Monday, May 24, 2010

Alcock and Brown Arrive in Newfoudland with their Vicker's Bomber

Saturday May 24  1919
Morning Headlines:-

Fourth British Team Arrives at St. John's
Alcock and Brown Vickers Vimy Bomber Arrives
on SS Gledenvon 
"READ ALL ABOUT IT!" - Read The EBook

Ike and Bobby had decided not to join their friends who were off on a two day trouting holiday, instead they were there on that Saturday morning to see the Gledenvon off loading the crates containing the components of the Vickers Vimy the latest entry in the race. Bold as brass, Bobby after spotting the two who were undoubtedly the aircrew team, walked right up to the pair and said. "You must be Alcock and Brown, this is my friend Ike Crocker and I'm Bobby Johnson. We've been following very closely the progress of all the flying teams since they began setting up their operations here since early April and we can be of great value to you." "You are not very modest are you?" Replied Jack Alcock." By the way I'm Jack Alcock and this is my partner Teddy Brown." "Pleased to meet you" "I assume that you are from this town, tell me boys do you know the best place to use as a flying field?" "We sure do sir. We knows about the perfect place for flying from and it's not that far away." Eric added. "It's so good that on most days you wouldn't even need an engine to get airborne; just tie her to a tree and the wind would will take her up, just like a kite." "Sounds very interesting! Where is this magical place?" "It's up on the high road." Replied Ike. "Is that your aeroplane inside those wooden boxes" Asked Bobby.We were told that the only good places for airfields were at Pleasant Ville and Mount Pearl. We have to check those out first ,before we do anything else. Where can we get in touch with you if those places prove to be not suitable?" "We works for the Railway just call the station, number 196, and ask for Eric Crocker or Bob Johnson; every one there knows us two.

The boys were no sooner back at the station from their morning at the docks, they were sitting in the main waiting room discussing their meeting with the two new bird men, when Shirley took the call. "Eric, it's for you." She called from the top of the stairway (leading up to the offices on the second floor). "Someone named Teddy Brown~~He says that he just met you at the dock and he wants to talk to you ."

"OK I'm coming" Ike shouted, in a voice that did not hide the surprise and excitement that he was now feeling. He flew up the stairway, taking the steps three at a time. Shirley had barely time to turn to start back to her office, before Ike had caught up and  was standing beside her, as they walked down the hall.  Picking up the receiver Ike soon discovers that, Teddy and Jack have rented a car, a 1909 Hupmobile Touring Car...and they want to meet them first thing in the morning so that Ike and his friend Bobby, can direct the two fliers, to those prospective flying sites that they had mentioned at the dock earlier that morning. Ike was so excited at the prospect, he could hardly utter a reply. He could count on one hand the number of times he had been in an automobile, that was exciting enough but, the prospect of spending a whole day in the company of two aviators from England was just overwhelming. "Can we meet  early Sunday morning at the railway station? Lets say at eight o'clock."
"Oh yes sir!" said Ike trying hard not to let too much of the excitement to show in his voice. "Do we need to bring a lunch?"
"No that will not be necessary. The hotel made up a picnic basket for us and there will be plenty of food for all."

Sunday May 25
News reaches that HAWKER and GRIEVE were picked up 1100 miles east of St. John's by the Danish steamer Mary and landed at Thurso in Scotland

