This month marks 110 years since Denys Corbett Wilson became the first person to fly a plane from Britain to Ireland. The pioneer took off from the Welsh county of Pembrokeshire before landing in the Irish county of Wexford 100 minutes later.
full of passion
Born in 1882, Corbett Wilson came from a wealthy family that used his father’s money to explore different forms of transportation. He has become a familiar face in several scenes across the UK.
Derek Webb, author of 100 Minutes, a play about Corbett Wilson’s aviation exploit, shared the following in a BBC interview.
“There was definitely a brash, selfish, thrill-seeking side to Denys – he was very much the Jeremy Clarkson of his day. But racehorses, cars, fast boats and women aside, there had a deeper motivation. In common with so many wealthy young Edwardians, Dionysius had a fascination with new technologies and a passion for pushing the boundaries of human ability. There was also a strong sense that he wanted to make these achievements for You can see his patriotism in the way he enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps, even though he wouldn’t have been drafted because he was too old and had been injured in the war of the Boers.
To the west
Corbett Wilson purchased a Blériot XI monoplane to perform the revolutionary flight across the Irish Sea. There was an attempt two years earlier by actor Robert Loraine, but it landed about 200 meters off the coast of Ireland.
So, just a week after the sinking of the Titanic in the ocean, Corbett Wilson lifted off to make headlines for his journey through the air. It left Goodwick, Pembrokeshire, at 6.47am and landed in Enniscorthy, County Wexford, 1 hour and 40 minutes later.
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beat the obstacles
The race to Ireland was against fellow aviator Damer Leslie Allen, who started at Hendon Aerodrome in London, England on April 17. Allen chose to travel to Dublin via Chester and Holyhead but crashed into the sea. His body was never found.
Corbett Wilson managed to overcome notable challenges. Initially, on her way south, engine trouble forced her to land in Herefordshire. However, he did not wait for his mechanic, who was traveling by train. Instead, he lubricated his plane with castor oil from a drugstore and filled up with gasoline from local farm equipment before taking off. However, he had to land once more, this time at Goodwick, to wait for a professional to deal with the ongoing engine problems.
There was also a strong storm about 30 kilometers off the Wexford coast. Corbett Wilson flew into the storm and his compass stopped working, forcing him to fly blind for 30 minutes before descending.
serve the country
After the outbreak of the First World War, Corbett Wilson was posted to No. 3 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. He was on a reconnaissance mission with his observer in a Morane Parasol on May 10, 1915. However, the aircraft was hit by an enemy attack.
Corbett Wilson died instantly alongside his crew member. The bombing took place in the vicinity of Fournes-en-Weppes, France, and he was buried in the Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery in Souchez.
Corbett Wilson’s accomplishments will forever be etched in history. From his pioneering flight from Britain to Ireland to his service in World War II, he is well decorated in aviation history.
What do you think of the achievements of Denys Corbett Wilson? What do you think of his flying experiences before his death? Let us know what you think in the comments section.
Featured image showing Blériot XI for representation purposes only.
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