Colchester-based Army medics complete swim across English Channel

Army medics doing cross-Channel swim celebrate at the end

Army medics doing cross-Channel swim celebrate at the end - Credit: Archant

A team of Army medics who took on a cross-Channel swim paddled almost double the distance due to high winds and strong tides.

Army medics doing cross-Channel swim switch over

Army medics doing cross-Channel swim switch over - Credit: Archant

Eight Colchester-based soldiers from 16 Medical Regiment took on the challenge as a relay.

Each team member took on at least two hour-long sessions during Exercise Serpents Swim.

Lieutenant Colonel Philip McNee, the regiment’s commanding officer, started off the swim from Dover’s Shakespeare Beach at 6.30am, and the swimmers reached Calais just before midnight.

Altogether they took 17 hours 20 minutes to complete the challenge, swimming an estimated 40 miles to cover the 22-mile crossing as they battled the strongest spring tide of the year and winds of up to 20 knots.

Army medics doing cross-Channel swim

Army medics doing cross-Channel swim - Credit: Archant


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Lt Col McNee said: “The team was superb. Everyone was up for it and no-one wanted to let colleagues down.

“We’d all trained hard, but it was a tougher challenge than we expected with the tides and wind taking us on a long zig-zag across the Channel.

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“It was a fantastic feeling to finish but we were all asleep on the way back, there were no cigars and champagne.”

Sergeant Craig McDougall, a 37-year-old radiographer and qualified swimming coach, added: “Swimming at night in heavy waves is an interesting experience, and you find out a lot about yourself when you’re cold, wet and alone in sea.

“It was a challenge, but one that we all massively enjoyed and I’m so proud to have finished.”

Sergeant Mike Brewer, a 30-year-old biomedical scientist, said: “I had seen people swimming for six hours and it was daunting to know how demanding it was before I got started.

“The second I jumped into the water I wanted to get out, but I didn’t want to let the team or myself down and I quickly settled into a rhythm.”

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