish Place, Brighton, with his wife Florence and her parents Herman and Edith Hurwitz

After the War, based in Brighton, he trained Gertrude Ederle on her unsuccessful attempt in 1925. He then trained three successful Ladies; Hilda Sharp, Aug 1928, Peggy Duncan Sept 1930, and Sunny Lowry Aug 1933.

He had moved to Brighton to operate as a swimming trainer, the home town of his own trainer Billy Kellingley. In 1931 Billy moved to Deal in Kent to concentrate on Channel swim training and in 1932, in the middle of training Sunny Lowry, the Wolffes moved to Margate, Kent, with the same idea. With the outbreak of war in 1939 he moved back to Hove where he died in 1943

The war register of September 1939 has Jabez, of 231a Northdown Road, Margate,  employed as mechanical instructor and physical education trainer aboard the Merchant Navy cadet training ship MV ‘Durham’; the ‘Durham’ was taken into war service that same month and its training role ceased

Swims by Wolffe, Jabez

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