Monday, June 14, 2010

Alcock and Brown Remain Confident for a Sucessful Transatlantic Crossing

Saturday June 14 1919
Morning Headlines:-
Vimy's planned Friday 13 departure missed due to mechanical problems - Alcock and Brown remain confident that they will get away today 

Ike arrived to work early today feeling fresh and chipper, completely recovered from the day before, due to a good night's rest. He is thankful that he will be finished work at Noon today. He left Starr hitched outside the receiving dock in front of the Express Office, where his friend Dick Neugent could keep eye on him and refill his hay net from time to time. 

Ike need Starr at hand in order to get that all important gear up to Lester's field before 1:00 P.M. just in time for it's installation and clearing the way for a 2:00 PM takeoff. 

At precisely twelve O'clock he darts through the express office, with the gear wrapped in his hanky, and jams the hanky into his pocket, running through the receiving door, Ike jumps down from the four foot high platform and pulls the quick release knot on Starr's reins, mounting at a run they are heading for Jobe street. At the top of Jobe they round the corner and race up Hamilton Avenue on his way to Lester's Field.

Nearing the top of Hamilton Avenue Starr is showing signs of tiring, so Ike allows the animal to transition into a brisk walk as they turn right onto Bennett Avenue. At the top of Bennett, enter the intersection and begin crossing LeMarchant, without any regard for oncoming traffic. Ike was suddenly startled by the sound of a motor car's horn, AH~~UGG~~AH, accompanied  by a hale of flying gravel and the smell of skidding rubber over rock and gravel. 

Looking to the left Ike got a glimpse of a model T, fishtailing as it slithered by, not two inches from Starr's flying tail.  Continuing up Bennett he could see what appeared to be a road block of some sort. The droves of people who were streaming towards Lester's field where being held up by a line of young men who were blocking the road and allowing the pedestrians pass through, one at a time.  

It came to Ike in a flash: it was the Mundy Pond gang, they were extorting a fee from the young people who were on there way to Lester's field to witness the departure and be a part of this historic moment. The thought had barely occurred when someone shouted "It's that carrot top; de one who organized the raid on our territory de~udder night. Let's get Red~~kill de little bastard." 

With that a couple of the gang advanced towards Ike, swinging sticks over their heads: all of which caused Starr to rear, swing around in the opposite direction. The sudden manoeuvre nearly unseated Ike but me managed to hang on: this unnerving feeling conjured up thoughts of that other ride he had not all that long ago, when he first rode Starr through town. Uncomfortable as the feeling was, it helped to get the adrenalin flowing, which was just what he needed at this moment, to get him safely to the field and deliver the part to the maintenance crew as he had promised.

As he rounded the corner on to LeMarchant heading west he thought of another way to get to the field , bypassing the Mundy Pond gang completely. There was another enterance to Lester's Farm from LeMarchant, just before, where it forked with Hamilton, there was a narrow path leading to the farm and the new airfield. Turning into the path Ike saw that this was going to be slow going, because the path was blocked by numerous small groups of people and dogs walking up the long lane way towards the flying field. The horse and rider were already attracting more attention than was needed, particularly from the dogs.  

They were barking and yapping and there was all ready one medium size one who was biting at Starr's tail, which was annoying the horse considerably because he started bucking and kicking out at the nuisance of a dog with his rear end. The dog was smart enough to just stay out of range of Starr's flying hooves, but after a number of close calls the dog's luck ran out when he got too close and Starr connected with both hooves sending the dog flying through the air for what appeared to be at least twenty feet. There was a few short seconds of silence then all hell broke loose. 

The dam dog started yelping with such intensity that other dogs were attracted from near and far, by the horrible racket and they they all began to race towards the site of the commotion. Fearing the moment when they would all converge; Ike decided to take to the open field for his escape and flight to deliver the pinion gear. He could see that there were just two fences and a stone wall between him and the waiting Vimy and that did not seem half as scary to him at that moment as the prospect of fighting off a pack of semi wild dogs. 

With a couple of slaps to Starr's flanks with the end of his reins they started off at an energetic hunter pace towards the first obstacle, with at least a dozen yelping excited dogs bringing up the rear. Approaching the first fence, Ike was full of confidence in Starr's natural jumping ability, he was more concerned about the dogs behind than he was for the fast approaching four foot high rail fence up ahead. Instinctively, at a couple of strides before the fence Ike went forward in a two point position, with his weight hovering over the withers and the reins held loosely in one hand, he used his free hand to grab handful of mane, just to steady himself, just in case his timing wasn't perfect. At a half stride before the fence Starr chose the perfect place for the launch; getting his two rear feet under him and his front tucked up neatly he smoothly arched bascule form over the fence, with a good four inches to spare. Ike was already looking and thinking confidently about the next fence, because the whole time during the jump he had a wonderful feeling of complete security, including the landing where had the presence of mind to swing his stirrups forward, so that he could brace himself for the landing.  

