A big turn out for the Bridgeman team race - an event dating back 91 years

Dinknesh Gobena, long term friend and associate of the Bridgemans joined us to present tankards to the winning team

Mr & Mrs Poppy were joined by Laure Latham and Charles Cottam to storm home to victory unnoticed by all but handicapper Dani Lobo.

The annual event that some compare to herding cats was marvellously managed by Dani and his band of helpers (with a few hinderers thrown in for good measure).  A baker's dozen of 13 teams of four keenly competed in the 4 x 50m freestyle relay heats for the honour of qualifying for the final line-up of four teams.

The Paul Bridgeman Team Race has been on our race calendar since 1931. This photo was taken on the occasion of the inaugural event.

The Paul Bridgeman Team Race has been on our race calendar since 1931.  This photo was taken on the occasion of the inaugural event.

Popular member Paul Bridgeman, a club vice-President, sadly died very young following an accident whilst chopping down a tree. The injury resulted in septicemia from which Paul did not recover.

The victorious team comprised Laure Latham, Charles Cottam, plus husband and wife duo Matt Lund (Mr Poppy) and Poppy Lenton (Mrs Matt)

The victorious team comprised Laure Latham, Charles Cottam, plus husband and wife duo Matt Lund (Mr Poppy) and Poppy Lenton (Mrs Matt)

With our honoured guest of the day, Dinknesh Gobena, and President Rob Ouldcott.

How did they do that?

The winning foursome won by dint of being the first team of four to finish.  Obvious!  So why the story? The first team home in the final were disqualified as they consisted of only three members, the fourth member had overlooked the need to swim in the final and continued their extended "gentle warm down" towards the Brodie Buoy.  This meant a very fast team member swam twice, playing havoc with Dani's handicapping.

And thus another Serpentine legendary story was born, to no doubt be embellished and exaggerated in years to come.

A historic photo from the mid 1930s of Paul Bridgeman's son Gerald. Gerald presented trophies to the winning team whilst standing on the very same table that we use today.

A historic photo from the mid 1930s of Paul Bridgeman's son Gerald.  Gerald presented trophies to the winning team whilst standing on the very same table that we use today.

A nice photo from 2006, showing Gerald and Rosie Bridgeman presenting trophies to the winning team from the very same table.

A nice photo from 2006, showing Gerald and Rosie Bridgeman presenting trophies to the winning team from the very same table.

Winning team members from 16 years ago - Will Ferguson, John Reid, Wane Ashpole and Pippa Durrant

2009, and the table has received some loving attention by Norman Jones

2009, and the table has received some loving attention by Norman Jones

Writing in 2019, Mike Olizar recalled the following -

"Gerald was a scion of a younger line of the Earls Of Bradford (Shropshire not Yorkshire) Bridgeman being the family name. The present earl is the seventh and his son the future earl came down to the Serps several years ago.

"A true aristocrat Gerald was untroubled by convention. He was the 1960s hippy adorned with chains and necklaces. Do not forget Rosie his companion who for many years came to the lake on their annual remembrance of Gerald's father.  In later years Dinknash their live-in companion and carer also came to watch the event.

"Gerald and Rosie were always bemused by the relay race. Teams were formed; heats were held; handicappers in the 'old days' would rack their brains with pencil stubbs (bring back Frank Simms!) at the ready trying to form teams and work timings out."

Handicapper Dani about to start proceedings, assisted by James Lythe

Handicapper Dani about to start proceedings, assisted by James Lythe

Rob's turn to assist

Rob's turn to assist

For those of you in any doubt, Rob can put on that serious look when called upon

It started with a splash

It started with a splash

First race underway

As the heats progressed the sprinters got into their stride

As the heats progressed the sprinters got into their stride

Some good handicapping for a close finish

Last gasp effort

Last gasp effort

Sean Kelly paid us a long overdue visit

Sean Kelly paid us a long overdue visit

Sean about to take the handover.

Sean proved that with enough willpower and focus you do not need a diving platform to perform a racing dive!

Sean proved that with enough willpower and focus you do not need a diving platform to perform a racing dive!

What technique!

Paul Bridgeman was a vice President of the Serpetnie SC.  He served in the Royal Navy in WW1 and was a veteran of the Battle of Jutland.  After the end of the war he commenced medical studies at St Thomas's hospital.  Marriage meant he did not complete his studies and he went into banking, though nevertheless joined the board of Tommys.

There is an oft told Serpentine story of how when a medical student Paul one early morning found a dead body in the Serpentine (reportedly a Chinese seaman).  Realising he had a rare find for use in his studies at St Thomas's he put the cadaver on his push bike and set off across the park for the hospital.  To no suprise, he was stopped on his way by a passing policeman.  What happened next is not 100% clear, but Gerald confirmed the basis of the story to be true.  It has been told and retold every year at the Serpentine for approaching 100 years.  You can imagine the scene -

"Hello, hello, hello, what have we got here then?"

"A dead gentleman".

"Where are you taking him?"

"St Thomas's hospital.  I am a medical student and the body will go to good use".

"Oh well, on your way then.  And don't get up to any mischief".

Paul Bridgeman receiving the Colin Cooper cup from Alfred Rowley,1928. This photo also shows some long term members who are still recalled in our 2022 fixture list.

Paul Bridgeman receiving the Colin Cooper cup from Alfred Rowley,1928.  This photo also shows some long term members who are still recalled in our 2022 fixture list.

Third from the left (in swimming trunks) is Maurice Ferris, whose memorial cup we raced for on 30 April. Second along from him is Sid Levy, whose cup will be raced for on 10 June sponsored by Nick and Sakura Adams. Also in the picture (the face just above the cup) is Clary Reed. Clary's cup was presented on 9 April to the winner of the Alan Lacy memorial race.

1931, the first Paul Bridgeman memorial team races

1931, the first Paul Bridgeman memorial team races

Gerald himself was a very larger than life, colourful character. A real "child" of the sixties, though he was in his 30s at the time. Practicing as an artist, one of his business ventures was to open London's very first Swedish sauna. Gerald died early in 2018, leaving no heirs. Robin Hunter-Coddington, Mike Olizar and Brian Thomas represented the club at the funeral, with Robin as club President giving a reading.

(report compiled by Brian Thomas)