Mental Health

Soldier Swims Across Channel To Raise Mental Health Awareness

Captain James 'Harry' Grantham completed the crossing in 16 hours and 37 minutes.

A Royal Horse Artillery officer has completed a gruelling swim across the English Channel to raise awareness of mental health in the Armed Forces.

Captain James Grantham, known to everyone as Harry, swam from Dover to France on Thursday.

He set out in the early hours of 10 September from Samphire Hoe, in Dover, and reached the shore of Wissant, near Pas-de-Calais, in 16 hours and 37 minutes, becoming one of the very few military personnel to ever make the crossing.

"This swim was supposed to be [done] in nice, calm conditions today and everything was good, but the weather didn't come that way, so it was quite a bit swell out there.

"Out of seven boats that went out today [Thursday], only one survived, which is me. The rest came back in because of the weather conditions," Captain James 'Harry' Grantham, told Forces News.

Captain 'Harry' Grantham receives liquid feed from coach during English Channel charity swim 100920 CREDIT Tim Denyer.jpg
Captain Grantham received liquid food every 30 minutes during the crossing (Picture: Tim Denyer).

He braved 21 miles of cold, choppy water across the busiest shipping lane in the world.

Throughout the crossing, Captain Grantham was guided by a pilot boat and his coach, Tim Denyer, kept him fuelled with liquid food, drink and words of encouragement.

"My left shoulder was really sore, [it was] really painful but I just had to fight through it," Captain Grantham said.

Despite his injury and winds of 16 knots, he was able to make good progress.

The most difficult part was "probably the last four, five hours" because he had to "beat the tide," he told Forces News.

"I had to work hard without any energy left in the shoulders, so yeah, that was quite tough, and then the last bit, going onto the beach was hard work.

"[I] just had to dig deep and found the energy to get there, get on dry land to get my swim done."

Captain 'Harry' Grantham's boat returns to Dover after challenge across English Channel swim 100920 CREDIT BFBS.jpg
Captain Grantham returned to Dover Marina by boat twenty hours after setting off on the challenging swim.

Captain Grantham said arriving on the beach at Wissant was "amazing".

"There was some French people on the side - I obviously stayed away from them [because of COVID] - but they were taking videos and clapping and cheering.

"It was great to have that response."

Twenty hours after he set off on his epic swim, Captain Grantham arrived back at Dover Marina by boat, where he was met by his proud fiancée Helen and his mother.

It was a very personal swim for Captain Grantham as he also dealt with his own mental health problems in the past.

He wanted to use the opportunity to raise awareness of the issue across the military forces and encourage other soldiers, sailors and airmen to seek help.

All the money raised from the swim will be donated to the Royal Artillery Charitable Fund.

Cover image: Captain 'Harry' Grantham celebrates as he arrives on the beach at Wissant (Picture: Tim Denyer).