The Daily Mail Competition
On 17th June 1909 the Daily Mail ran a competition for the first British Pilot in a British aeroplane to fly a circular mile. The prize was £1,000, which mirrored the 50,000 francs offered by Henri Deutsch de la Meurth in France for the first circular kilometre. At the same time they announced another prize for the first flight across the channel and the renewal of the £10,000 prize for the first flight from London to Manchester or vice versa.
The rules which were published in Flight Magazine on 17th April were:-
1. That the motor, planes, propellers, and all other parts be entirely of British manufacture.
2. That the inventor and the aeroplanist be British subjects, and by British subjects naturally those the of the British Colonies are included.
3. That the flight shall take place within the British Isles, and be approved by officials of the recognised aviation organisation.
4. That the flight be either circular, or to some point and back, involving turning.
5. That no part of the machine shall touch the ground during flight.
The competetion was open until 6th April 1910, pursuably one year from it's first announcement.
Among those competing was the American Samuel F Cody, who was working for the Army at Aldershot. His machine had flown for over a mile on 14 May, but he hadn't become a naturalised Briton untill the summer of 1909. Unfortunately he crashed his 'British Army Aeroplane No.1' while taxiing at Doncaster racecourse.
Another man to attempt to win the prize was Mr J.E.Humphreys, of Wivenhoe in Essex.
He had previously conducted man carrying glider tests in Cornwall.
He then went on to produce an amphibious biplane, which was housed in a hangar on the Wivenhoe marshes.
The following is an extract from Flight Magazine 24th April 1909:-
The Humphrey Aeroplane
Last Week Mr. Jack Humphreymade a number of experiments with his new aeroplane on the waters of Colne at Wyvenhoe. So that he may get accustomed to the handling of the machine, Mr. Humphrey has so ballasted the machine that it will not rise from the water, but in the course of it's trials it attained a speed of about 10 knots. The high winds of the past few days have not been conductive to aeronautic experiments, but Mr. Humphrey intends to make a determined effort to win the Daily Mail one-mile prize.
However this design was not successful, and within three months he had built a new monoplane. In October 1909 the plane crashed while attempting to get off the ground. Before long Humphreys was financially crippled.
Other contenders were: J.V.Neale, G.A.Barnes, R.Macfie, E.M.Ling, F.K.McClean, Howard T.Wright, A.V.Roe, J.A.D. McCurdy & F.W.Baldwin.Moore-Brabazon starting on the first all British circular flight of one mile at Shellbeach. (Flight)
The prize was claimed by John Theodore Cuthbert Moore-Brabazon. He accomplished the feat on Saturday 30th October 1909 at Shellbeach (near Eastchurch), flying a close copy of the Wright Type A built by Short Bros. (At the time Shorts had just started building Wrights under licence.) Moore-Brabazon had ordered the machine especially to claim the Daily Mail prize, having flown Voisins in France & England in 1908.
Green's Engine Advert from 1910
However, the Short flew badly at first and JMB had difficulty finding a good British engine. He finally used a 50-60 hp Green engine. On the first attempt the water pump housing was found to broken after a cold spell of weather. However after it was repaired the engine ran without problems. Moore-Brabazon was able to take off with success and flying for one mile. He then turned and returned to the starting point in a total flying time of 2 minutes 36 1/2 seconds.
From the advert opposite it is apparent that Green were proud of their engine being used to claim the £1,000 prize from the Daily Mail.
MotorcyclingLeon's Vintage Motorcycle Page
Single Make Motorcycle Sites