A FORMER soldier who attempted to swim the English Channel to raise funds for Acorns Hospice, which cared for his terminally ill baby son, is to appear in a television programme about the ultimate open water challenge.

Alan Gale, who lives in the Nunnery Wood area of Worcester, got within two miles of the French coast before a storm cut short his marathon effort in August, 2014, but even so he raised nearly £13,000 for the charity. Now he is to feature in Swim the Channel, which is to be shown Monday, July 18 at 9pm on BBC4, and is devoted to the community of coaches and swimmers who, every summer, work tirelessly together to achieve their dream of swimming the Channel.

Mr Gale, who was in the army for 14 years, explained: "My wife Esther and I had our son Harry in 2006, but he was quickly diagnosed as terminally ill. He was placed into the care of Acorns at seven weeks old and spent nine months at the hospice before dying in my arms at home.

"In the summer of 2013, having never swum further than a mile, I decided to attempt the Channel, with the aim of raising £10,000 for Acorns, I was very grateful to a number of local firms like David Lloyds, Hallmark Hulme, and my employer Dovetail, which all helped ensure I received the sponsorship and support necessary to undertake the challenge.

"I trained for a year because I had never done any serious swimming before. Eventually I was in the water for more than 11 hours, starting at 5am on August 17, 2014. I encountered cramp and jellyfish stings, not to mention the ingestion of copious amounts of salt water. At the end I still had strength left and without the change in conditions I am convinced I would have made it. But the boat pilot is responsible for the safety of his crew, passengers and swimmer and after I had disappeared under the waves several times and even under the bow of the violently rocking boat, he had seen enough. I’d been pushed out to three miles from shore and we’d made no progress for an hour. The Channel had simply closed its doors to swimmers at that point.”