How Great And Influential Was Commander Forsberg

How Great And Influential Was Commander Forsberg

How Great And Influential Was Commander Forsberg

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

The open water swimming world knows the late Commander Charles Gerald Forsberg OBE, RN as a marathon swimmer, president of the Channel Swimming Association, author of 3 books and a columnist of 40 years promoting the Royal and Merchant Navy’s swimming, lifesaving interests and long distance swimming.


But ultimately his influence and global reach was far greater than his swimming accomplishments and promotion.

Charlie Gravett from the Jersey Long Distance Swimming Club, a swimmer, escort pilot and licensed aircraft engineer, knows well of the Commander’s talents.

He shares this historic perspective of the Commander. “In 1954 a revolutionary aircraft, the first jet airliner in history, the British De Havilland Comet, had suffered three or four unexplained disasters. Losses in India and Europe with considerable loss of life threatened the aircrafts future, allowing the Boeing version, the 707, to eclipse and move ahead in aviation market circles.

Commander Forsberg, a maritime salvage expert in Britain’s Royal Navy, was tasked in retrieving a Comet from the floor of the Mediterranean off the Island of Elba. After nearly a years searching some 70 – 80% of the aircraft was bought to the surface. Wreckage was transferred to the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough in Hampshire west of London England. Painstakingly, the fuselage was pieced together on a skeleton frame and together with a complete Comet immersed in a water tank.

The investigation began in an attempt to search for the cause of the previous disasters. Pressure checks on the complete structure in the tank highlighted a fault in the fuselage design borne out by the salvaged structure. The design of fuselages square sectioned window apertures was seen to be a weak spot from which defects caused cracks to emanate from the windows corners, thereby opening up and causing explosive depressurisation and the structure breaking apart in flight at altitude.

Subsequent aircraft were designed with ’rounded changes of section at these vital points. For his painstaking search and recovery, Gerry was made an Officer of The British Empire (OBE).

Whenever I travel by aircraft, I offer up a prayer of thanks to Gerry and the Royal Air Force scientists who from his extreme efforts made flying a far safer mode of transport today. Therefore, flying to a swimming event and benefitting by his ‘tuition’ has made our sport safer and more enjoyable.

The fledgling British Long Distance Swimming Association of the 1960’s benefitted by Gerry making the maiden solo swim on all those great courses at sea and in lakes around Great Britain. We swimmers have much to be thankful to Gerry for not only our safety in the water, but also on every jet aircraft trip that we take.


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