Ike and Bobby were chatting in the main waiting room, of the station building again, sitting in the corner, near the front plate glass window, on one of the wooden benches. They were waiting to be picked up by the two fliers at eight o'clock and it was now seven thirty. While they wait they began to discuss the miraculous news that Bobby had heard over his crystal radio set earlier this morning. "Did you listen to your radio last night Ike?"
"Na I didn't get a chance. The misses was entertaining her man friend and wouldn't let me string up my antenna. She says that it is too unsightly having all that wire strung through her house."
"That's too bad cause, if you had you would know that Hawker and Grieves are alive. They were safe all this time, while the rest of the world given em up for lost and had them dead and buried at sea, along comes a Danish ship called The Mary, and picks em right out of the sea."
"How come it took so long for the news to be broadcast. It must have been two weeks since they disappeared."
"It might seem like two weeks but, actually it as only been seven days, Ike. They set out on the eighteenth and today is the twenty fifth."
"OK, OK! but why did it take seven days  for the news to be released? I thought that you said that news travels much faster by radio."
"I did say that once and it's true, but could you believe, that in this day and age, they had the bad luck to be were picked up, by a ship that didn't even have  a radio on-board. The world had to wait until the ship reached Thurso in Scotland, before the news got to the press, that poor Harry and ....were alive and well. You wouldn't believe Ike, how the news was transmitted ashore."
"Come on Bobby, tell me?"
"By Pinafore! That's how, they used flags to signal to the light house operator that they were on-board and safe and sound. Can you believe that?"
"Yes Bobby, I can believe it. That's how the Block house tells the majority of ships when they can and when they can't enter the narrows into the harbor. Even today, that's the way it's done, with flags. Did the radio say what happened to them? Why did they have to go into the sea in the first place?"
"It was just just like I was saying, down in Pleasentville, the day that Fred and poor, Chummy Morgan crashed, their engine overheated because of a clogged radiator."
"His name is Charlie Morgan, how could you forget his name, just like that? Here they come, that's them .in that old 1909 Hupmobile that just drove up to the front door. Lets go!"
Ike and Bobby ran out the front door to greet the two fliers, "Good morning lads! are you ready for a long day of scouting out prospective airfields?"
"Yes Sir!" they both echoed in unison's.
"One of you sit up front and give me directions and the other can ride in the rear with Teddy."
"I'll sit up front Sir,if you don't mind I've been in a car more than Ike and I know my way around by road much better." Teddy stepped out from the passenger seat making room for Bobby and Ike and Teddy climbed into the rear seat.
"Well is everyone ready. Where to first?" asked Jack seated behind the wheel the dilapidated old car looking  little uncomfortable, because the steering wheel was on the wrong side for driving to the left.
"I thought we could go up to the Goulds first, Sir. I know a couple of fine pastures up there that would make a fine flying field. Turn left as you drive out onto Water Street and drive straight to the Cross Roads."
The old Hupmobile started off with a couple of jerks and shudders westward to Brown's Corner.
"Take the road on the left, that's Waterfordbridge Road." Declared Bobby.
The conversation turned briefly to the news of Hawker and Grieves briefly, but with the noise from the engine, the wind, and the rumble of wheels rolling over gravel and pot holes, conversation very difficult.
Ike was glad that it was near impossible to converse, he was content to sit back and enjoy the drive and take in the scenery. Passing the General Protestant Cemetery, and the grave diggers house with the saddle roof, situated across the road from Syme's bridge. These were all familiar landmarks to Ike he passed them almost every day on his delivery errands to the Ried home which was just coming up on the right. To most people it was known for it's unique wale bone gate that guarded the entrance, past which few had dare pass, because of their intimidating nature. Few kids ever risked a look through these gates without unconscious thoughts of Joana and his wale encounter. Ike knew well what went on in that other world of luxury and privilege which lay on the other side of those gates. At this moment he was thinking about
beautiful flying site that the Rieds built for Admiral Kerr in Harbour Grace, and what a coup it would be if he could somehow arrange for it to be made available to his new friends for their hop off point, but this was only wishful thinking, so he let the thought pass and went back to sight seeing as Caribou hill came into his view.
The journey continued up hill and down dale until they reached a fork in the road.
"Take the road on the right and cross the bridge." Instructed Bobby. "That's the road to the Southern Shore. It will take us up to the Goulds. I want to show you a couple of nice smooth meadows up by Third Pond that I think would be perfect for a flying field."
"How much further do we have to go Bobby?" Asked Jack, with a sigh, giving off the impression that he was thinking that they had already traveled too far for his liking.
"Not too much farther. I dear say, it's no more than 5 miles from here." Uttered Bobby in a low voice, which registered that Jack's inpatients hadn't gone on noticed.
Fifteen minutes later they arrived at the location that Bobby had in mind.
"This is it." said Bobby  enthusiastically. "Just look how flat and level the ground is."
"It is a fine location with the lake in the background~~it reminds me of a place in Ireland that I used to visit as a boy." Remarked Teddy, trying hard to sound positive.
