In the 1800’s, when aeroplanes were a mere twinkle in the eye of ambitious engineers, the idea of transatlantic flight came about with the advent of the hot air balloon. But one crash-landing, and one postponement due to the American Civil War meant this dream had to go back to the drawing board.
On the other side of the pond, in April of 1913 The Daily Mail newspaper offered a cash prize of £10,000 to “the aviator who shall first cross the Atlantic in an aeroplane in flight from any point in the United States of America, Canada or Newfoundland and any point in Great Britain or Ireland in 72 continuous hours”.
But it wasn’t until after the end of WWII that transatlantic flight by aircraft became truly viable, thanks to the significant advancements in aerial capabilities and technology.
Then the competition really heated up…
Nail-biting four-way competition
What came was a nail-biting four-way contest against the clock as well as each other. Four different ‘teams’ formed and went to work to try and prepare their chosen aircraft the fastest, for fear of being pipped to the post by another team making their attempt sooner. To make it a fair contest, each team had to ship their aircraft to Newfoundland for the take-off.
First to try was Australian pilot Harry Hawker and navigator Kenneth Mackenzie Grieve, piloting a Sopwith Atlantic – an experimental British long-range aircraft. In flight the aircraft suffered from engine failure and, when coupled with poor weather conditions, the decision was made to abort the mission.
The aircraft was abandoned in the Atlantic Ocean, 750 miles from Ireland, and the pair were rescued by a Danish steamer SS Mary. Due to the SS Mary not having any radio contact, the pair were presumed dead and King George V sent a telegram of condolence, but luckily this wasn’t the case as the pair arrived back on land nearly a week later.
The next attempt wasn’t nearly as exciting, as the aircraft never left the take-off zone. Frederick Raynham and C. W. F. Morgan made the attempt in a Martinsyde but crashed on take-off due to the heavy fuel load.
Then came the turn of aviator duo, John Alcock and Arthur Brown, who flew straight into the history books on June 15th 1919…
Flying in to the unknown across the Atlantic
The Vickers engineering and aviation firm, which had considered entering its Vickers Vimy IV twin-engine bomber in the competition, appointed Alcock as the team’s pilot along with Brown who was adept at long-distance navigation.
In preparation for the transatlantic flight, The Vimy, powered by two Rolls-Royce Eagle 360 hp engines, was successfully converted, including replacing its bomb racks with extra petrol tanks.
The pair took off from St. John’s, Newfoundland, in their modified bomber around 1:45pm on 14th June 1919. To say it wasn’t an easy flight would be an understatement. They encountered both mechanical and natural challenges. The wind-powered generator failed, depriving them of radio contact and much needed heating in their open-top cockpit. Fog and a snowstorm prevented navigation, almost resulting in a crash-landing at sea, not to mention the snow and freezing conditions meant the engines were in danger of icing up.
Whilst they were set a 72-hour target by The Daily Mail, the duo made landfall in Clifden, County Galway, in Ireland at 8:40am on 15th June 1919 – after just 16 hours of flight!
Incredibly, they landed not far from their intended landing zone in Ireland. However, the aircraft was damaged upon arrival because what looked like a field from their aerial view turned out to be a bog, causing the aircraft to nose-over. Thankfully neither were hurt, and Brown claimed that if the weather had been good, they’d have been able to continue to London.
A hero’s return to a £10,000 reward
Alcock and Brown’s successful attempt meant that the fourth team, Handley Page Limited, who were yet to take-off, were no longer eligible to compete. The two airmen returned home as aviation heroes and pioneers of the sky.
As promised, Alcock and Brown were rewarded for their ground-breaking achievement – the £10,000 prize money offered by The Daily Mail, for the first crossing of the Atlantic in less than 72 consecutive hours.
The Secretary of State for Air at the time, Winston Churchill, presented the pair with their cash reward. Then one week later, at Windsor Castle, they were awarded the honour of Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by King George V.
If you’re interested…
The Royal Canadian Mint marked the milestone 100th anniversary of this remarkable achievement and feat of engineering with a limited edition 1oz Silver Proof coin. The coin features a faithful colour reproduction of the commemorative stamp that was issued to mark the 50th anniversary.
Unsurprisingly the coin proved so popular that it is no longer available at the Mint! We have a limited number remaining, click here for more information >>
*** BRAND NEW Battle of Britain coins – on sale now ***
This year marks the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain. Fought over British skies during 1940, the battle was a turning point in WWII and ultimately saved Britain from German invasion.