The next fence was not as enjoyable an experience for Ike: he was a little too late to assume the two point forward position, with the result that he was left a little on the takeoff and, because his stirrups were not completely vertical, the landing was not exactly elegant, as he crashed down hard on the saddle; giving Starr to respond with couple of kicking bucks to register his own disapproval.   The pack of yapping dogs were holding their own, in this race to the finish line. 

The sight of the horse and rider followed by a pack of dogs attracted the attention of the spectators, who suddenly got into the mood with their cheers of encouragement. Starr took the stone wall in perfect form, leaving behind the excited dogs on the other side of the barrier.  

All eyes were on Ike as he dismounted near the aircraft, which was surrounded by the ground crew and the two fliers, dressed in their bulky flying suits. "That was some entrance Ike." Exclaimed John, with a feeling of surprise and relief. "Did you bring the pinion gear?" 

"Yes! got it here in my pocket." said Ike as he gasped to catch breath. "It's right here in my hanky." As he produced the wrinkled object from his pants pocket."That's wonderful news because we were certainly counting on you, and we certainly were not setting off without a full compliment of magnetos. Max! How long will it take to install this? " said Jack as he took the pinion from Ike and handed it over to Max Muller. 

"I can have it installed and the mag timed in about an hour, if every thing goes well." "Smashing! That means that we will be able to be away by fourteen hundred hours."
Less than a hour later the Vimy slowly gathered speed as she headed into the wind at full throttles: lumbering across the bumpy field agonizingly slow at first because of the slight up hill grade and the weight of the maximum fuel load she was carrying, she soon began to look light on her wheels, then suddenly to the cheers of the crowd she broke ground and began to rise.

As she continued to climb and Ike turned to his railway pals and said, "Thank God they are finally on their way~~now we can get back to important things, like foot ball." 

They all enjoyed a healthy chuckle at Ike's humor and collectively breathed a sigh of relief as the giant bomber  passed high over Signal Hill and faded from view. 

To see a simulation of the Vimy's flight, click on the object below. 

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Vickers Vimy's Hop-Off Delayed - Broken Bungee in Undercarriage Given as Reason

Friday June 13 1919
Morning Headlines:-

Huge fire at Mundy Pond - lights the Night Sky - Thought to be the work of boys playing with matches - Vickers Vimy's Hop-Off Could be Delayed - Broken Rubber Band in Undercarriage Given as Reason

Ike wasn't exactly at the top of his game today, he had been dragging his ass all over town because he was completely beat, due to the long hard night he just spent battling the Mundy Pond Marauders.

After he had completed running his last batch of messages he returned to the office to get an update from Shirley on his new assignments.
"What have you got for me Shirley? asked Ike, as he wiped the sweat from his brow.
"Nothing! why don't you take a break?" asked Shirley, looking up, over the top of her reading glasses, from the pile of papers that she was sorting. "You don't look well today~~what have you been up to?"

"I had a long hard night looking for some railway equipment that I loaned to the bird-men up at Lester's field. It's a very long story but, the short version is; the stuff was stolen by the crowd up at Mundy Pond, and I spent half the night getting it back from them."

"Oh! Then you must have see the big fire, I was reading all about it earlier, in the Daily News. It said that a small island on Mundy Pond was completely burnt over, no loss of life but a tar paper shack, was completely destroyed.They are blaming the fire on  a bunch of local boys who were playing with matches."

"Is that what they say?" asked Ike, looking a bit like the cat that ate the canary. "I could add a few interesting details to that story, if anyone asked me."
"You must stop helping those bird-men Eric", said Shirley, reaching across her desk, with the folded news paper in her hand for Ike to read. "I have noticed a big change in your behavior ever since these bird-men came to town~~you used to be such a care free happy-go-lucky type~~even Mr. Reid has remarked about the changes in your personality."

"Thanks Shirley! I don't need to read about the fire, and I've had as much as I can stand of the bird-men's problems after this weekend, it's back to business as usual for me. If you don't need me for a few minutes, I am going across the street to pick up a small rabbit job~~if you know what I mean."

"Get out of here, you rascal" she said playfully, as she gave him a soft pat on the hand",  I'll see you after lunch."

The first person Ike meets as he passes through the dockyard gate was Toe. "Didn't expect to see you at work today~~after the big to-do last night" remarked Toe, who was not looking that good himself, moving in close to avoid being overheard, he whispered. "Did you stay around to fight the fire, cause I never layed eyes on ya after the fire started."
"Na! I discovered long ago that ya can't fight forest fires like that, once they get going all ya can do is stand back and let her go."

"Did the still go up with the old shack?"
"No!~~ Bobby and me saved it before the shack caught fire" replied Ike, with a certain amount of pride showing in his voice, which suddenly turned to one of concern, when he asked. "What happened to poor Mouse, did he have it out with Mauler Mercer?"

"It was the craziest thing ~~ Ike! ya wouldn't believe it~~they are the best of friends now. They were the last two to give up fighting the fire~~They got a couple of old stirrup pumps from the shack; filled with water from the pond; strapped them to their backs and tried to save the shack from burning~~we should keep this to ourself, I wouldn't want it to get around the railway that we where there when the fire started, if you know what I mean Ike"~~Where are ya heading for  now?"

