John Alcock (RAF officer)

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John Alcock
William Alcock.jpg
Born(1892-11-05)5 November 1892
Seymour Grove, Stretford, England,
Died18 December 1919(1919-12-18) (aged 27)
Cottévrard, near Rouen, Normandy, France
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Navy (Royal Naval Air Service), Royal Air Force
Years of service1914–1919
Awards Order of the British Empire
Distinguished Service Cross
Britannia Trophy (posthumous)

Captain Sir John William "Jack" Alcock KBE DSC (5 November 1892 18 December 1919) was a Royal Navy and later Royal Air Force officer who, with navigator Lieutenant Arthur Whitten Brown, piloted the first non-stop transatlantic flight from St. John's, Newfoundland to Clifden, Connemara, Ireland. He died in a flying accident in France in 1919.

Distinguished Service Cross (United Kingdom) British medal for act of gallantry

The Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) is a third level military decoration awarded to officers, and since 1993 ratings and other ranks, of the British Armed Forces, Royal Fleet Auxiliary and British Merchant Navy, and formerly also to officers of other Commonwealth countries.

Royal Navy Maritime warfare branch of the United Kingdoms military

The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by the English kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were fought in the Hundred Years' War against the Kingdom of France. The modern Royal Navy traces its origins to the early 16th century; the oldest of the UK's armed services, it is known as the Senior Service.

Royal Air Force Aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces

The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the United Kingdom's aerial warfare force. Formed towards the end of the First World War on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world. Following victory over the Central Powers in 1918 the RAF emerged as, at the time, the largest air force in the world. Since its formation, the RAF has taken a significant role in British military history. In particular, it played a large part in the Second World War where it fought its most famous campaign, the Battle of Britain.


Early life

John Alcock was born on 5 November 1892 at Basford House on Seymour Grove, Firswood, Manchester, England. He attended St Thomas's Primary School in Heaton Chapel, Stockport and Heyhouses School in Lytham St Annes. [1] [2] He first became interested in flying at the age of 17. His first job was at the Empress Motor Works in Manchester. In 1910 he became an assistant to Works Manager Charles Fletcher, an early Manchester aviator [3] and Norman Crossland, a motor engineer and founder of Manchester Aero Club. It was during this period that Alcock met the Frenchman Maurice Ducrocq who was both a demonstration pilot and UK sales representative for aero engines made by the Italian Spirito Mario Viale.

Firswood human settlement in United Kingdom

Firswood is an area of Stretford in the Metropolitan Borough of Trafford, Greater Manchester, England.

Manchester City and metropolitan borough in England

Manchester is a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England, with a population of 545,500 as of 2017. It lies within the United Kingdom's second-most populous built-up area, with a population of 3.2 million. It is fringed by the Cheshire Plain to the south, the Pennines to the north and east, and an arc of towns with which it forms a continuous conurbation. The local authority for the city is Manchester City Council.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

Ducrocq took Alcock on as a mechanic at the Brooklands aerodrome, Surrey, where he learned to fly at Ducrocq's flying school, gaining his pilot's licence there in November 1912. Alcock then joined the Sunbeam Motor Car Company as a racing pilot. By summer 1914 he was proficient enough to compete in a Hendon-Birmingham-Manchester and return air race, flying a Farman biplane. He landed at Trafford Park Aerodrome and flew back to Hendon the same day.

Brooklands race track

Brooklands was a 2.75-mile (4.43 km) motor racing circuit and aerodrome built near Weybridge in Surrey, England, United Kingdom. It opened in 1907 and was the world's first purpose-built motor racing circuit as well as one of Britain's first airfields, which also became Britain's largest aircraft manufacturing centre by 1918, producing military aircraft such as the Wellington and civil airliners like the Viscount and VC-10.

Sunbeam Motor Car Company automotive and engineering manufacturer

Sunbeam Motor Car Company Limited was a British motor car manufacturer with its works at Moorfields in Blakenhall, a suburb of Wolverhampton in the county of Staffordshire, now West Midlands. Its Sunbeam name had been registered by John Marston in 1888 for his bicycle manufacturing business. Sunbeam motor car manufacture began in 1901. The motor business was sold to a newly incorporated Sunbeam Motor Car Company Limited in 1905 to separate it from Marston's pedal bicycle business; Sunbeam motorcycles were not made until 1912.

