After months of training, we are delighted to report that two teams of serving soldiers reached the shores of France on Friday 21st June, swimming the English Channel in support of the Army Benevolent Fund. We caught up with the teams to hear about their experience. 

After a week of waiting for the right conditions for the relay swim, the Army Recruiting Group, and Land Warfare Centre teams set off from the coast near Folkestone, on Thursday night. Swimming in relay for an hour at a time, the six swimmers of each team navigated a course across more than 21 miles of open water through the world’s busiest shipping lanes. Army Recruiting Group made it to France just ahead of the Land Warfare Centre team in just under 13 hours. 

The swimmers have been training for up to a year to build their stamina and strength with individual daily swims of 3km and lots of practise in open water and pools individually and as a team. Fitting this in with work and family life has required dedication and commitment. 

The Channel Swimming Association regulations mean that the swimmers faced temperatures of 12-14 degrees, clad only in a swimming costume or ‘speedos’, goggles and swim hat. Once they set off, as well as the cold, there were other obstacles to overcome. Major Johannes Kühn of ARG experienced chronic sea-sickness throughout his swim, and just avoided contact with the jellyfish that are common in the Channel.  

The support of colleagues made all the difference, says Captain Gray Searle. To keep those in the water motivated, he and his Recruiting Group teammates used a whiteboard to play hangman and to show how far they’d come and the time left to swim!  

Major Lance Norris, ARG, says: “Swimming the Channel is not for the faint-hearted, but it’s always been a challenge I wished to conquer! It’s not about the physical feat, but the mental and emotional endurance it demands of you. We were the 1011th team to successfully cross since 1875 – so it’s an incredible achievement!” 

Both teams took on this gruelling challenge to raise funds for the Army Benevolent Fund. Together the teams have raised an incredible £11,900. 

Lt Col Vickie Warrington, ARG, says: ““Without a doubt, this was a once in a lifetime experience for an excellent cause. We are thrilled to have been doing it for the ABF and have been so well supported by the team all year.”  

Major Nick Hammond, LWC, said: “The Land Warfare Centre Channel Swim Team built up their cold-water endurance through persistent training ahead of the event. Their training peaked when they completed the mandatory Channel Swimming Association 2-hour qualification sea swim. This is all without the aid of a wetsuit! 

The whole team agree that this is has been an experience that will stay with them forever, with several stating a desire for the next outdoor swimming challenge. We’ve been blown away by the generosity of our supporters and the donations we’ve received, which are still coming in even after the event! We hope it will make a difference to someone who needs ABF’s help.”

Brigadier (Ret’d) Peter Monteith, Chief Operating Officer, Army Benevolent Fund said: “More people have climbed Mount Everest than have swum the English Channel, so we are extremely grateful to our two Channel Swim teams. Both teams have shown great determination and teamwork in taking on this gruelling challenge and generously raising funds to ensure the Army Benevolent Fund is here for soldiers, for life.” 

The team from Land Warfare Centre is led by Major Owen Larson REME, with six swimmers including: Major Nick Hammond RLC; Major Theo Bossom, RIFLES; Major Rob Hanking-Evans, Coldstream Guards; Major Stephen Hughes, RLC; Warrant Officer 2 Tom Wilkes, RLC. 

The Army Recruiting Group team is: Lieutenant Colonel Vickie Warrington, Corps of Royal Engineers; Major Lance Morris, Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment; Sergeant Nicola McCarthy, Royal Army Medical Corps; Major Johannes Kühn, Royal Logistic Corps; Captain Gray Searle, Army Air Corps; and Captain Kate Major, Adjutant General’s Corps Staff and Personnel Support Branch. 

There’s still time to support both teams’ fundraising efforts, for which we are extremely grateful: 

This is just one of several challenges undertaken by Recruiting Group, which is fundraising for ABF this year – look out for news of these very soon. 

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