Lifestyle – The achievement of Alcock and Brown, who completed the first ever trans-Atlantic flight 100 years ago in June is being marked by a new edition of the book, Yesterday We Were in America. THOMAS HACKETT learns how its author Brendan Lynch captured their adventure.
This June will mark the centenary of one of the most significant aviation feats in history – when two men first flew the Atlantic, to land in the soft soil of a Connemara bog.
And while the story of Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten-Brown is a familiar one, an updated 100th anniversary edition of Brendan Lynch’s riveting Yesterday We Were in America leaves no stone unturned.
The book tells the tale of the first men to conquer the Atlantic, flying their Vickers Vimy biplane from St. John’s in the Canadian island of Newfoundland to Clifden to claim their place in aviation history.
This first ever non-stop trans-Atlantic 1,880-mile, 16-hour flight came a mere 16 years after the Wright brothers had first taken to the air in 1903.
Remarkably – despite the fact that Alcock and Brown were essentially flying blind as a result of severe cloud cover – the aviators landed only 20 miles off their original target.
Brendan Lynch’s book traces the men’s lives, from their humble beginnings in Edwardian Britain to their war-time experiences in captivity, right through to their eventual fame.
The book’s title, Yesterday We Were in America, comes from the immortal words uttered by Captain Alcock to a group of incredulous Marconi station workers after he and Brown crashed landed in Derrygimla Bog near Clifden.
Although Alcock and Brown enjoyed radically different backgrounds, their paths to aviation glory shared many similarities.
Both grew up in the Manchester area of England and both showed a flair for mechanics from a young age.
Alcock was first exposed to aeronautics as a teenage apprentice in the workshop of Empress Engineering in Manchester, while the studious Whitten-Brown proved a proficient mechanic and driver by the time he was 17.
However, like most men throughout Europe, their lives and careers were transformed by the momentous events of the First World War.
When the war broke out, Alcock was training pilots for the Royal Naval Air Service – but as the demands for skilled pilots grew, the young Mancunian was pressed into service in the Dardanelles.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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