Ward's Book of Days.
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What happened on this day in history.
On this day in history in 1892, was born John Alcock.
Alcock was an aviator who, together with his colleague, Arthur Brown, made the first non-stop transatlantic flight.
Alcock was born on 6th November 1892, at Manchester, the son of John Alcock, a coachman, and Mary Alcock. Alcock was educated at the Parish School, St Anne’s on Sea, and at Manchester Central High School, which he left, aged sixteen, to take up an apprenticeship at The Empress Motor Works. In 1910, Alcock transferred to Brooklands, a firm of aviation engineers, and learned the craft of aircraft maintenance and art of flying. He received his pilot’s certificate in 1912 and joined the Royal Naval Air Service.
During the First World War, Alcock took part in bombing raids on Constantinople. In 1917, he received the D S O for taking on three enemy aircraft simultaneously, and shooting down two of them. Later that year, Alcock was shot down and crash landed into Sulva Bay, where he was taken prisoner.
After the war, Alcock’s experience enabled him to obtain a job as a test pilot for Vickers Aircraft. In 1913, The Daily Mail had offered a prize of £10,000 for anyone who could fly the Atlantic non-stop. Now the Vickers Company considered that they had enough technical expertise to take up the challenge. They selected a Vickers Vimy twin-engined bomber, piloted by Alcock with Arthur Brown as navigator. Alcock and Brown set off from St Johns, Newfoundland on 14th June 1919. The flight endured engine trouble, fog and thunderstorms. On several occasions, Brown had to climb out onto the wings to remove ice from the engines. Alcock’s supreme flying ability enabled the plane to reach Ireland where, thinking he saw a field, where he could land safely, he took the aircraft down into a bog.
Alcock and Brown received the promised £10,000 prize and several other sponsorship awards. They received knighthoods for their achievements and became national heroes overnight. Both were promised jobs at Vickers for life. On 18th December 1919, Alcock was on a routine assignment, delivering an aircraft to customers in France. Fog descended without warning obliging Alcock to attempt an emergency landing. The wing of the plane struck a tree causing the aircraft to crash. Alcock was taken to hospital at Rouen where he died the same day.
Several memorials have been erected to Alcock and Brown. There is a statue of the pair at Heathrow Airport, and a monument at Manchester Airport, which is 8 miles from where Alcock was born. There is a monument at St John’s where the celebrated flight started, and one nearby the bog in Connemara where it ignominiously crashed. The aircraft is on view at The London Science Museum. [Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London SW7 2HF] Alcock is buried at Manchester Southern Cemetery, plot G966. [Southern Cemetery, 212 Barlow Moor Road, Manchester, M21 7GL]
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