Most of you reading this article will already be familiar with the famous disappearances of the planes carrying celebrities like Amelia Earhart (1937) and Glenn Miller (1944), but not many of you would have heard about the doomed flight of Cecil Grace back in 1910.
This was arguably the earliest instance of a plane and it’s pilot disappearing into thin air, let’s take a closer look…
Cecil Grace The Pilot
Back in 1910, it’s worth remembering that air flight was still a relatively new thing – the Wright Brothers landmark flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, had only taken place seven years earlier.
In this short time frame air flight had come on leaps and bounds and there were constant ‘high profile’ competitions in place that offered successful pilots large pots of money. One of the most famous of these competitions was the Maurice de Forest’s Baron de Forest Prize of £2,000 – a large amount of money on offer for the first Englishman who could fly across the English Channel.
The pilot who managed to get the furthest into Europe would win the prize money.
Cecil Grace was well up for this!
On December 22, 1910, Grace managed to fly from Swingate Downs near Dover to Calais in France. This was a great result – but he needed to get further into Europe to claim the title, so he headed back to England to try again. This flight should have taken no more than about 40 minutes.
Later on, the North Goodwin Lightship, owned by the coastguard, spotted what is now thought to be Cecil’s plane near the coast of Kent, England.
But by 3.30 that afternoon, Cecil Grace’s plane had still not landed.
The English pilots who were friends with Cecil knew something was up – he should have landed by now. They thought he had either crashed into the channel or headed back to France due to weather conditions.
The full mystery continued until January 6, 1911, when Belgium locals to a coastal area came across a pair of aviator goggles and a man’s cap. A few weeks later the body of a man washed up on the exact same beach.
Unfortunately the body was in quite a state, so there could be no official identification – was this the body of Cecil Grace?
He was eventually officially declared dead, but doubts from his pilot friends lingered. Many of them did not believe that the body was his corpse.
The Doomed Flight of Cecil Grace
After his funeral, Grace was awarded the British Royal Aero Club’s Gold Medal – there is even a stained glass window in Eastchurch’s All Saints’s Church that commemorates his achievements in air flight.
But was the body found on the Belgium beach really that of Cecil Grace – it seems to have travelled a long way from where he was last spotted, near Kent?
Many experts believe that Grace and his plane may still be undiscovered.
What are your thoughts on the subject?
Please leave your opinions in the comment section below.