Ike explained that he had one last favor to do for the bird-men, and then he was through, and ready to try out for the Guards football team.

"What's wrong with Holy Cross?" asked Toe, placing his big hand on Ike's left shoulder, in a patronizing gesture. "Ike even though your a proddy, I'm sure that Brudder Murphy would let you play for the Holy Cross~~we needs a good center e  forward like your self on our team"
"Thanks for the vote of confidence, Toe" replied Ike, as he maneuvered to get away from Toe's heavy hand. "I have to go pick up something at the machine shop that the bird-men urgently need~~see you later Toe."

After leaving Toe Ike proceeded to the dock yard machine shop to meet with Jim Brown, the best machinist on the dockyard pay role by far.
Ike asked Jim if he was able to replicate the magneto gear.

Jim Brown was Ike's super hero: in fact Jim was the hero of all the young boys who worked at the railway, he is an extremely hansom young man in his mid twenties, with jet black hair and an olive complexion, not really that tall but not short either (five foot ten inches would be a reasonable guess). He had a charismatic personality  and was fun to be around especially for the boys. Serving in the Royal Navy during the Great war, where he learned his trade as machinist and mechanic. At the dockyard he was considered by his co-workers, to be a genius with all things mechanical. Jim lived across the street form Ike on Barter's hill. Although he was recently married to a pretty young girl from his home town around the bay, Jim spent much of his leisure time working on, and giving the neighborhood kids rides on his prized Indian motor cycle. In many ways he behaved like a big kid himself.

Last winter he organized the boys into teams to gather (steal) components and materials for a giant bobsled, featuring seating for eight with running boards, an automobile steering wheel and a battery powered headlamp from a wrecked car.

Ike had survived several blood curdling trips down over Barters Hill with his buddies on that particular bobsled. One dark February night, after a nasty sleet storms last winter with fearless Jim at the Helm.

"Jim did you get a chance to machine that gear yet?" asked Ike.
"Of course!" Jim replied, as he flipped off the switch of the lathe, and wiping the grease from his hands with a clean rag. "I told you I would do my best, but after getting into the job it turned out to be not all that difficult."

Jim went on to explain, how he was able to case harden the surface of the teeth to the same temper as the original gear, in fact, he said, that the reproduction would be virtually impossible to distinguish from the original.
"I was expecting it to be picked up earlier~~it was waiting for you to come and get it since Wednesday."

"Gee! Sorry, about that Jim." said Ike, who was showing his embarrassment quite clearly by the crimson color of his face. "I would'a come come sooner for it but~~ ya would never guess how busy I am these days wit all the shit going down over the Mundy Pond raggedy arses, running off with the Dock's still and the bird-men's magnetos and the like, but me and the boys got em back again, safe and sound."

"Did you and the boys have anything to do wit the the big fire up at Mundy Pond?"
"Don't ask! Ya knows we did.~~Jim It's just like you taught us; nothing ever turns out right until ya takes things into yar own hands and helps it along." 

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Handley Page Bomber spotted in the air over Bell Island.

Tuesday June 10 1919
Morning Headlines:-

Second trial flight of Handley Page machine and was spotted in the air over Bell Island.

"READ ALL ABOUT IT!" - Read The EBook  

Mr. Reid was late coming into his office that morning, it was already ten thirty and Ike was hanging around Shirley's desk, for the third time since eight O'clock~~hoping to have a word with R.G. concerning the Admiral's decision to the request, to share his field with Alcock and Brown. Finally Ike's heart began pounding as he over heard a faint greeting coming from farther dow the hall, "good morning Mr. Reid" signifying that he had finally arrived.
"Good morning Mr. Reid." said Ike, with a quiver in his voice,
"Good morning Eric~~Shirley." replied R.G. with a couple of nods, directed in each of their directions.
Shirley responded in her usual cheerful voice saying,"Mr Reid, I laid out your correspondence on your desk for you~~their doesn't seem to anything too urgent, except~~I have to remind you of the afternoon tea party at government house tomorrow."
"Thank you Shirley, I forgot all about it."
"Your welcome sir! Oh!~~one other thing~~ young Eric here was wondering if he could have a word with you sometime today, about the Harbour Grace field."
"Oh yes! we could do that right now.....Come into my office Eric before I get busy with other things."

R.G. explained that he had discussed the matter with Admiral Kerr while he was a guest at the Reid home last week, and the outcome was just as he had earlier predicted. The Admiral would like to help his fellow fliers by offering the the use of his field for their departure point, but cannot because the small field would be overcrowded with the two large aircraft using the same space. "He views it a safety risk and he has to decline the request on the grounds that it would be a threat to public safety" explained R.G., looking a little uncomfortable as he did so.

