Channel Swum Again

This was big news in August 1938 and was reported all around the country.

From the Dover Express of 16 Aug 1938:


On Thursday, Frau Bruna Wendel-Plarre (the London papers give the name as simply Wendel), a German woman doctor, who is about thirty years of age, in practice near Leipzig, succeeded in swimming the Channel, landing on the beach near the old Shakespeare Colliery, at 11.3 a.m., having started from Cap Gris-Nez at 7.30 p.m. on Wednesday. Her time was thus 15 hours 33 minutes.

The “Phare de Calais” stated on Wednesday that she was to be accompanied by the motor fishing boat “Notre Dame de Lourdes,’ of Calais, on board of which would be official of the F.F.N.S. (Federation Francaise de Natation et de Sauvetage, i.e. French Swimming and Life-saving Federation) and various other witnesses. Frau Wendel-Plarre has been at Calais for some days waiting for a favourable opportunity and arrangements for watching the swim were made with M. Emile Ranson, of the F.F.N.S.

It was announced on the late Broadcast News on Wednesday night that Dr. Wendel-Plarre had started, but after that no news came to hand until her landing was reported. Among those on the shore near the old Shakespeare Colliery was Mr. Gatehouse the caretaker of the buildings, a visitor who is staying there in a beach bungalow, and Mr. W. F. Bristow, of 38, Upper Elmers End Road, Beckenham.

When the swimmer was seen approaching, accompanied by a rowing boat with the witnesses, Mr. Bristow borrowed a camera from Mr. C. Gatehouse, of the old box type, which had no film in, and the only spool available had the wrong type of fitting. This was remedied in rough and ready fashion with a hack saw. A good deal of the film was spoilt in the process, but, fortunately, the two photographs reproduced on this page were on undamaged portions of the film.

No one on the beach could speak German or French, but the names of those present at the landing were signed on a card indicting the time of arrival. The swimmer and her friends then put off in the rowing boat to the motor fishing boat and returned o France.

No details of the course are as yet available. The start from Cap Gris-Nez, being made at 7.30 p.m., would be 4 1/2 hours before high tide, which is in accordance with the ‘Easy Course” plan of campaign.

The weather conditions were ideal for the swim, although the sea temperature at Dover, 62.5 degrees, was not very high for a swim.

dover express 26 august 1938bdover express 26 august 1938c.

The phrase “the old Shakespeare Colliery was Mr. Gatehouse the caretaker of the buildings” who gave up his box type to a hack saw was Charles James Gatehouse who was the Collier Caretaker and husband of my 3rd cousin 3x removed Elizabeth Mary Champion.

Charles had been a miner (sinker) around 1901 and then a Colliery Surface Foreman in 1911. They were married at St Andrews in Buckland on 30 Apr 1883 and had 10 children between 1885 and 1906. Charles died on 30 Sep 1951. 

charles james gatehouse
Charles James Gatehouse
from by Lynne Bensted


Western Morning News 26 August 1938

western morning news 26 august 1938

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