Military career

At the outbreak of World War I, Alcock joined the Royal Naval Air Service as a warrant-officer instructor at the Royal Naval Flying School at Eastchurch in Kent. It was whilst at Eastchurch that Alcock received his commission as a flight sub-lieutenant in December 1915. In 1916 he was transferred to a squadron operating at Moudros, on the Greek island of Lemnos. While stationed at Moudros he conceived and built the Alcock Scout , a fighter aircraft built out of the remnants of unused and abandoned aircraft.

Royal Naval Air Service former air arm of the Royal Navy

The Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) was the air arm of the Royal Navy, under the direction of the Admiralty's Air Department, and existed formally from 1 July 1914 to 1 April 1918, when it was merged with the British Army's Royal Flying Corps to form the Royal Air Force, the world's first independent air force.

RAF Eastchurch Royal Air Force station on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, England

RAF Eastchurch was a Royal Air Force station near Eastchurch village, on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, England. The history of aviation at Eastchurch stretches back to the first decade of the 20th century when it was used as an airfield by members of the Royal Aero Club. The area saw the first flight by a British pilot in Britain.

Kent County of England

Kent is a county in South East England and one of the home counties. It borders Greater London to the north-west, Surrey to the west and East Sussex to the south-west. The county also shares borders with Essex along the estuary of the River Thames, and with the French department of Pas-de-Calais through the Channel Tunnel. The county town is Maidstone.

On 30 September 1917, whilst piloting a Sopwith Camel Alcock attacked three enemy aircraft, forcing two to crash into the sea. For this action he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. After returning to base he then piloted a Handley Page bomber on a raid to Constantinople. He was forced to turn back to base after an engine failed near Gallipoli. After flying on a single engine for more than 60 miles, that engine failed and the aircraft ditched in the sea, near Suvla Bay. Alcock and his crew of two were unable to attract nearby British destroyers, and when the plane finally began to sink they swam for an hour to reach the enemy-held shore. All three were taken prisoner next day by the Turkish forces. Alcock remained a prisoner of war until the Armistice and retired from the Royal Air Force in March 1919.

Sopwith Camel British First World War single-seat biplane fighter

The Sopwith Camel was a British First World War single-seat biplane fighter aircraft introduced on the Western Front in 1917. It was developed by the Sopwith Aviation Company as a successor to the earlier Sopwith Pup and became one of the best known fighter aircraft of the war.

Constantinople capital city of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire, the Latin and the Ottoman Empire

Constantinople was the capital city of the Roman Empire (330–395), of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, of the brief Crusader state known as the Latin Empire (1204–1261) and of the Ottoman Empire (1453–1923). In 1923 the capital of Turkey, the successor state of the Ottoman Empire, was moved to Ankara and the name Constantinople was officially changed to Istanbul. The city is located in what is now the European side and the core of modern Istanbul. The city is still referred to as Constantinople in Greek-speaking sources.

Gallipoli peninsula

The Gallipoli peninsula is located in the southern part of East Thrace, the European part of Turkey, with the Aegean Sea to the west and the Dardanelles strait to the east.

First non-stop flight across the Atlantic

Alcock (right) with Arthur Brown in 1919 Arthur Whitten Brown and John Alcock in 1919.jpg
Alcock (right) with Arthur Brown in 1919

After the war Alcock became a test pilot for Vickers and took up the challenge of attempting to be the first to fly directly across the Atlantic. Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown took off from St John's, Newfoundland, at 1:45 pm local time on 14 June 1919, and landed in Derrygimla bog near Clifden, Ireland, 16 hours and 12 minutes later on 15 June 1919 after flying 1,980 mi (3,190 km). The flight had been much affected by bad weather, making accurate navigation difficult; the intrepid duo also had to cope with turbulence, instrument failure, and ice on the wings. The flight was made in a modified Vickers Vimy bomber and won a £10,000 prize451,400 in 2019) offered by London's Daily Mail newspaper for the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic.

