Why 100 years later does Britain not do anything to remember these magnificent men? ROBERT HARDMAN asks

Sleepless, lost and enveloped in a glacial fog, the two British pilots could only know one thing for sure: they had lost control. They were almost a thousand miles from the dry and had not seen a single ship since the start eight hours earlier.

Finally the cloud broke up and Captain John Alcock could see that he was almost 100 meters below the sea.

With seconds left, he managed to get his movable biplane off the edge again. Alcock and his navigator, Arthur Whitten Brown, had once again cheated death.

John Alcock and his navigator, Arthur Whitten Brown, had cheated death once more after they had forced themselves to the sea, barely

John Alcock and his navigator, Arthur Whitten Brown, had cheated death once more after they had forced themselves to the sea, barely

Winston Churchill (left) is depicted with Captain John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown as he hands over their £ 10,000 check

Winston Churchill (left) is depicted with Captain John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown as he hands over their £ 10,000 check

Winston Churchill (left) is depicted with Captain John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown as he hands over their £ 10,000 check

The Great War had just stopped, just to be followed by an influenza epidemic. Britain was desperate for something to lift the vote.

It was to come on the morning of June 15, 1919, when the word appeared from the middle of an Irish swamp that these men had done the unthinkable. They had crossed the Atlantic in an airplane. And they had done it non-stop – in 16 hours.

No one had ever flown so far. The New York Times had previously argued that the attempt should be banned because it was equivalent to suicide.

Crowds flocked to see the homecoming heroes. Within days, they were summoned to Windsor for the knighthood of King George V and received the Congressional Medal of Honor from the American president.

Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten Brown see eating a meal in Newfoundland a few minutes before the start of their first non-stop flight from the Atlantic Ocean

Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten Brown see eating a meal in Newfoundland a few minutes before the start of their first non-stop flight from the Atlantic Ocean

Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten Brown see eating a meal in Newfoundland a few minutes before the start of their first non-stop flight from the Atlantic Ocean

The Science Museum, which owns the original record-breaking Vickers Vimy aircraft, does nothing

The Science Museum, which owns the original record-breaking Vickers Vimy aircraft, does nothing

The Science Museum, which owns the original record-breaking Vickers Vimy aircraft, does nothing

The father of the flight, Orville Wright, paid them the ultimate compliment. & # 39; What? & # 39; He exclaimed when he heard the news. & # 39; Only 16 hours? Are you sure? & # 39;

Alcock and Brown were also the first people in history to experience a condition that has affected humanity since then: jet lag (although it would be decades before Frank Whittle invented the jet engine).

No one would repeat his performance – despite galloping progress in technology – for another eight years. When the American aviator Charles Lindbergh finally did so in 1927, he stated: & # 39; Alcock and Brown showed me the way. & # 39;

The duo was created for life, thanks to the prize of £ 10,000 – £ 1 million in today's money – from Lord Northcliffe, the aviation-loving owner of the Daily Mail.

Tragedy would happen to both men too early. Yet nothing can obscure their place in the pantheon of great British pioneers. They had bridged the old and the new world.

They had crossed the Atlantic in an airplane. And they had done it non-stop - in 16 hours

They had crossed the Atlantic in an airplane. And they had done it non-stop - in 16 hours

They had crossed the Atlantic in an airplane. And they had done it non-stop – in 16 hours

So how does Britain respect this great monument? Amazingly (some may say predictably), next month's centenary will almost go unnoticed.

The 50th anniversary of their flight was marked with a set of Royal Mail stamps and a replica air race.

Even the 60th guaranteed a record-breaking transatlantic dashboard by the RAF, while the American pilot Steve Fossett flew a replica of the Alcock and Brown biplane in 2005 on the same course.

However, the 100th passes without national recognition. The Science Museum, which owns the original record-breaking Vickers Vimy aircraft, does nothing.

Local celebrations are planned in Crayford, Kent, where the Vimy was built, and there is a talk at Surrey & # 39; s Brooklands Museum. In Manchester, the hometown of both men, there is a modest library exhibition. And that is more or less it.

Photo with the arrival of John Alcock and Sir Arthur Whitten Brown in Ireland

Photo with the arrival of John Alcock and Sir Arthur Whitten Brown in Ireland

Photo with the arrival of John Alcock and Sir Arthur Whitten Brown in Ireland

& # 39; It's so disappointing. We tried, but we can't interest people & # 39 ;, says Alcock & # 39; s cousin, group leader Tony Alcock, a former RAF pilot.

However, Ireland is embarrassing Britain. A week long festival is planned in Clifden, the beautiful city of Connemara near the swampy landing site.

The Irish produce stamps and commemorative coins. Waterford Crystal has put into use a £ 22,000 glass replica of the plane and there is a VIP gala dinner at Dublin Castle.