"Tell me Eric~~you seem to be rather chummy with these new fliers, up at Lester's field, how are things going with their preparations?"
To which Ike answers by giving him a progress report and predicts that they will attempt a departure sometime on this coming weekend.
"That is very interesting~~are you sure of that?~~because it has only been a couple of weeks since the arrived in town. My son tells me that things are are not going well at the Harbour Grace field~~there seems to be a persistent overheating problem with one of the radiators, and that they are waiting for a replacement to arrive from Britain, but as you well know that may take some time for it to arrive."

"I have a feeling that it is probably not with the radiator but, rather with the hard water that they are using in them." Suggests Ike, in a timid voice.
R.G. looks, long and hard at Ike over the top of his reading glasses the asks, "How would you possibly know such a thing?"
To which Ike relates of where the the information came from; how he had heard it from Kevin Hawko, an employee at the Dockyard and also how, even the Nancy's chief mechanic had commented on how important engine cooling is for a successful long distance flight at the press conference he attended in Trapassey.  Ike went on to add that Kevin and all the men at the dockyard heating shop all know about the problem with the local well water, adding that Kevin invented a special apparatus for purifying the water and uses all the time for Mr. Reid's own Rolls Royce automobile, for that very reason.

Wednesday June 11 Started as any other day for Ike. Ever since he had arrived at the office, he was running messages all over town, delivering telegraph messages and picking up parcels for Mrs. Reid at the Royal Stores and Millie's Dress Shop using the the street railway for transportation. Returning to the office for his next assignment. Shirley greets him as he walks through the door.
"Oh good, your back~~Those packages that you have in your hand need to be  dropped off at Mr. R.G.'s home as quickly as possible. They are required for an afternoon reception at the Governor's residence, this afternoon at 2:00 that the Reids and your Admiral friend, will be attending."
"OK! I'm on my way." shouted Ike as he turned and ran out the door. Racing across the street he grabbed a west bound street car at the corner of Jobe street.

As the car rolled along silently toward the end of line at Brown's corner on the cross roads, Ike's thoughts were on what he had heard this morning about the troubles at Harbour Grace and of what he had said to R.G. Hoping to hell that he hadn't  committed himself to doing a service that he couldn't deliver on and,~~ he definitely didn't want to run into the the Admiral at Avalon House while he was delivering these packages.

Ike got off the street car at the cross roads and beat it up over Palk's hill, taking the left side of the fork to Topsail Road. As he was passing the cemetery he stopped for a few seconds to pick a couple of healthy looking snails from the fence to bring home to his two younger sisters who loved to race them with their friends.  Ike dropped them into a small paper bag and carefully placed into his leather delivery pouch before proceeding on his way.

After walking  another quarter of a mile or so he was approaching the Whale Bone Gates that marked the entrance to the Reid Estate. Passing under the whale's Jaw bones, he walked down the driveway which he had done on so many occasions before, but this time it was very different. The air was filled with the sweet aroma from the dozens of Lilac trees which lined both sides of the winding driveway. 

As he approached the mansion he was immediately impressed with the huge RR Silver Ghost that was parked on the circular drive in front of the main entrance. He has seen the car lots of times before but, the sight of it never ceased to draw his interest and imagination. Examining it's shiny silver engine bonnet and headlamps closely he looked at his own reflection and thought to him self how nice it would be to own a  fine British car complete with right hand steering and wire spoke wheels.

The flower garden, located in the infield enclosed by the circular turn area in front of the mansion was in full bloom with beds of multi colored lupines and fox gloves. Ike thought that the gardener must have been inspired by a baseball park when he designed the garden's layout. There were nine diamond shaped flower beds, all located in such a way as to represent players positions of an imaginary baseball squad. The five closest to the mansion representing the catcher, first, second, and third base, with the pitcher's mound represented by a large centrally placed bed. The beds at home plate and the three bases are connected by path ways of small beach stones. The background consists of four more beds representing the short stop and the fielder's positions.

A full length veranda with a central entrance and four steps down to the ground level accented the front of the house which it's self stood a full two stories high.
Ike took the pathway leading to the servant's entrance at the back of the mansion The back door stood open Ike called through the screen door. "Packages for Lady Reid." called Ike.
"just a moment." answered a voice from inside.
After a short wait a pretty young servant girl appeared in the doorway. 
Ike was a suddenly feeling a little short of words, being distracted as he was at this moment by the her beauty. She had a dark olive complexion, fine features, and long wavy black hair. Standing for a moment in silence, he finally spoke asking  "would you mind getting me a drink of water~~I am dying of thrust."
"Not at all come inside" she replied standing to one side to allow him to pass by adding,  "we can't leave this screen door open the house will be full of flies in no time'".

As he stood there Ike explained that the parcels were important and had to be given to Mrs. Reid right away because she was expecting them for a reception this afternoon.
"Yes I understand she was already looking for them. Can I get you something~~a cup of tea?"
"no thanks! I really must get back to the office."

After a few minutes of flirting and making small talk, Ike started down the walk deciding to go back by the lower entrance he turned left and walked past the front steps."Good morning Lad!" came a greeting in a upper class British accent, from someone close by.
Ike froze in his tracks and spun around to see the Admiral who was standing on the veranda at the railing. The Admiral presents a striking figure, decked out in his formal military uniform complete with cumber bun, military ribbons and gold braiding. Ike thought that he looked no less impressive than if it were Nelson himself standing on the bridge of his flagship Victory.

