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John Alcock

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July 1919. J. Alcock and A. Whitten Brown in a Humber.

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.

Alcock was born in 1892 at Seymour Grove, Old Trafford, 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 Charles Fletcher, an early Manchester aviator, and accompanied him to Brooklands, where he remained, 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 during World War I with the Royal Naval Air Service, though he was shot down during a bombing raid, and taken prisoner in Turkey. While stationed at Moudros, he conceived of and built a fighter aircraft out of the remains of other crashed aircraft. 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, judgement 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 Brown took off from St John's at 1:45 p.m. local time on 14 June 1919, and landed in Derrygimla bog near Clifden 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 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 knighted by King George V.

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 plane, 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. He is buried in grave space "Church of England, Section G, Grave Number 966", alongside 4 other individuals: John Alcock, Mary Alcock, Edward Samson Alcock and Elsie Moseley.

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