Ginger biscuits and dates

Here’s a photo from the September 26 1932 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a British postman who was hoping to swim the English Channel.

Alas, Mr. Cliff’s diet of ginger biscuits and dates did not get him across the English Channel. The Channel Swimming Association website provides a complete list of successful channel swimmers, and his name is not on it.

The list of swimmers revealed some interesting information:

  • Lots of people (comparatively) are doing it nowadays. There were 43 successful solo swimmers in 2020, and 48 in 2021.
  • By comparison, only 14 swimmers had ever achieved the feat at the time of Mr. Cliff’s attempt.
  • The first successful channel crossing was achieved by Matthew Webb in 1875. It was 36 years before anyone did it again.
  • No one made it across in 1932. In 1933, Ethel “Sunny” Lowry (discussed in this blog here) was successful.

Searches for W. J. Cliff turned up nothing, partly because searches for “cliff english channel” returned references to the White Cliffs of Dover. Mr. Cliff appears to be lost to history; presumably, he went back to delivering the mail.

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