When War Stopped A Swim

When War Stopped A Swim

Courtesy of Danmarks Historien.

Between August 28th and 29th 1943, Jenny Kammersgaard swam 75 km along Gudenåen, the longest Danish river. But the well-known 25-year-old Danish swimmer cut her scheduled swim to Randers short. She had to stop – during the morning of August 29th a state of emergency was enacted when the German forces attacked the Danish Naval Base at the Royal Dockyard (Holmen) in Copenhagen.

Whether it was before World War II, during or after the war, Kammersgaard (1918-1997) had a lengthy and prolific career:

  • At the age of 17 in 1935, she swam 18 km from Snaptun to Horsens in Horsens Fjord across inner Danish waters.
  • In 1935, she swam 25 km from Langeland to Korsør, after which she became sponsored by the Danish daily newspaper Politiken.
  • On 7 July 1937, she attempted to swim 42 km across the Kattegat from Gniben to Grenaa, Denmark in the Danish part of the Baltic Sea, the longest any woman had swum at the time. She quit under protest after swimming 20 hours on this attempt on advice from the doctor in the escort boat at the age of 19.
  • On 7 August 1937, she swam 42 km from Grenaa to Gniben, Denmark across the Kattegat in 29 hours 13 minutes after having changed medical advisor, at the age of 19. The swim distance was later inaccurately reported as 70 km, 75 km, and later 93 km (see memorial stone below that is at Gniben Strand on Sjællands Odde).
    • She was celebrated in Denmark and by a song that was written in her honor: Jenny – Du er et Eventyr (or Jenny – You are an Adventure in English).
    • she received a telegram of congratulation from Adolf Hitler and was used in Nazi propaganda.
    • After the World War II, she helped refugees getting out of Europe through Sweden.
  • Between July 27th and 29th 1938, she swam 52 km from Gedser in Denmark to the German coastal city of Warnemünde in 40 hours 30 minutes.
  • Between August 9th and 11th 1939, she swam 52 km in the opposite direction from Warnemünde, Germany to Gedser, Denmark along the same route in 34 hours.
  • During summer 1944, she secretly swam several times across the Øresund Strait between Denmark and Sweden.
    • She was suspected her of being a courier for the Danish resistance based in Sweden.
    • The Gestapo issued an arrest order for her which led to her escape to the Swedish island of Hven in Øresund where she stayed from August 1944 until the end of the World War II in May 1945.
  • In August 1947, together with her boyfriend, helped Baltic refugees in Denmark go to Sweden in a small fishing boat because it was easier to emigrate to North and South America from Sweden. Kammersgaard and her boyfriend were sentenced to 40 days in prison for assisting people who were in Sweden to leave without a valid passport.
  • She swam breaststroke in the 1950 Daily Mail race across the English Channel, finishing in 16 hours 27 minutes.
  • She raced in the 1951 Daily Mail race across the English Channel, finishing in 15 hours 38 minutes.
  • She attempted a 33.5 km crossing of the English Channel from England to France in August 1952, but was pulled after 12 hours 8 minutes.
  • She attempted a 33.5 km crossing of the English Channel from England to France in September 1952, but was pulled after 21 hours 40 minutes.
  • She competed in the 1954 Billy Butlin International Channel Swim in August 1954, but was pulled after 14 hours 50 minutes.
  • She competed in the 1955 Billy Butlin International Channel Swim.
  • In 1959, she swam from Læsø to Frederikshavn in Denmark.
  • In 1972, she swam 200m in 7 minutes 13 seconds in very cold water, reportedly “icy water”.
  • In 1976, she swam 400 meter in 12 minutes 54 seconds in very cold water, reportedly “icy water”.

1950 Daily Mail Race across the English Channel:

The first Daily Mail race across the English Channel was held in 1950 and was limited to 20 participants from around the world, sponsored by the London Daily Mail. Hassan Abdel Rehim, a 41-year-old Egyptian won the first race in a then-record of 10 hours 50 minutes over an international field. The results were as follows:

1. Hassan Abdel Rehim (Egypt) – 10 hours 50 minutes
2. Roger Le Morvan (France) 11 hours 2 minutes
3. Mareeh Hassan Hamad (Egypt) 12 hours 10 minutes
4. Sam Rockett (Great Britain) 14 hours 17 minutes
5. Ned Barnie (Scotland) 14 hours 50 minutes
6. Eileen Fenton (Great Britain) 15 hours 31 minutes – First woman
7. Jason Zirganos (Greece) 16 hours 19 minutes
8. Antonio Abertondo (Argentina) 15 hours 25 minutes
9. Jenny Kammersgaard (Denmark) 16 hours 30 minutes

DNF: Emile Soron (France), Eduard Mussche (Belgium), David Frank (USA), Willy van Rijsel (Holland), G.B. Brewster (Great Britain), Panagiotis Kamberous (Greece), Elna Andersen (Denmark), Margareth Ann Feather, Fahmmy Attallah (Egypt).

1951 Daily Mail Race across the English Channel:

Egyptian, 34-year-old Mareeh Hassan Hamad, won the 1951 Daily Mail race in 12 hours 12 minutes by 1 minute over Frenchman Roger Le Morvan. The results were as follows:

1. Mareeh Hassan Hamad (Egypt) 12 hours 12 minutes
2. Roger Le Morvan (France) 12 hours 13 minutes
3. Hassan Abdel Rehim (Egypt) 12 hours 25 minutes
4. Saied El Arabi (Egypt) 12 hours 42 minutes
5. Brenda Fisher (England) 12 hours 42 minutes, First woman
6. Godfrey Chapman (England) 12 hours 56 minutes
7. Winnie Roach (Canada) 13 hours 25 minutes
8. Enriqueta Duarte (Argentina) 13 hours 26 minutes
9. Lars Beril Warle (Sweden) 13 hours 28 minutes
10. Raphael Morand (France) 13 hours 45 minutes
11. Jenny James (Wales) 13 hours 55 minutes
12. Jason Zirganos (Greece) 14 hours 1 minute
13. Jan Van Hemsbergen (Netherlands) 14 hours 3 minutes
14. Sally Bauer (Sweden) 14 hours 4 minutes
15. Antonio Abertondo (Argentina) 14 hours 14 minutes
16. William E. (Ned) Barnie (Scotland) 15 hours 1 minute
17. Jenny Kammersgaard (Denmark) 15 hours 38 minutes
18. Daniel Carpio (Peru) 23 hours 5 minutes

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