A former commando from West Devon has been hailed a hero along with his team of disabled swimmers who were forced to abandon a cross-Channel swim.

Lee Spencer, of Horrabridge, was swimming the English Channel swim overnight last Thursday ((September 7) when his support pilot boat aborted the challenge in aid of injured and disabled veteran service personnel because the tides were pushing swimmers backwards and they could have ended up in the dangerous cross-Channel ferry lanes. Disappointed Lee said: “Sometimes the sea says ‘not today’. Unfortunately it’s off. We were caught up in a strong tide and couldn’t make it to the inshore tide which was weaker and would have allowed us to get into the coast and the finish. Instead, we were being pushed back out into the main channel channel and more importantly, straight into the designated main busy ferry lane which goes into Calais. If we’d continued and got into the ferry lane, the French coastguard would have called a halt to our crossing. It was only a mile and half to go and that made all the difference between finishing and not. We tried to to do the extraordinary, but unfortunately this time it didn’t work out.”

He added: “On reflection, I’m left with the feeling of how close we were to that inshore current we needed to take us into the finish. We all dug deep, but it wasn’t to be, scuppered by the tide. What a fantastic thing to try though, and I’m so grateful for being part of this team.

“Thank you Mark Bowra for asking me. If anyone wants to ask me to do anything similar again please do.”

Lee Spencer, of Horrabridge, near Tavistock, has the use of only one leg after it was amputated after he was hit by a car when he was helping an earlier car crash. He joined his relay team of swimmers, including injured and otherwise disabled former service colleagues and others, to each take a turn to swim the notorious crossing for one hour each over an expected 18-hour duration.  The dangerous swim is raising funds for Mark Bowra’s Bowra Fooundation. Mark also took part in the swim and is Lee’s friend and former Marines colleague who suffered a stroke paralysing him on one side. The charity helps people with brain injuries recover by supporting their own adventures alongside the armed forces community. They were also joined by ex-tank regiment soldier Billy who has only one arm.

A spokesman for Bowra said: “Unfortunately, the team didn’t quite make it. It had to be called off as the tide was pulling them further from the shore. They swam 36 miles (due to the effect of tides and currents) and did us proud. They were heroes.”

Lee is renowned for his physical adventures, including rowing the Atlantic, cycling the length of Britain and long-distance skiing. To donate to Lee’s cause for Bowra go to the swim2recovery JustGiving site and the Bowra website.