"Do you want me to take you to the woman that owns this pasture. She lives just over there is that white shack. I'm sure she would rent it to you for, not too much money. "
"No I don't think that will be necessary. I am sure there will be plenty of time to discuss details like that when the time comes."Ike and Bobby sat on the running board of the old jalopy while Teddy and Jack paced off distances with their compass in hand. Turning to Bobby Ike asked. "Where are we going to take them next?"
"I have a fabulous place that I just know, that they will love."
"Are you going to tell me where?"
"It's going to be a surprise. You'll see for your self, when we get there."
After ten minutes or so of walking about and taking notes Teddy and Jack returned to the car.
"What do you think sir?" Bobby asked.
"That was interesting,thank you for bring us here. Both Jack and I think that, this site could be transformed into a flying field with minimum effort we could have a thousand foot east-west runway." "That would be adequate for a maximum gross weight takeoff in moderate westerly winds." added Jack. "Where next, Lads?"
" Well sir we have a choice, we can backtrack to Little Dale and hook up with the Topsail Road or, we can take the Ruby Line across country to Topsail." answered Bobby and you could tell if you listened carefully, which route he preferred.
"Which is the shortest?" asked Jack.
"Well that depends, the shortest distance is the Ruby Line, but the road is terrible and there is not a great deal to see on route, in fact there is practically nothing, except some pretty spectacular scenery all the way to Paradise."
"To where! That's very funny Bobby. I hope that I am not going to paradise this soon in my flying career."
"I am not trying to be funny Sir. I have never taken this route before, but I think that's where it leads to. Paradise on the Topsail Road."
"I see it on the map, it looks like it takes us close to Mt. Pearl and leads to Paradise, according to this map." 
"Which is the shortest?" asked Jack.
"Well that depends, the shortest distance is the Ruby Line, but the road is terrible and there is not a great deal to see on route, in fact there is practically nothing, except some pretty spectacular scenery all the way to Paradise."
"To where! That's very funny Bobby. I hope that I am not going to paradise this soon in my flying career."
"I am not trying to be funny Sir. I have never taken this route before, but I think that's where it leads to. Paradise on the Topsail Road."
"I see it on the map, it looks like it takes us close to Mt. Pearl and leads to Paradise, according to this map."
The road was long and bumpy: It took the better part of an hour, enduring horribly dusty conditions, with a feeling of mud in their throats and hair and clothing as white as a miller's after a very busy day, they arrived at Bobby's choice location,
a pasture that was sitting on top of the Topsail Bluff.
The car puled into an open area surrounded by a line of stunted spruce, fir and pine trees.
"Why are there no houses around here?" asked Teddy, as he placed a hand over his eyes to shade them from the sun that had just come out from behind the clouds, into a large patch of blue sky.
 "This is a communal pasture." responded Bobby as he peered around to take in the scene. "This is  where the local people turn out their livestock in the summer months. The reason that there are so many horses and pones is, they are not need at this time of the year ,the gardens are all tilled and there is no wood to haul, people gather wood in the winter time, when there is plenty of snow, for hauling."
"Why are those animals eating the trees instead of the lush grass." inquired Jack, with a puzzled look on his face.
"It's because they are tired of just eating grass, at this time of the year the trees have their new growth and the animals can't resist the tender tips of the fir trees, because of that the horses in particular have
 a gamy smell to them, like the trees." explained Bobby, as he started walking towards the trees at the western edge of the field. Jack and Teddy resumed their pacing and note taking, while Ike ran to catch up with Bobby who was now at the edge of the trees.
"Where are we going? demanded Ike.
"follow me! I want to show you something." Ike followed a narrow path through the line of trees. They hadn't gone more than twenty feet when Bobby stood to one side to allow Ike to pass. Stepping out of the trees onto a fringe of grass, barley ten feet wide, Ike froze in his tracks. He was standing at the edge of a cliff with the blue waters of Conception Bay
five hundred feet below.
"Blessed God! Why didn't you warn me? You know very well that I can't stand heights."
"I wanted it to be a surprise, and from the look on your face, it was a big one."
" I,m starving, it must be at least one o'clock and we haven't had a bite to eat since seven his morning. Why don't you call the others over and show them this spot. Tell them to bring the lunch basket, cause this is a perfect place to have a lunch."
Bobby turned and disappeared into the woods to find the two fliers while Ike, lay in the grass and gazed off across the bay towards the opposite shore, which appeared as a faint grey band on the horizon. Gazing towards a point where he imagined, Harbour Grace was located, he mused about what was transpiring there at this moment, at that perfect airfield. Was the Admiral away in St. John's attending some high society, social function, or addressing the local Chamber of Commerce on his exploits, in far away countries surrounded by famous powerful people, was he telling his audience about what a wonderful person the Kaiser really is, how he is actually pro British and the like, all the while, his expedition's support team, as he liked to refer to them, idle away their time without direction or focus. He couldn't help but think, what a terrible waste of railway time and effort it was to build such a magnificent airfield and turn it over for, the exclusive use of the Handley Page Team. He was have way through his mental anti establishment, rant when he was interrupted by rest of the survey party.
