Old Colfeian Tom Gregory publishes book on swimming English Channel aged 11

On 6 September 1988, Old Colfeian Tom Gregory (1983 -1994) became and will forever remain the youngest person to swim the English Channel, mentored and driven on by an extraordinary local coach. Tom’s full story has never been told, until now.

His first book, A Boy in the Water written through the eyes of a child yet to enter his teens, tells the true story of Tom’s remarkable achievement 30 years ago when he swam across the English Channel – at the age of just 11. From joining the local swimming club aged six, run by John Bullet, an old-school disciplinarian with a track record of training winners, to being singled out at age eight as a Channel contender. Tom, aged 11 years and 336 days old, completed his 32 mile swim in open water from France to the White Cliffs in 11 hours and 54 minutes, a record that can never be broken.

Tom said “I was hugely honoured to be joined by both staff and former pupils at the public launch of A Boy in the Water. I genuinely loved my 11 years at Colfe’s; I was truly supported by our unique school community 30 years ago, and that’s just how it feels now, at the point where I have decided to tell the story of what happened in full. Thank you for all that support, both then and now.”

Headmaster Richard Russell said: “Just before the start of term, we were delighted to hear that OC Tom Gregory’s book, A Boy in the Water, was serialised as Radio 4’s Book of the Week. Senior colleagues have vivid recollections of Tom in a short-sleeved shirt throughout the depths of winter as he prepared himself for the challenge.”

Tom, now 44, went on to university and then Sandhurst, becoming an officer in the Royal Anglian Regiment. He served in Iraq and Afghanistan and now works for accountancy firm Deloitte, living in Surrey with his wife and daughter.


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