Author Topic: Short S.27 crash off Ramsgate, 22 December 1910  (Read 204 times)

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Offline pomme homme

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Short S.27 crash off Ramsgate, 22 December 1910
« on: June 23, 2020, 16:41:13 pm »
As Noel has accurately pointed out, the first fatal aeroplane crash in the south-east counties was that of C.S.Rolls on 12 July 1910 at Bournemouth (then in Hampshire). I have yet to identify a fatal crash in Sussex earlier than that of R.N.Wight on 29 June 1913 at Shoreham. The earliest in Surrey? I don't know. But in Kent - or, to be more accurate, off the Kentish coast - it would appear that the earliest fatal crash was that of C.S.Grace on 22 December 1910 off Ramsgate.

Maurice Arnold de Forest (Baron de Forest) was a politician, racing car driver and pilot. Having in 1909 offered a prize to the first Englishman to fly the Channel (won by T.O.M.Sopwith), in 1910 he offered a prize of £4000 for the longest flight from the UK into continental Europe by an Englishman. One of the competitors for that prize was Cecil Stanley Grace, an American by birth but British by naturalisation.

Just to show how early 1910 was in the annals of powered heavier-than-air flight, Grace was only the fourth person to be awarded a RAeC Aviator's Certificate. This he received on 12 April 1910, less than a month after the first was awarded to J.T.Moore-Brabazon.

The first pilot to try for the de Forest prize was T.O.M.Sopwith, who flew 170 miles to Belgium on 17 December 1910. Claude Grahame-White was to have been the next, but he crashed his aeroplane before he could embark upon the prize flight. Thus the next attempt was that of C.S.Grace on 22 December 1910. That flight started in the morning from Swingate Downs, near Dover. Flying a Short S.27 biplane (which was 'state of the art' at the time), he reached Calais but a strong head wind forced him to put down. There he lunched, after which he decided to return to Dover and make another attempt on the prize when weather conditions were more favourable.

He took off from Calais at 2:30 pm. He was expected to arrive at Dover within about forty minutes. By 3:30 pm he had not arrived. A report was received that at about 3:00 pm an aeroplane had been seen, by the Ramsgate coastguard (an American documentary says that the report came from the master of 'the Goodwin Sands light vessel' - I've not yet ascertained whether, then, there were more that just the East Goodwin lightship in operation), about six miles out to sea and heading north near the Goodwin Sands (if it was Grace, he should have been heading between south-west and north-west). No reports having been received of Grace having made land on either side of the Channel, boats were launched from English ports to search for him, it being assumed that he had ditched at sea, but neither he nor his machine were found.

17 days later what were believed to be some of Grace's personal possessions (his cap and goggles) were found at sea near Mariakerke, west of Ostend (the American documentary says that they were washed up on the beach there). In that same region it is said that aircraft wreckage subsequently was found. In March 1911 a body was washed up in Ostend Harbour (the American documentary says that it was washed up on the beach). Whilst it was believed to be that of Grace (the American documentary says that it could have been that of a Belgian fisherman, who was lost overboard in the same area at about the same time), after nearly three months in the sea it was too decomposed to be identified with certainty. That same month a declaration of the presumption of Grace's death was made.

It is assumed that in a sea mist, Grace had lost his bearings (the American documentary says that his aircraft was not equipped with a compass) and rather than following a north-westerly course (viz. the Ramsgate coastguard report), he had veered further north and, instead of sighting land, he had headed out into the North Sea where, eventually, he ran out of fuel, put down in the water and drowned in the absence of being found. That his possesions, allegedly his aircraft wreckage and putatively his body were found north-east of his departure point lends support to this theory.

Online alkhamhills

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Re: Short S.27 crash off Ramsgate, 22 December 1910
« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2020, 19:59:04 pm »
Cecil Stanley Grace
Born 31.12.183, Chile. A Naturalisation Cert& Declaration made in 1910
Parents John William & Mary Josephine.

Probate. Of 39 Queens Gate, Kensington. Died on or since 22.12.1910 at a place unknown. Probate to Percy Russell Grace, Carlos Albert Grace, & Cleveland Raphael Grace, Gentlemen. Effects £5398.

Offline Craggs

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Re: Short S.27 crash off Ramsgate, 22 December 1910
« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2020, 07:53:46 am »
....... in 1910 he offered a prize of £4000 for the longest flight from the UK into continental Europe by an Englishman. One of the competitors for that prize was Cecil Stanley Grace, an American by birth but British by naturalisation.

This newspaper article gives a bit more on the background and build up to the £4,000 competition and some of the difficulties.......

Field - Saturday 03 December 1910


LESS THAN A MONTH REMAINS for the de Forest competition, in which £4OOO is offered for the best flight from England on an all-British machine. Of the forty airmen who have entered the following are those who are likely make the attempt, Lieut. Watkins, Mr Loraine, Mr Sopwith, Mr Cody, Mr Colmone, Mr McClean, Mr Cecil Grace, and Mr Graham-White.  The trouble at present is to get the machines and their motors in good flying trim, for it cannot be gainsaid that the elimination of foreign motors from this contest has the effect of multiplying mechanical difficulties. At the same time, two English motors have been doing well enough lately to justify the hope that this competition will result in a fine cross-sea and cross-country performance. One of the competitors is Mr Tom Sopwlth, who has added to his reputation of being an uncommonly daring motorist that of being one of the most fearless aviators. From the first he has aspired to brilliant turning movements in the air, and accomplished them. Within a month of getting his pilot's certificate he set up a new British record by his flight last Saturday of 3hrs. 12min., and this, too, on a machine of a different type to that on which he learned. He will fly the Howard Wright biplane driven by the E. N. V. engine. The same combination will be used by Lieut. Watkins, whose machine is Captain Maitland's, and is the one upon which that aviator had his unfortunate accident. An interesting experiment is being tried with this machine , which will carry a new wireless telegraphic apparatus. This is a new development of the Marconi apparatus, and by it an exceptionally small wave-length is used which would baffle any attempt to "tap" the messages without a specially designed receiver. The Marconi Company expect very great developments in wireless work in connection with aerial navigation, and are carrying on many experiments. Mr Grahame-White will use a British-made Farman biplane driven by an E. N. V. engine; Mr Cody will fly his own biplane driven by the Green motor with which he made his recent flight of 2½ hours ; Mr Colmore will drive a Short biplane, as also will Mr McClean and Mr Grace. It looks as if the competition will be a battle royal between the E. N. V. and Green motors, and the Short and Howard Wright biplanes.