"What a sight! How did you find this place?" exclaimed Teddy.
"It's a smashing location for a picnic, if you ask me." declared John, as he attempted to sweep the dust from the picnic basket's covering, with his hanky. "Now I know why the staff at the Cochran wrapped our lunch so well, they knew about the dusty roads we'd be traveling on, I'd bet."
"What do you Lads want to drink?"
"What do you have?"
"We have two kinds of beer, Ginger beer and Black Dog."
"We calls it all beer Sir, ginger beer is a temperance drink and my misses says that it's OK for me to drink but, never coke, cause that's the work of the devil, that stuff is."
"What do we have here, baloney and egg salad sandwiches."
After a little while Jack asked. "Is that Harbour Grace, across the bay? Has any of you lads to the airfield?"
"I have Sir, me and my friend Dick Nugent had to deliver deliver the radiators to Admiral Kerr in person a couple of weeks ago."
"That's interesting, you are the first one that I have met since arriving, who actually said that they visited the field. Everyone says that it is an excellent site but no one has seen it."
"I saw it Sir, and it is
smooth and flat
. My boss Mr. RG Ried built it for him, his son is in the Royal Airforce and he is a friend of Admiral Kerr."
"We have to get permission to use that field for our hop off point Teddy~~ What do you think?"
"I think you are right but~~old man Kerr is going to be a hard nut to crack."
With that Bobby piped up. "Don't you like this place?"
"Yes we do, it's a splindid place for a picnic, and if we had lots of time we could smooth out the bumps and raze few trees, install an arrest line because, we sure as hell wouldn't want to topple of the edge of this cliff after we tried to abort for some reason, but yes you are right, it would be nice to be five hundred AGL, at the point of takeoff."
"You have showed us a few good sites but I'm afraid they are all, just too far from town. Cane you show us something that is closer to the Cochran?"
"I can think of one Sir." said Ike, who up o this point, had little to recommend, in the way of prospective sites. "I know of another perfect place that is only a stone's throw from the Cochran, with a car, you could make the trip in ten minutes, or less."
"OK let's pack up and go, it's already two o'clock. Since this is your sugestion Ike, you can ride up front, with me, and Teddy is going to show you how to crank an engine without breaking your thumb."
"You always hold the crank with your thumb pointing ninety degrees to the direction i which your fingers are pointing, the thumb must point in a line parallel to the crank, never over the top; that way if the engine kicks back the crank will fly out of your grasp without catching your thumb. That's it now when Jack gives you the signal, just pull the crank in the clockwise direction."
"Switch on! Contact!" On that command, Ike gave the crank an almighty pull and the old car sputtered into life.
"Good Ike! that's the way it's done, just remember to, never wrap your thumb over the top. Hop in after me and we will be on our way."
They made their way back to town on the Topsail Highway and a half hour later they were within the city limits.
"Turn left here." Ike not being familiar with automobiles didn't give much notice to Jack who was behind the wheel slammed on the rear wheel brakes, causing the old Hupmobile to do a sliding 90 degree turn onto Bennett avenue heading north.
"I can't turn this old bus on a shilling every time~~Ike! You'll just have to give more of a warning when you want me to turn."
"OK! Turn left now."
"But there is no street on the left."
"There will be in a second, when we get there, a path on the left leading up to Lester's Pastures." responded Ike, who was stating to become a little confused himself.
Drawing up to a gate at the end of the path, Jack stopped the car and everyone piled out. Teddy and Jack went off into the pasture, remarking as they walked away, how the site showed promise, being reasonably flat and it was certainly, close enough to the Cochran.
"I don't think it is any where as good as those other places that we showed them~~do you Ike?"
"May be not as good, but you heard them~~it's all about being close to your buddies and being tuned into what's going on with the competition and the weather, of course~~das why they want to be close to the Cochran~~same as you and I would love wa's going on at The Holy Cross, football practices, so as we can beat um at their game."
After ten minutes: of pacing around with their compass and taking down notes, standing with their backs to the boys, they took turns doing their imaginary takeoffs with their hands, other times
on their hands and knees, with their eye at almost ground level, they studied the lay of the land. then they returned to the car, where the boys ere standing.
"Ike, who is the owner of this land?" asked Jack, as he turned to have another look at the pasture.
"It belongs to Charlie Lester, Sir. He the same one who does most of the trucking in this town and delivers the coal."
"It is too rough, the westerly direction is up a slight grade and a couple of fences would have to be removed, to give adequate run way length, but with  lot of work, we think that, it could be made to work." commented Jack with only a hint of optimism showing. "You've been to Harbour Grace to see Kerr's field~~ how would you say it compared to what you see here."
"No comparison, Sir!  Kerr's airport is down by the beach, it is flat as a table, there's not a stone to be seen, and the runway is twice as long as what I see here."