"I know you!" declared  the Admiral, then adding, "I couldn't help but recognise you~~with that head of flaming red curly hair. Are you not one of the railway lads that delivered the radiators for my Handley Page aircraft over in Harbour Grace?"
"Yes sir!" replied Ike, still in shock from the surprise encounter, gathering his composure he added, "it was~~me and my friend Dick Neugent who came to your airfield. Mr Reid sent us because he wanted them to arrive safely, without getting lost again."
"That was very decent of Mr. Reid, I must remember to thank him for that kindness. Tell me are you interested in this new sport of aviation?"
"Oh yes sir~~all the boys at the railway are following the Great Air Race: here in the St. John's~~We even went up to Trepassey to see the Americans, and I was there with my horse when the C-5 blew out to sea~~and, me and my friend Bobby Johnson saw the Martinsyde crash to earth. Someday I would like to be a flier."
"I am impressed~~You lads do get around," said the Admiral in a condescending tone of voice. "Aviation is a rich man's sport lad~~my advice to you and other young colonial lads would be to seek a career in the Royal Navy. The King's senior service always needs young men like yourselves to bolster the ranks and keep the Empire strong."

"I like ships too sir"answered Ike enthusastically, not wanting to seem ungrateful for the Admiral's advice. Me and my friend Bobby often wish we was older so we could work on the coastal boats."
"I was not much older than yourself, when I joined His Majesty's Navy as a midshipman, away back in 1879, and from the time of my first posting to the ninety gun wooden frigate called the Newcastle, to my command of the Adriatic squadron, in the Great War that has just ended, I have had nothing but a wonderful time. Always meeting extremely charming people, every where I went~~a minute ago I heard you say that you have a horse~~in the Royal Navy I learned horsemanship; and even learned to fly while I was commanding the Greek Hellenic Navy, because I thought it would be the sporting thing to do and an inspiration to the men that i commanded. During my naval career I have traveled far and wide and met scores of influential people~~I'll have you know that I was on very good terms with the Kaiser, and I am~~no matter what you may have heard to the contrary~~convinced that he was never a member of the Prussian War Party and secretly supported the British cause. Mark my words lad, the opportunities a Naval career affords a young man are boundless."

" Thank you sir, and congratulations on your very successful flight yesterday at Harbour Grace."
"Thank you very much~~my boy."
"Your welcome sir~~ My friend and I heard about it on our crystal radio set, it was wonderful achievement, to get that large airplane ready for flight in a matter of only two months. The team at Lester's field, will find it inspiring, because they are becoming some what discouraged, with all the problems they have been having lately."


With the mention of Lester's field, Admiral Kerr suddenly puts it all together and links Ike to what he had heard from R.G. about the request for permission to use his airfield and of course the scoop about the hard water and the need to distill water for the radiators.
"Tell me lad, I hear you have been very helpful to the members of the Vickers expedition~~ I want you to know that I am well aware that they are all very fine gentlemen, and that Vickers is a worthy competitor, who produce fine flying machines, but the fact remains they are our opponents and as a loyal railway employee it's your duty to support our team in this endeavor."
"Yes sir! I understand."
"We have  few minor problems of our own~~nothing serious, but there is this troublesome radiator that  consistently overheats, but my men have ordered a new one from England, when it arrives we will be  setting of to claim the prize."

Ike tells the Admiral that he thinks that there is nothing wrong with his radiator but the problem is with the water that he is using. He went on to say that the Dockyard has a special still for making large quantities of distilled water. the Admiral responded by saying he is convinced and that he would like to try it and wants the Dockyard to lend him the still or produce  50 gallons of distilled water and send it to Harbour Grace adding that he will speak with Mister Reid on the way to the Governor's tea party, to insure that he gets it quickly and reserve precedence over any other use of the equipment.
Eventually Ike seizes a break in the decidedly one way conversation to say that he must get to work.

"Yes I must let you go~~its time for me to to do a few last minute things before we leave for the reception at the government house."said the Admiral, as Ike hurried off via the driveway leading to the lower gate on Waterford Bridge Road.

When Ike arrives back at the office Shirley hands him a note.
"What's this!" cries Ike, looking as though he had just seen a ghost. "I can't believe it!"
"Well it's true~~Teddy Brown says that the still was stolen during the night and they only have enough distilled water to fill only one of the two radiators. I have no idea what it means~~but from the look on your face, I can see that it's not good."
"Are there any more messages to run?"asked Ike, hopefully,
"No, that's it, your finished for the day, now you can go look after Teddy's problem."

Before heading home Ike spreads the word around the  railway, that Mauler Mercer's Mundy Pond Marauders  have stolen the still that he had borrowed from the Dockyard Shops. Toe Burn comes up with the idea of alerting the Leader of the Carters Hill gang, Mouse Morrisey, that they need his help to raid the Munday Pond gangs hideout to recover the stolen railway property. Mouse agrees that his gang have been waiting for a chance to get back at the Marauders for swarming one of their members on his way home from school and breaking his nose in the process.

