Mercedes Gleitze was a British female sports pioneer who won the Channel swimming competition in 1927. A blue plaque will commemorate her life in Brighton

  • Mercedes Gleitze, the first British woman who swam the Channel in 1927, was Mercedes Gleitze
  • Her sporting achievements have been largely forgotten since the feat
  • She has been honoured with a blue plaque on her Brighton home and a new film of her exploits starring Kirsten Callaghan

Outside her Brighton house, a blue plaque will honor a trailblazer female who swam the English Channel first for Britain.

Mercedes Gleitze, a Brighton woman who swam the English Channel in her 8th attempt in 1927, was the first to do so. 

She was also the first to swim across the Strait of Gibraltar and the Dardanelles, as well as all over the Isle of Man.

At the time she retired, in 1932, her endurance swimming record was 46 hours.

Mercedes Gleitze became the first Brighton woman to swim the English Channel on her eighth attempt in 1927

Mercedes Gleitze was the first Brighton woman who swam the English Channel. It was her eighth attempt, in 1927.

After her triumph in 1927, calls of a hoax forced her to attempt a 'vindication swim' months later that had to be abandoned because of extreme cold

Following her 1927 victory, hoaxes forced her to try a “vindication swim” months later. It was abandoned due to extreme cold.

A blue plaque dedicated to Ms Gleitze has been unveiled outside her former home in Brighton

Outside her Brighton home, a blue plaque has been dedicated to Ms Gleitze

Members of the cast of Vindication Swim, a film based on her life, were there to see the unveiling of the plaque

Vindication Swim cast members were present to witness the unveiling

Actress Kirsten Callaghan (centre) who plays Mercedes in the film visited the unveiling along side Director Elliot Hasler (left) and actor John Locke (right)

Kirsten Callaghan (center), who played Mercedes in the film, attended the unveiling alongside Director Elliot Hasler(left) and John Locke (“right”).

Mercedes Gleitze (centre) with Lord Riddell (to her right) at Charing Cross railway station, London, after her successful swim across the English Channel

Mercedes Gleitze, to her right, with Lord Riddell at Charing Cross railway station. London after she completed her successful swim across English Channel.

With a film about the exploits of Ms. Gleitze in progress, there is a renewed interest in her legacy. 

Vindication Swim’s cast and crew attended today’s unveiling of blue plaques in Brighton.

The ceremony was attended by actor Kirsten Calaghan who plays Mercedes in the film and John Locke who started his career in The Darkest Hour as well as the Favourite.

Relash Productions spokesmen for the filmmakers and said that Mercedes Gleitze was a celebrity icon from the 1920s. However, it’s hoped the blue plaque along with the biopic about the events around her 1927 swimming will revive her reputation as a trailblazer in female sport.

Following her retirement, she had three children. She died at 80 years old in London’s St. Mary’s Hospital in February 1981.

Mercedes Gleitze (centre) with her husband Patrick Carey, at St Paul's Church, Dover after their wedding, 9th August 1930

Mercedes Gleitze, (centre) and Patrick Carey at St Paul’s Church Dover following their marriage, 9th Aug 1930

Mercedes Gleitze on her way to Gibraltar in 1927 where she would complete her attempt to cross the Channel

Mercedes Gleitze in her 1927 attempt to cross Channel.

Ms Gleitze kept her exploits a secret from her children after her retirement from swimming

Following her retirement from the pool, Ms. Gleitze kept secret her swimming exploits from her children.

Even her glamorous sporting career was kept a secret by her children and grandchildren.  

Ms. Gleitze, a pioneer of female sport, was capable of feats that would have been impossible for men.

On her eighth attempt in 1927 she was the first Brighton woman who swam the English Channel for 15 hours and 15 mins.