"OK, I've decided that we must get permission from Kerr to use his field.  I will ask the Sopwith people if we can set up at Mount Pearl now that Hawker has gone.  Then it would be an easy flight to Harbour Grace to prepare for the final hop-off."

"Sir, I can take you down to Charlie Lester's place and you can arrange to have your supplies moved to Mount Pearl.  Charlie just lives down on Hamilton Avenue; we passed his place on the way to the station.  You could also ask him if he would be interested in leasing his field in case Mount Pearl is unavailable."

"Teddy and I will have to decide by Monday where to transfer our equipment.  Let's go see Charlie"   They all pile into the car and stop at Charlie's house at 34 Hamilton.  When they meet Charlie, he said he could move their equipment to where ever they wanted, since he had already moved Hawker to Mount Pearl and the Raymor team down to Pleasantville.  When asked whether he would be interested in leasing a field, Charlie said, "I'm sure we could make arrangements for a fee that is."  With that they shook hands and dropped the boys off at the station.  Before parting, Jack turned to Ike and asked him if he would have a word with his boss and ask if he could help persuade Kerr to share his airstrip with them.  They have to find a way to get permission to use the Harbour Grace field as it is the only suitable place for a hop-off with a heavily laden bomber.  Ike said he wasn't promising anything but would have a word with his boss first thing in the morning.

"Jack, we can have a word with Freddy Rathenham, and the Sopwith people tonight at the Cochran, and ask if we could use their sites at Pleasantville for our setup.  Then we would be in a position to select the best option and give Charlie Lester a destination for our equipment~~whether we go to Mount Pearl or to Pleasentville." added Teddy.

To be continued
Read all the chapters of the Great Air Race Now

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