John William Alcock (1892 - 1919)

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Birthplace: Seymour Grove, Old Trafford, Stretford, Manchester, Lancashire, England
Death: Died in France
Cause of death: Killed in Action. Probate £9275 9s 9d
Occupation: Mechanic, aviation
Managed by: June Barnes
Last Updated:
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About John William Alcock

Sir John William Alcock KBE, DSC (5 November 1892 – 18 December 1919) was a Captain in the Royal Air Force who, together with navigator Lieutenant Arthur Whitten Brown, piloted the first non-stop transatlantic flight from St. John's, Newfoundland to Clifden, Connemara, Ireland.

Jack Alcock was born on 5 November 1892 at Seymour Grove, Old Trafford, Stretford, England. He attended St Thomas's primary school in Heaton Chapel, Stockport. He first became interested in flying at the age of seventeen. In 1910 he became an assistant to Works Manager Charles Fletcher, an early Manchester aviator 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.

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. 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.

Alcock became an experienced military pilot and instructor during World War I with the Royal Naval Air Service, although he was shot down during a bombing raid and taken prisoner in Turkey. While stationed at Moudros on Lemnos he conceived and built a fighter aircraft out of the remains of other crashed aircraft and this came to be known as the Alcock Scout. For his actions just before he was shot down, Alcock was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) Flt. Lieut. John William Alcock, R.N.A.S. (now prisoner). For the great skill, judgment and dash displayed by him off Moudros on the 30th September, 1917, in a successful attack on three enemy seaplanes, two of which were brought down in the sea.

After the war, Alcock wanted to continue his flying career 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 miles (3,186 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 prize offered by London's Daily Mail newspaper for the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic.

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

Three days after the presentation, he was flying to the first post-war aeronautical exhibition in Paris when he crashed his plane in fog near Rouen in Normandy, hitting a tree with one of the wings.

Alcock died before medical assistance arrived, aged only 26.

A memorial statue of him and Arthur Whitten Brown stands at Heathrow Airport to celebrate their flight.

There is also a monument at Manchester Airport, three monuments at their Newfoundland starting point and another at their landing point in Ireland.

Alcock was present at the Science Museum in London on 15 December 1919 when the recovered Vimy was presented to the nation. Three days later he was flying a new Vickers amphibious aeroplane, the Type 54 Viking, to the first postwar aeronautical exhibition in Paris when he crashed in fog at Cote d'Everard, near Rouen, Normandy stalling such that a wing hit a tree. He died before medical assistance arrived.

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

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Captain Sir John William Alcock's Timeline

1892
November 5, 1892
Manchester, Lancashire, England
1919
December 18, 1919
Age 27
France