Ireland was in the midst of a bloody struggle for independence in 1919, but a century later, these former RAF officers remain national heroes.

In Britain, the momentum has been hijacked by what British Airways are & # 39; centenary & # 39; , a bold claim for a company born in 1974 after the merger of BOAC (founded: 1939) and BEA (founded: 1946).

So why not a royal recognition of a real milestone that excited George V? The palace can of course do little if our swollen government does nothing

So why not a royal recognition of a real milestone that excited George V? The palace can of course do little if our swollen government does nothing

So why not a royal recognition of a real milestone that excited George V? The palace can of course do little if our swollen government does nothing

Already in 1919 a small outfit called Aircraft Transport & Travel started a daily service from London to Paris (with one passenger), but collapsed quickly.

The assets were purchased by another company that was eventually incorporated into Imperial Airways, the predecessor of BOAC.

With this slender ancestral thread, BA spends a fortune on a new marketing campaign and this week asked the queen for his & # 39; centenary & # 39; to bless.

So why not a royal recognition of a real milestone that excited George V? The palace can of course do little if our swollen government does nothing.

The only important gesture was Heathrow Airport's decision to lend a statue of Alcock and Brown to the people of Ireland. The limestone sculpture, unveiled in 1954, originally stood in front of the airport, but was subsequently relegated to a staff training center.

This week it arrived in Clifden, where it is now on the public exhibition in front of the Abbeyglen Castle Hotel and draws a stream of benefactors.

& # 39; My father was here on the day they landed & # 39 ;, says John O & # 39; Hara, 73. & # 39; You must not forget that the war to end all wars had just ended. This meant peace. America and Europe have finally joined. & # 39;

& # 39; My father was here on the day they landed & # 39 ;, says John O & # 39; Hara, 73. & # 39; You must not forget that the war to end all wars had just ended. This meant peace. America and Europe have finally joined & # 39;

& # 39; My father was here on the day they landed & # 39 ;, says John O & # 39; Hara, 73. & # 39; You must not forget that the war to end all wars had just ended. This meant peace. America and Europe have finally joined & # 39;

& # 39; My father was here on the day they landed & # 39 ;, says John O & # 39; Hara, 73. & # 39; You must not forget that the war to end all wars had just ended. This meant peace. America and Europe have finally joined & # 39;

John Alcock, born in Stretford, Manchester, has been obsessed with flying since childhood. & # 39; My father was talking about him who made these 12ft hot air balloons & # 39 ;, says proud cousin, Tony Alcock, 75.

After his training as an aircraft engineer, the young Alcock learned to fly and proved so well that the Royal Naval Air Service made him an instructor at the outbreak of the war.

Itching to see action, he was posted on the Eastern Mediterranean and won the Distinguished Service Cross before engine failure forced him to land in the sea at Gallipoli in 1917. He captured the rest of the war.

Arthur Brown also grew up in Manchester and was an engineer who was breaking out of the war.

He joined the Royal Flying Corps as an observer and was shot twice. Severely injured and imprisoned after a second crash, he would spend the rest of his life with a severe weakness.

Two young RAF officers, Captain John Alcock (right) and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten Brown (left) made the first non-stop transatlantic flight on June 14, 1919

Two young RAF officers, Captain John Alcock (right) and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten Brown (left) made the first non-stop transatlantic flight on June 14, 1919

Two young RAF officers, Captain John Alcock (right) and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten Brown (left) made the first non-stop transatlantic flight on June 14, 1919

At the end of the war, when their units were merged with the Royal Air Force, the two men were demobilized. Alcock quickly changed his mind to a pre-war challenge from Lord Northcliffe, owner of the Daily Mail.

In 1913, the press magnate had offered £ 10,000 to the first person to fly non-stop through the Atlantic. With the war, many pilots and aircraft companies have reconsidered the price of Northcliffe.

Alcock convinced Vickers to let him flee in a converted Vickers Vimy bomber. A chance meeting at the company's factory in Brooklands, Surrey, introduced him to Arthur Brown.

By May 1919 they were in St. John's & Newfoundland, the closest point – in transatlantic terms – for the British Isles. At this time of the year, the pilots should travel from West to East.

In the new edition of his excellent book, Yesterday We Were In America, Brendan Lynch gives a vivid picture of this gloomy provincial town that is engulfed by a media circus and rival kites competing for the best facilities.

Cover of a menu for a lunch sponsored by the Daily Mail newspaper to commemorate the first non-stop transatlantic flight

Cover of a menu for a lunch sponsored by the Daily Mail newspaper to commemorate the first non-stop transatlantic flight

Cover of a menu for a lunch sponsored by the Daily Mail newspaper to commemorate the first non-stop transatlantic flight

The weather in Newfoundland was wrong, but Alcock and Brown were ready to leave. Their rivals could start at any time. This was, after all, a race.