In 1940, a terrifying dark shadow descended over Europe. The relentless advance of Hitler forces overwhelmed everything in their path and the world suddenly became very dark. Following the evacuation of French and British soldiers from Dunkirk and the subsequent French surrender on 22nd June 1940, Hitler believed that WWII was practically over and that Britain would quickly come to terms. However, even with a seemingly unstoppable enemy on the doorstep, Winston Churchill stepped up to become Britain’s wartime leader and refused to surrender.
On 10th July 1940 a battle was fought – and won – by a courageous few; arguably one of the crucial turning points that led to British Victory in WWII.
The Battle of Britain remains one of the truly great chapters in our history, and to mark 80 years since that momentous battle, a brand new range of commemoratives have been issued. Whether you’re looking for the new centrepiece for your collection, you’re an avid collector, a Military enthusiast or you’re looking for the perfect tribute, there’s bound to be something within the range for you.
Or, find out more about each of the stunning coins we have available below….
JUST 150 collectors can own this BRAND NEW Battle of Britain Silver 5oz Coin
Struck in five ounces of 925/1000 solid silver, this coin barely fits in the palm of your hand. Not only is the size and weight impressive – but so is its engraving.
Approved by Her Majesty the Queen, the reverse design has been created by renowned sculptor Mike Guilfoyle and takes inspiration from an old war-time poster synonymous with the Battle of Britain. The design features three pilots in front of an aircraft with the text ‘The Battle of Britain 1940-2020’ to honour the heroic efforts of the RAF in changing the course of WWII and leading us to victory.
Battle of Britain 80th Anniversary Gold Proof Sovereign – 15 times RARER than the UK’s recent Gold Proof Sovereign!
Over the years, the popularity of various coins have come and gone. But none have stayed as unrivalled as the Gold Sovereign. Quite simply, the Sovereign is without a doubt the world’s premier Gold Coin. Struck from 22 Carat Gold to the exact same specification since 1817, it epitomises all that is British.
Issued in recognition of the historic Battle of Britain 80th Anniversary, this extremely limited Isle of Man Gold Proof Sovereign is limited to just 495 pieces. This is more than 15 times RARER than the UK’s recent Gold Proof Sovereign. 495 coins is a tiny edition limit for a gold Sovereign-specification coin such as this.
This brand new British Isles Sovereign is the most important gold coin you can find right now. Click here to secure one for yourself >>
JUST 495 Battle of Britain 80th Anniversary Gold Proof Pennies Authorised
To mark such a historic anniversary, a special strike of 495 Solid Gold Pennies have been authorised. The release of a Gold Penny is an extremely rare event and one that collectors will look out for, especially as they are only issued to mark the most important anniversaries and are always severely limited. In fact, this is the most limited issue for some time.
The exquisite design features three Spitfire silhouettes engraved on to the coin to signify the bravery of all the RAF pilots who defended our skies In the summer of 1940. It has been struck in Solid Gold to the standard United Kingdom Penny diameter and finished in the collectors preferred finish, Proof.
The Limited Edition Battle of Britain 80th Anniversary Spitfire Silver Proof £5
The £5 coin is the single most prestigious coin issued across the British Isles, reserved for the most important commemorations of the year. The Battle of Britain anniversary is certainly no exception deserving of only the very finest commemorative £5 coin.
The design features the legendary Spitfire with a Union Jack trailing from behind. Also, a notable inclusion to the edge of the design is an excerpt from Winston Churchill’s famous speech ‘So Much, So Many, So Few’, his moving tribute to the brave pilots of the RAF.
The background fittingly displays a ‘V for Victory’ design which has been finished with the unique addition of Spitfire silhouettes.
Only 2,020 coins have been issued worldwide. This unprecedented decision comes as a surprise, especially when you consider the historical significance of this anniversary.
Officially Licensed RAF Spitfire Gold-plated Coin
This Official RAF Battle of Britain 80th Anniversary Gold-Plated Coin comes highly recommended. Not only is it extremely desirable in its own right, it is a fantastic tribute to the skilled pilots both past and present who have had the honour flying in the RAF. It features a dramatic colour recreation of the legendary Supermarine Spitfire by renowned Airfix artist Adam Tooby.
Featuring 24 carat gold-plating and struck to a flawless Proof finish, this is the perfect Battle of Britian 80th Anniversary commemorative.
Please note, extremely high demand is expected for these brand new Battle of Britain Commemorative coins. It is highly advised that you act quickly to secure your favourite pieces from the collection to avoid disappointment.
The third and final £2 coin in the Captain Cook series has just set sail! ⚓🌏
Watch our latest video where Adam tells you everything you need to know about the brand new UK £2 release in less than two minutes!