"Get yar boys together and come over to d' club house tonight, soas we can put ta'gether a plan." snarled Mouse as he squinting out from behind his wire rimed glasses with those extra thick lenses of his.  Mouse tells the boys that he has heard that the Marauders have a shack near the head of the pond and hints that he would like to catch Mercer there and take him on single handed  to settle the score.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Race Begins in Earnest

Sunday May 18 1919

Headlines:- NC-4 Reaches Horta Azors Safely NC-1 Crew Safe NC-3 Missing:- Spooked by the Nancy's success, Hawker Gets Away:-  Raymor expected to Follow, hoping to make up the time

Ike had passed by the field in Pleasant ville where the Martinside crew were setting up and readying their craft for their big flight;.on the long walk home, after the C-5 blew away, just a few days earlier. He had wanted to stop and check for progress then, but he was just too tired, and also he knew that his misses and Ed Voisey were worried about him, because he had been away far too long as it was.

Today was different; it was Sunday the boy's regular day off work, and he could spend the whole day at Pleasantville watching his favorites preparing their aircraft for flight. He and bobby had been up half the night, listening to the radio transmissions. The airwaves were abuzz, with transmissions from the Navy at Trepassey tracking their NC's expedition, which had gotten airborne yesterday with 3 aircraft. including the Lame Duck NC-4, which had finally overcome it's mechanical problems.

The Hawker team had been eagerly monitoring the Navy's progress, they were transmitting messages to their backers in England, signifying their intentions to commit tomorrow, it at all possible, and try upstaging the Navy's head start advantage. Similarly the boy's favorite team had informed their backers, in Brooklands; indicating that they didn't want to be found asleep at the starting gate, and that they would also be right on hawker's heels, should he decide to go.

As they cycled down King's Bridge road, two abreast; weaving their way through the throngs of pedestrians, all heading down to Pleasantville. Ike turned to Bobby saying. "This is going to be interesting, with Hawker already in the air, and we already know that, his chances of making it across safely have got to be slim at best.~~ We know that they still hadn't completely licked the overheating problem ~~ remember the last time I saw them doing their testing, and I can't help thinking about, what the Yanks were saying in that news conference ~~ about overheating being the big threat to engine reliability."
"Ya I remember it well" said Bobby. Slowing his bicycle and giving a blast of his air horn; to warn a group of teenagers to clear a path for the bicycles to pass through, one behind the other. Resuming speed again, Bobby shouted over his shoulder.. " I also remember that you and Neugent busted old man Kerr's rads."
"We did not!" replied Ike, from behind, and adding as he drew abreast once again. "It was those raggedy-arse longshoremen who busted em ~~ me and Dick are getting em fixed ~~ they'll be good as new. ~~ In fact; better than new, with larger tubes .~~ Kevin says that the little tubes they had would clog in no time"
"No need to get defensive, wit me.~~ Ike."
 "Changing the subject." Said Ike, as they rounded the corner at the foot of Kennas Hill, and headed down towards Pleasantville. "Looks good for Charlie and Fred, don't you think?" 
"Ya, as long as they stay away from that lower field and use the upper one, they have a good chance of getting airborne." said Bobby thoughtfully. "But, you know Ike, I have a bad feeling about them setting out today ~~ they don't have the wind for a clean  getaway ~~ it's coming from the wrong direction."

Preparations were well underway when the boys arrived at Pleasant Ville.. They resisted the temptation to join the crowd of curious spectators who were pressing closely around the ground crew, who were feverishly readying the big biplane for flight. The crowd was obviously hampering the operations and the crew were starting to show their frustration by physically pushing back the worst offenders.
"Half the town must be here to watch this spectacle; I bet Hawker and Grieve didn't have anything like this size of a crowd to contend with this morning, when they were gassing up the Sopwith."  
" Let's go over by that tree and just observe the going's on from there, Ike! good thing you thought of bringing Ed Voises field glasses wit ya; we can get a close up when we want to." 

Sitting under the only tree around the area, the two boys entered into a discussion about the developments in the race that had transpired over the last few days. The Americans were in the air, the Sopwith Atlantic with Hawker and Grieve had been spooked into a premature move by the Navy's NC's departure. Last night had been an exciting night for the boys; they had spent hours, listening to the radio transmissions on their crystal radio set. The transmissions were mainly from the Navy's 20 odd destroyers which were strung across the Atlantic and spaced a approximately 50 mile intervals, to monitor the progress of the NC's and to mount a Search and Rescue operation, if the need should arrive. They had heard the numerous attempts to get a confirmation transmission from NC-3. The attempts had gone on continually through the night without any success. No word was received from the lead craft that was carrying the mission commander John Towers.

