Captain Matthew Webb was born in Dawley in Shropshire in 1848. He had first come to public attention in April, 1873 by reason of his fearless act in jumping from the deck of the fast moving Cunard Liner ‘Russia’ in response to a cry of “man overboard.” It was midnight, the ship was in mid Atlantic, running before a furious gale, and Webb’s leap looked like a leap to certain death. A boat was lowered, and after three quarters of an hour’s search, Webb was picked up. He had been unable to save the sailor’s life but in 1874 he was awarded the Stanhope Gold Medal for exceptional bravery, and was the first recipient of this medal.Webb’s link with Dover came in 1875 when he became the first person to swim the English Channel. His first attempt on 12 August ended in failure, due to his being carried more than nine mile off his course by the strong current. Webb made his next attempt on 24 August, diving from the Admiralty Pier a few seconds before 1 p.m. and reaching Calais at 10:41 a.m. the next day. He had been in the water for nearly 22 hours and had swum 40 miles rather than 22, having been carried off course by strong currents.Covered with a protective layer of porpoise grease, the 27 year old Webb was accompanied by a support boat, which provided him with nourishment while he remained in the water. During his 22 hours in the water he kept up his strength with doses of cod-liver oil, beef tea, brandy, coffee and strong old ale. He used the breast stroke almost exclusively, averaging twenty strokes per minute. Webb died less than eight years later, drowning in an attempt to swim the Niagara Falls in July 1883. A memorial to Webb was unveiled on Dover Sea Front in July 1910.