On June 15th 1919, Alcock and Brown crash landed their Vickers Vimy aircraft in Derrygimla Bog just south of Clifden, Connemara, Co. Galway after a harrowing sixteen hour flight from St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Capt. John Alcock and Lieut. Arthur Whitten-Brown, had set off from St. John’s the day before, on Saturday June 14th in a two-seater bi-plane. The aircraft, a Vickers Vimy, had been designed to fly long range bombing missions, and a lots modifications were needed for the attempt of the transatlantic flight.
The start of the flight was relatively trouble-free, apart from a prolonged take-off. It was not long before they ran into problems. Fog and cloud reduced visibility causing difficulty for Brown, who needed clear skies to navigate reliably. Next, the radio failed, and the starboard exhaust and silencer disintegrated, which made conversation impossible.
Weather conditions were also getting worse. Battered by hail, both men feared that the aircraft’s fabric outer would be torn. As the rain turned to snow, the controls began to freeze up and Brown, on six occasions, had to leave the cockpit and manually clear ice from the critical parts of the aircraft.
The men decided to land in County Galway so they turned slightly south of their course and made landfall at the entrance of Clifden Bay, flying over the Marconi Wireless Station, where they tried unsuccessfully to attract attention. They then headed for Clifden where they circled around the town and were observed by a number of townspeople. Hoping to find a suitable landing site they returned to the Marconi Station and mistook a stretch of bog for a smooth green landing strip. Although the nose of the plane sunk into the bog neither Alcock nor Brown suffered serious injury and their place in aviation history was secured. A cheque for £10,000, being the prize offered by THE DAILY MAIL, also awaited them in London.
Alcock and Brown left Clifden on the afternoon of Sunday 15th June, heroes to so many people for what they had achieved. They signed many autographs for countless numbers of people on their triumphant journey from Derrygimla, through Clifden, Galway, Dublin and on to London. Later in London they received the DAILY MAIL and other prize money totalling £13,000. They were also knighted by King George.
The Alcock & Brown monument is perched atop the High Road in Errislannan, overlooking the Derrygimlagh Bog, where these two men made aviation history.