A former commando from West Devon is finally swimming the English Channel swim in aid of injured and disabled veteran service personnel after an early start today.

Lee Spencer, of Horrabridge, near Tavistock, is swimming with the use of only one leg after it was amputated. He joined his relay team of swimmers , including injured and otherwise disabled former service colleagues and others, each taking a turn to swim the notorious crossing for one hour each over an expected 18-hour duration. The early start came after more than a week's delay due to bad weather and is expected to complete the crossing to France at 9pm tonight.

The team is making good progress, guided by their support boat Sea Leopard in calm conditions and is about half way across.

 The dangerous swim raises funds for a friend and former forces colleague's charity the Bowra Foundation, supporting people with brain injuries in recovery through their own adventures alongside the armed forces community.

 A spokesman for Bowra said: "Today's the day our intrepid forces of nature embark on the Swim2Recovery challenge. A 21-mile swim across the English Channel. The team travelled late yesterday and set off at 3am this morning.

"Hundreds of hours of training, in and out of the water, together with immense mental toughness will see our vets conquer their swim, making us all proud in the process. Amazing things happen when you put mind over matter.

The team can be followed online by clicking on 'Sea Leopard' via the tracking app: https://www.channelswimmingassociation.com/tracking

Lee, is joined by an amazing team including a swimmer who is paralysed along one side, one with only one arm and Top Gear presenter Titch Cormack, another ex-colleague in the Iraq War and Special Boat Service veteran, who is also an inspirational speaker like his friend.

Lee Spencer is renowned for his physical adventures, including rowing the Atlantic, cycling the length of Britain and long-distance skiing, which are all the more amazing because he only has one leg after a road accident.

Lee explained what makes this yet another particular physical challenge for disabled people: “Swimming with only one leg requires a special technique and makes swimming very difficult. Swimming the Channel is hard enough because of the tides and currents. But I’m weighted on one side to help me swim straight. However, it means I can only breathe on my right side and that automatically forces my leg and arm on opposite sides to spread out to counterbalance me in the water in the manner of a starfish. Doing that causes resistance and I come to a stop in the water. So, it’s really exhausting and slow. I really haven’t had time to think about the swim too much because I’ve been full-on training and giving motivational talks.”

Lee also gives motivational speeches to companies, schools and government departments. He said: “My main motivation for the swim is to help my friend Mark who I met when we were in recovery at Headley Court after he had a stroke. He and I have similar motivations in helping people to continue with their recovery through adventurous activities.”

The team has a ten-day weather window to achieve the crossing, which ends up becoming a longer swim than the simple geographic narrowest point, due to tides and current pushing against swimmers.

The daring team will follow the Channel Swimming Association rules in wearing goggles, a hat and standard costume with no neoprene. They will be joined by a support boat. Lee has been training with Jose Quiterio of ACE Swimming at Saltash pool and Devil’s Point in Plymouth. He had to abort a Channel swim crossing last year as part of his own invention, the Triathlon of Great Britain. But he never gives up: “This swim is great practice for taking up and fishing my own triathlon again some time soon.”

Lee was a serving Royal Marine for 24 years. After coming unscathed through three tours of Afghanistan, he lost his right leg helping a crashed motorist

Lee Spencer practising for tomorrow's charity cross-Channel swim.jpg
Lee Spencer does not let his disability define him as he aims to swim the Channel today (Lee Spencer)