Arthur Whitten Brown British Army officer

Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Arthur Whitten Brown, was the navigator of the first successful non-stop transatlantic flight.

Vickers Vimy bomber aircraft

The Vickers Vimy was a British heavy bomber aircraft developed and manufactured by Vickers Limited. Developed during the latter stages of the First World War to equip the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), the Vimy was designed by Reginald Kirshaw "Rex" Pierson, Vickers' chief designer.

<i>Daily Mail</i> aviation prizes

Between 1906 and 1930, the Daily Mail newspaper, initially on the initiative of its proprietor, Alfred Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe, awarded numerous prizes for achievements in aviation. The newspaper would stipulate the amount of a prize for the first aviators to perform a particular task in aviation or to the winner of an aviation race or event. The most famous prizes were the £1,000 for the first cross-channel flight awarded to Louis Blériot in 1909 and the £10,000 given in 1919 to Alcock and Brown for the first non-stop transatlantic flight between North America and Ireland.

A few days after the flight both Alcock and Brown were honoured with a reception at Windsor Castle during which King George V invested them with their insignia as Knights Commanders of the Order of the British Empire. [4]

Alcock was present at the Science Museum in London on 15 December 1919 when the recovered Vimy aircraft was presented to the nation.


On 18 December 1919, Alcock was piloting a new Vickers amphibious aircraft, the Vickers Viking, to the first post-war aeronautical exhibition in Paris when he crashed in fog at Cottévrard, near Rouen in Normandy. Alcock suffered a fractured skull and never regained consciousness after being transferred to a hospital in Rouen.

His grave in Southern Cemetery, Manchester is marked by a large stone memorial. [5]

Awards and honours

"In recognition of distinguished services to Aviation, in connection with the successful flight from St. John's, Newfoundland, to Clifden, Co. Galway, on the 14th-15th June, 1919.

See also

Related Research Articles

The year 1919 in science and technology involved some significant events, listed below.

Transatlantic flight of Alcock and Brown First non-stop transatlantic flight

British aviators John Alcock and Arthur Brown made the first non-stop transatlantic flight in June 1919. They flew a modified First World War Vickers Vimy bomber from St. John's, Newfoundland, to Clifden, Connemara, County Galway, Ireland. The Secretary of State for Air, Winston Churchill, presented them with the Daily Mail prize for the first crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by aeroplane in "less than 72 consecutive hours". A small amount of mail was carried on the flight, making it the first transatlantic airmail flight. The two aviators were awarded the honour of Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE) a week later by King George V at Windsor Castle.

Curtiss NC-4 American flying boat

The NC-4 was a Curtiss NC flying boat that was the first aircraft to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, albeit not non-stop. The NC designation was derived from the collaborative efforts of the Navy (N) and Curtiss (C). The NC series flying boats were designed to meet wartime needs, and after the end of World War I they were sent overseas to validate the design concept.

A transatlantic flight is the flight of an aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe, Africa, or the Middle East to North America, Central America, or South America, or vice versa. Such flights have been made by fixed-wing aircraft, airships, balloons, and other aircraft.

Handley Page V/1500 British night-flying heavy bomber

The Handley Page V/1500 was a British night-flying heavy bomber built by Handley Page towards the end of the First World War. It was a large four-engined biplane, which resembled a larger version of Handley Page's earlier O/100 and O/400 bombers, intended to bomb Berlin from East Anglian airfields. The end of the war stopped the V/1500 being used against Germany, but a single aircraft was used to carry out the first flight from England to India, and later carried out a bombing raid on Kabul during the Third Anglo-Afghan War. It was colloquially known within the fledgling Royal Air Force as the "Super Handley". The V/1500 which was shipped to Canada to attempt a transatlantic flight was flown in the US, and in 1919 crash-landed in a field at Mount Jewett, Pennsylvania. Photos appeared in the 20 February 1969 issue of the Bradford Journal newspaper.

