Vindication SwimVindication Swim
Vindication Swim

In pictures: Sussex beach location for new film about first woman to swim the English Channel

A new film shot mainly in Sussex tells the story of Mercedes Gleitze, the first British female to swim the English Channel – an overlooked heroine of her time.

The film, called Vindication Swim, has its cinema release on Friday March 19, to coincide with International Women’s day and the Mothers Day weekend.

It was written and directed by Brighton-based Elliott Hasler, who was just 18 when filming began in 2019. Elliott completed his first feature Charlie’s Letters at the age of 16 after a three year production.

The film was set in the Second World War and based on his Great Grandfather’s war-time experiences. It premiered as part of the Edinburgh and Brighton fringe festivals in 2017.

Vindication Swim stars Brighton-based actress Kirsten Callaghan as Mercedes Gleitze, who was also from Brighton.

Sussex locations for the film included the old fishing beach at Hastings, using a wooden net-hut owned by local Hastings historian Steve Peak and featuring the 100-year old fishing boat Edward and Mary RX 74 at Rock-a-Nore, which also belongs to Steve. The Stables Theatre, in Hastings, provided extras in period costume for the shoot. Filming also took place at Eastbourne, Newhaven and Amberley.

Mercedes, who was of German immigrant parents, grew up in Brighton, but her parents, despite their years in Brighton, had never sought British citizenship.

Her father was interned when World War One broke out, and her mother, though she was permitted to stay, opted to return to Germany with her children, including Mercedes. Mercedes decided she wanted to be in England and tried to swim back at the age of 17 – an attempt which fuelled her Channel-swimming ambitions.

She decided she wanted to become a professional swimmer. She had bouts of bronchitis and she was very small. She didn’t have the really big swimmer’s build. But decided to swim The Thames and from there to swim The Channel. It took her eight attempts before she managed it, and she paid for it all from her own wages.