"Do you think they are all right?" Ike asked, referring to the fate of NC-3 and her crew. 
" No! I think they are done for. I am thinking they were forced down into the sea, sometime during the night. Can you imagine trying to set one of those flimsy box kites down into 12 foot swells in the dark? said Bobby. using his hands to simulate a landing, as he had learned from watching the pilots.  " She would be smashed to smithereens by the first wave she struck.."
"Don't  you wish you were there yesterday when they were making their take-off run across the bay?" Asked Ike with a wishful tone in his voice. 
"your dam right I do! ~~ I can just close my eyes and picture to scene ~~ we could have been in buddies boat getting a close up view as they thundered across the water one after the other ~~ with a fine spray coming off the step and transitioning into a cloud of mist engulfing those three red white and blue colored tail fins.~~ Leaving the water one at a time, climbing and slowly disappearing into the dark eastern horizon ~~. What a sight it must have been."
"Gees Bobby!  You got some imagination ~~if I didn't know any better, I'd  swear you were there" said Ike, rather sarcastically, adding." we didn't go, all we heard about the start, was the message of farewell from the Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt. who ever that is."

"Fred and Charlie look pretty ridiculous in those leopard skin suits commented Ike in a disapproving tone to his voice.
"Know something interesting Ike? dos suits have electric wires for keeping them warm while they are up in the air. they are plugged into batteries"
"Das interesting ~~ Bobby! ~~: changing the subject again ~~ how the hell did Charlie and Fred pick this place for a starting point? ~~ taking off from dis place, is like trying to pull yourself out of a hole. All around this place is nothing but rising hills, especially going west .~~ Taking off to the east is out of the question cause when the wind blows from there it's never fit to fly ~~ Easterly wind around here means fog cascading over the hills, and bad weather all around. No body in his right mind would fly wit an East wind." Ranted Bobby.

"Where is the best starting place around." "The best place, I would say is somewhere up n the highroad; one of them fields off Le Marchant road." "Ya your right! it would be a snap to take-off up there. Ya almost takes off yourself up there when the wind is blowing and there she is almost always blowing  gale." "All they would have to do is point her down the hill and let her roll over the edge; ya'd be flying before you knew it, me thinks."

The conversation switched to the Sopwith team of Hawker and Grieves. Ike had made friends with some of the with a couple of the mechanics when he was delivering telegraph messages, which he had done on several occasions. They had even gone for a swimming session at the Twin Falls" swimming hole, which was not far from where they had set up operations at their  Mt. Pearl flying field. The friendship had grown to the point where they would confide in him enough to make candid comments concerning the state of the development their technical preparations for the  crossing attempt. The last time that Ike was at the Mt. Pearl field, one of the mechanics commented that he was concerned about the big flight because he was still struggling to find the solution to a persistent engine overheating problem. Ike had asked at that time if the engine in the Sopwith was anything like the engines in Kerr's Handley Page..Bob had told Ike that all the aircraft engaged in the bid for the Atlantic were using basically the same engine; even the Americans, the Liberty engines in the NC's was a V12 water cooled engine very similar to the Rolls Rice 12 cylinders that powered the Marinsyde and Sopwith airplanes. Ike had been amazed by this piece of information, because these aircraft were so radically different, except for the Sopwith and the Martinsyde of course, which bore many similarities to one another. Ike started to put it all together. The problem that Hawker was having with that radiator, Ike surmised that the problem rad must be the one that was not damaged in the mishap at the dock. he recalled what he had heard at the news conference at Trepassey and the words of the radiator man at Kevin's shop at the dockyards. and now he was suddenly concerned for the safety of the crew of the Atlantic, Hawker and Grieves.

" D'ya 
think they will make it." uttered Ike.
"Hawker and Grieves of course.~~ What do you think their chances are of making it across knowing what we do about the overheating problem?"
"I think they are going into the drink that's what I think.~~ hand me those glasses; I think that they are about to fire up the Martnsyde they are moving back the crowd from around the airplane." 

