A Tribute to Commander Charles Gerald Forsberg OBE, RN
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On the 24th October 2000 Commander C G Forsberg OBE, RN, died aged 88. Born in Canada in 1912 he became a legend in the long distance swimming field both in the UK and overseas. In 1957 at the age of 45 he broke the England-France cross Channel record with a time of 13hrs. 33mins, reducing the previous best by 22 minutes and becoming the thirteenth Englishman to succeed in the crossing. Two weeks later he won the British Long Distance Swimming Associations Windermere Championship even though he was the oldest competitor in the event. Looking back it seems as if he could not see any stretch of water without deciding to swim it, a feeling I am sure a lot of swimmers will empathize with. The difference of course is that Gerry would then jump in and swim waters far greater than most of us mere mortals could even dream about. Some examples of that ability are shown by: - 1958 Windermere 2 Way (21 Miles) Gents Record in 12-58-00, Northern Ireland, in 1959, Loch Neagh (19.4 Miles), Gents Inaugural Record in 13-12-00 taking the diagonal he felt to be the longest, 1959 Loch Lomond (21.6 Miles) Gents Record in 15-31-09, 1959 2 Way Morecambe Bay (18 Miles) in 6-23-00 to set an Inaugural Record. The list goes on and on! The latter swim also serves to show his abilities as a navigator which is amply demonstrated in his books and a small article entitled "Navigation In Channel Swimming" written in January 1960 for the Institute of Navigation at the Royal Geographical Society.
As the Swimming Times Correspondent he has reported on the championships run by the BLDSA and its affiliated clubs for forty years. In this capacity, his ability and wit with words was unsurpassed, a skill aptly demonstrated in his two books on swimming: - "Long Distance Swimming" and "Modern Long Distance Swimming". Alas these two tomes are now rarer than hens teeth, being collectors items for anyone in the sport of long distance swimming.
Elected to the Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in 1965 he later became chair of the selection committee which decided who else should be recognized by that body, particularly in respect of open water. In 1998 he was the recipient of a further honour being inducted as a Pioneer Contributor into the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF).
In his day he won all the major championships and is shown on our records as having completed 219 swims in championships and as an individual. Gerry, as he was fondly known to all of us, was the President of the BLDSA in 1982 and served on our Executive Committee for 20 years. In 1962 he became President of the Channel Swimming Association and remained so until his death 38 years later. He was an Hon. Vice President of the Irish LDSA and is sadly missed by all his friends over the water. He was still swimming in outdoor competitions at the age of 83, his last swim of this type being in the 1.25mile section of the 1996 Champion of Champions event, an apt event for a true champion to finish competing on. His absence will leave a gap, which it will be difficult for anyone to fill.
Commander Charles Gerald Forsberg in action
© DL / BLDSA 2008