With a weight of 860 liters of fuel, the Vimy could have crashed in the beginning. Eyewitnesses looked at a row of trees at the end of the improvised runway on a field in St John's.

Alcock's genius ensured that the Twin Rolls-Royce Eagle engines lifted the aircraft up and down the sea. On board were sandwiches, flasks of coffee, a bag of mail and various lucky mascots, including a knitted cat named Twinkletoes.

There were unavoidable errors. The electrically heated flight suits of the duo quickly lost power, just like the radio station.

Their cockpit had no cover and no toilet, not that this made any difference to Alcock. He did not dare to take his hands off the ministry once.

Three hours later there was a big drama when an exhaust pipe became white hot and shattered. The ensuing noise prevented the two men from talking for the remainder of the flight. Brown scribbled notes in pencil and waved them under Alcock's nose.

I certify that this letter was brought to England by the Vickers Vimy-Rolls plane that left St. John & # 39; s, Newfoundland on June 14, 1919

I certify that this letter was brought to England by the Vickers Vimy-Rolls plane that left St. John & # 39; s, Newfoundland on June 14, 1919

I declare that this letter was brought to England by the Vickers Vimy-Rolls plane that left St. John's & Newfoundland on June 14, 1919

He had hoped to use the sun and the stars to set his course with a sextant. Except that the constant cloud cover only saw him a little. He should trust his graphs and sums.

Halfway across the street, that frightening twist came into the fog, followed by wet snow and snow that forced Brown to stretch out of the cockpit to remove ice from the fuel meters. They finally saw land at 8.15 am. But what was it?

Suddenly they saw the masts of the vast intercontinental wireless station Marconi just outside Clifden.

This was where the first signals from the affected Titanic arrived in 1912. The two men were just a few miles off course at the end of a 1,880-mile odyssey.

It had been a stunning performance from both navigation and pilotage. But where to land? Alcock saw a flat piece of slippery soil beyond the radio station and carried out a blackboard landing – until the wheels began to sink.

Transport, Lester & Field, St, John & # 39; s, Newfoundland, June 14, 1919, watching spectators while Arthur Whitten Brown & John Alcock prepare their plane

Transport, Lester & Field, St, John & # 39; s, Newfoundland, June 14, 1919, watching spectators while Arthur Whitten Brown & John Alcock prepare their plane

Transport, Lester & Field, St, John & # 39; s, Newfoundland, June 14, 1919, watching spectators while Arthur Whitten Brown & John Alcock prepare their plane

That was why the Marconi staff waved at him furiously. Suddenly the front of the aircraft went nose-forward into the peat, the rear flew up and both men were hurled against the controls.

She was leaking with fuel and they climbed out to be greeted by rescuers.

& # 39; Where are you from? & # 39; Asked one. & # 39; America! & # 39; Alcock shouted. & # 39; Yesterday we were in America. & # 39;

No one had ever said that before. The Marconi staff responded with laughter. Impossible. So Alcock handed them his sealed bag with mail, all stamped on it in St. John's the day before. In no time the Marconi men radiated the news all over the world: Alcock and Brown had done it.

Still in their flying clothes, the duo were driven to Clifden for the first of countless social greetings. It was a slow journey home.

The biggest bash was the Daily Mail check presentation and the victory lunch at the Savoy Hotel in London.

After poached eggs Alcock and Supreme the sole Brown, the war secretary, Winston Churchill, stood up for these specimens of & # 39; the courage, the courage, the physical qualities of the old heroic days of & # 39; to greet.

The king, he declared, would grant knighthood.

No man wanted fame. Sir John Alcock's great ambition was to open a garage in Manchester, Sir Arthur Brown & # 39; s to marry his beloved, Kathleen.

The first would be dead within a few months, killed on the way to a Paris air show. A distraught Brown worked for Vickers until World War II, when he took command of an air training unit. His only child, Arthur, followed him to the RAF.

In the early hours of D-Day he disappeared on a mission above the Netherlands. The great knight of heaven was never the same again. Plagued by his old war wound, he accidentally transferred a painkiller in 1948 and died.

Now these two great men look out over Clifden again. Local historian Shane Joyce takes me to the landing site and it is exactly as Alcock and Brown had seen it that morning – a view of grass and peat, the last stretch of Europe to North America.

The ruins of the vast Marconi station are still there, connected by a new walkway over the Derrigimlagh swamp. A monument along the road points to a white concrete cairn, which should be the actual landing site in the peat.

We walk towards it and Shane explains that new research proves that the Vimy landed a few hundred meters further. However, nobody is bothered.

& # 39; The most important thing is that Alcock and Brown are with friends again & # 39 ;, says hotelier Brian Hughes. They are indeed. So maybe we should leave both of them forever in the Abbeyglen Castle Hotel.

Here they are in any case appreciated. How sad that their own country doesn't care.

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