The aircrew were seated in their cockpits and the ground crew were lifting the tail from the makeshift saw horse type support upon which it had been supported.Taking turns the boys followed the progress through their pair of field glasses. There were four men handling the tail and one positioned on each of the lower wings. 
"They are swinging her around to go downwind to the end of the field." Said Bobby in an excited voice. 
"I don't hear the engine."
"They haven't started it yet. They have to push her back to the far end of the field so they will have the longest ground run. They don't want to needlessly waste precious fuel taxing around on the ground. They may just need that fuel at the other end of their journey."
"Hand me those glasses ~~ Does it look like they will be using the roadway for the take-off, or the lower strip by the water?"
I can't tell yet ~~ they are using the roadway for the push-back.".
"What's happening!"
"Hold on a minute.~~ I think they are starting to turn her around. There are still dozens of kids and others milling around and getting into the way"
"My turn!~~hand me those glasses; I'll tell you what's going on."
"Those ground crew guys must be awful strong; two of em just picked up the tail and swung her around into the wind, with Fred and Charlie sitting in the cockpit."
"Don't be silly you don't have to be strong to do that. Most of the weight is up front; balanced just aft of the main wheels; less than 5 percent is carried by the tail skid.~~ any way, she only weighs about 3000 pounds and 5 percent is 150 pounds at the tail. I could lift that much myself." 
"Your full of it Johnson! Where did you learn all that?"
"Charlie told me." replied Bobby, indignantly . " and I think, he should know. ~~ he told me all about their Martinsyde;.how she's a one off, built especially for this mission. Do you want to know what else he told me?" 
" yes! ~~  Go ahead; I know your just dying to tell me."
"Well! ~~ for your information.~~ she's an enlarged version of the two-seat two-bay wings version of the F.4 Buzzard..The  Buzzard has a span of 41 ft and a length of 26 ft  and is fitted with a 285 hp Rolls-Royce Falcon twelve-cylinder, water-cooled V-engine. Fuel tanks have a total capacity of 370 gal giving it a range of 2,500 miles at an average speed of 100 mph with an all-up weight was 3,250 lb."
"Very impressive Bobby! Now tell me how long will it take them to get across to Ireland?" 
"That's easy, if every goes according to plan, they will be in Ireland 19 hours after they take-off.from here." 
"That means if they get away by four, they will be there at 11:00 tomorrow morning. They are getting ready to start the engine."
" I can see them priming the cylinders by turning that big wooden propeller slowly, one blade at a time." 

As the boys watched Fred raised his left hand as a signal to the ground crew that he was turning the ignition switched and on hearing the word contact from the pilot the two man prop crew with a left hand holding a blade of the huge wooden propeller and the right holding his partners left; they combined their effort to pull the smartly engine through a partial revolution. The Rolls Falcon responded with a roar and bellowing clouds of black smoke issuing from the exhaust stacks on both sides of the engine cowling.

Within a few seconds the roar and smoke transitioned into a even throb and the black smoke disappeared and was replaced by a thin wisp of grey exhaust.Fred eased the throttle open as the ground crew restrained the Raymor from inching forward to slowly warm up the Falcon to it's normal running temperature. This seemed to go on for an eternity to the boys eagerly watching through the lone pair of field glasses. Then finally after a couple of short bursts of throttle; with one almighty roar the craft started it's takeoff ground roll across the bumpy terrain agonizingly slow at first the craft began to look a trifle light on her wheels as she approached flying speed.

"I don't like the look of this." Uttered Bobby who was now in possession of the glasses. "They are running out of runway. They are heading for the creek." 
"You don't need those glasses now. They still have a way to go before they reach the creek. Those glasses are giving you a distorted view."
"It's gonna be touch and go though; she is still accelerating and she is not ready to rise. Just look at her bouncing over that rough ground.

Come on Fred, yank her off, make her fly."  Then suddenly, without warning the undercarriage collapsed after striking a small ridge just as it looked like she was finally ready to take to the air. The force on the collapsing gear pitched the ship downward and she plummeted into the creek bank nose first. 
"Holy Moses! Lets  get over there." Cried the two boys in unison as they grabbed their bikes and cycled quickly towards the crumpled hulk which rested partly hidden from their view barely three hundred feet away. They were at the crash in a flash, dismounting and dropping their bikes as they skidded to a halt.
"My god! I think they are alive but I don't like the look at that nasty gash on Charlie's forehead." 

The two aviators sat motionless for a few moments in a daze then slowly began to climb down from their seats in the twisted wreckage as the first rescuers arrived at the site with a car to drive the two shaken airmen to hospital. 
"I feel sick for them; after all that effort, it's all over for them. They didn't even get off the ground." Stated Ike in a disheartened  voice. "
"I know! and just look at those raggedy arse kids making off with the wreckage.
There will be nothing to rebuild if we don't stop them." 
 "Beat it kids! Get out of here! Leave it alone! We're taking over this crash scene until the crew chief gets here to secure the site. The first one who lays a hand on this aircraft will get  busted arse from one of us."

The boys were able to hold the kids at bay until the ground crew with the aid of a couple of local constabulary were in position. 
" Bobby! I want a souvenir of the Raymor"
"Pick up a piece of that smashed propeller; no one is ever going to put that back together again."

Initial newspaper reports said that Morgan's injuries were not serious but, later reports confirm that he had lost his left eye and his sight in the right eye was threatened. Before leaving Newfoundland Morgan wrote a touching farewell to the friends he had made during his 4 month stay. He thanked the people of Newfoundland, for their support and encouragement. He also made an apology to the spectators; for what he referred to as hisl curt comments and unfriendly gestures he had made at the flying site. Sighting the stress of not knowing their fate and not being in control of their destiny during those frantic days leading up to their attempted departure. He also referred to what he thought at the time, was the death of his comrades Hawker and Grieves; seeing that they had been missing for four full days without any reports of their fate.

The Martinsyde was rebuilt, given a new name (Chimera), and fitted with a new engine to replace the one damaged in the crash. Raynham found a replacement navigator for the injured Morgan. After a long search, Lieutenant Conrad Biddlecombe accepted the challenge ,and on July 17,  a second take-off attempt was made; only to end as did the unlucky first.