1919 England to Australia flight

In 1919 the Australian government offered a prize of £A10,000 for the first Australians in a British aircraft to fly from Great Britain to Australia. Of the six entries that started the race, the winners were pilot Ross Smith, his brother Keith Smith as co-pilot, and mechanics James Bennett and Wally Shiers, in a modified Vickers Vimy bomber.

Vickers Viking

The Vickers Viking was a British single-engine amphibious aircraft designed for military use shortly after World War I. Later versions of the aircraft were known as the Vickers Vulture and Vickers Vanellus.

Quintin Brand Royal Air Force air marshals

Air Vice Marshal Sir Christopher Joseph Quintin Brand was a South African officer of the Royal Air Force.

Ross Macpherson Smith Australian aviator

Sir Ross Macpherson Smith, was an Australian aviator. He and his brother, Sir Keith Macpherson Smith, were the first pilots to fly from England to Australia, in 1919.

Keith Macpherson Smith Australian aviator

Sir Keith Macpherson Smith KBE, was an Australian aviator, who, along with his brother, Sir Ross Macpherson Smith and two other men, became the first people to fly from England to Australia.

Felixstowe Fury flying boat

The Felixstowe F.4 Fury, also known as the Porte Super-Baby, was a large British, five-engined triplane flying-boat designed by John Cyril Porte at the Seaplane Experimental Station, Felixstowe, inspired by the Wanamaker Triplane/Curtiss Model T. At the time the Fury was the largest seaplane in the world, the largest British aircraft, and the first aircraft controlled successfully by servo-assisted means.

Southern Cemetery, Manchester municipal cemetery in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Greater Manchester, England

Southern Cemetery is a large municipal cemetery in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester, England, 3 miles (4.8 km) south of the city centre. It opened in 1879 and is owned and administered by Manchester City Council. It is the largest municipal cemetery in the United Kingdom and the second largest in Europe.

The timeline of St. John's history shows the significant events in the history of St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Sopwith Atlantic

The Sopwith Atlantic was an experimental British long-range aircraft of 1919. It was a single-engined biplane that was designed and built to be the first aeroplane to cross the Atlantic Ocean non-stop. It took off on an attempt to cross the Atlantic from Newfoundland on 18 May 1919, but ditched during the flight owing to an overheating engine.

Reginald Kirshaw "Rex" Pierson CBE was an English aircraft designer and chief designer at Vickers Limited later Vickers-Armstrongs Aircraft Ltd. He was responsible for the Vickers Vimy, a heavy bomber designed during World War 1 and the first aircraft to cross the Atlantic non-stop. He was the chief designer of the Vickers Wellington bomber of World War 2.

Flight Lieutenant Edward Rodolph Clement Scholefield 1893-1929 DCM AFC was an aviator and a motor racing driver. He was killed during a test flight of a Vickers Vanguard airliner in 1929.

Manchester is one of the principal cities of the United Kingdom, gaining city status in 1853, thus becoming the first new city in over 300 years since Bristol in 1542. Often regarded as the first industrialised city, Manchester was a city built by the Industrial Revolution and had little pre-medieval history to speak of. Manchester had a population of 10,000 in 1717, but by 1911 it had burgeoned to 2.3 million.

RAF Joyce Green

Joyce Green, at Long Reach, near Dartford was one of the first Royal Flying Corps (RFC) airfields. It was established in 1911 by Vickers Limited who used it as an airfield and testing ground. At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the RFC followed and established a base. Subject to frequent flooding and a reputation as being unsuitable and too dangerous for training, it was eventually replaced by a more suitable site at RAF Biggin Hill.


  1. St. Thomas's, Stockport Archived 5 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  2. "Blue Plaques". Lytham St Annes Civic Society. Archived from the original on 26 August 2014. Retrieved 10 August 2014.
  3. Scholefield p.212
  4. "Captain Jack Alcock (1892–1919)" (PDF). Museum of Science & Industry, Manchester, England. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 April 2008. Retrieved 8 April 2008.
  5. Photo of the memorial
  6. "No. 30437". The London Gazette (Supplement). 19 December 1917. p. 13318.
  7. "No. 31422". The London Gazette (Supplement). 27 June 1919. p. 8087.

Further reading