'After 15 hours' swimming, I knew I would make it. I'm not a quitter'
A Leicestershire Army sergeant who entered the record books by becoming the first female soldier to swim the Channel unaided has received an award.
Sergeant Amy Baker, of Enderby, completed the 24-mile swim from Dover to Calais in 18 hours, 35 minutes, last September.
The 32-year-old was originally a member of a six-strong Army relay team also completing the swim, but stepped in to take on the full challenge when the designated solo swimmer pulled out.
The team and Amy raised £8,000, which was split equally between the Army Benevolent Fund and the Special Care Baby Unit at Harrogate and District Hospital, close to Amy's base.
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In recognition of her feat, Amy, who is serving at the Army Foundation College, in Harrogate, was awarded the Director General's Commendation.
She was presented her award, which recognises the exceptional achievements of soldiers in Army training centres, by the Director General of Army recruiting and training, Major General Dickie Davis.
Amy said: "When the person who was going to do the solo swim pulled out, I was put forward for it.
"It meant that, instead of sharing the swim with five others – which would have meant three hours in the water – I ended up doing more than 18.
"I was also swimming unaided, which means I was only wearing a costume, hat and goggles. Aided means you have a wetsuit to protect you from the icy waters."
Amy, a veteran of Bosnia, Iraq and Northern Ireland, said the cross-channel swim in the world's busiest shipping lane had been her hardest challenge to date.
Setting out just after 5am in darkness, she had to battle hypothermia and sea sickness.
"It was really tough," she said. "I wanted to stop three times, but something deep inside wouldn't let me.
"After 15 hours of swimming among container ships and ferries, I knew I was going to make it. I'm not a quitter.
"I'm really competitive and won't attempt anything that I don't think I can complete."
Amy, a former Lutterworth Grammar School pupil who swam competitively for Leicestershire as a teenager, trained for the event for six months.
"We used to swim for one-and-a-half hours every morning in the River Nidd, near the college," she said. "We also trained in lakes, as well as the North and Irish Seas, to acclimatise ourselves for the freezing temperatures we would have to endure in the English Channel."
College officer Major Giles Powell said: "She is an inspiration to our young soldiers, and an example of what can be achieved through hard work and determination."
Proud mum Brenda Mullahy, of Enderby, said: "What a fantastic daughter I have to have conquered the English Channel. It is such a great achievement and I'm so very proud of her."