postcard of Blériot first aeroplane flight across the
Few local events have created more public
interest than the first aeroplane flight across the English Channel by the little
Frenchman Louis Blériot who made the crossing on July 25, 1909. Many thousands of
postcards, in a variety of designs, commemorating the event have been
who made motor car headlamps, won a coveted £1,000 prize, given by the Daily Mail, that
a number of pioneer airman were keen to claim. Among them were the Comte de Lambert,
and Herbert Latham who had already ditched in the sea in an earlier attempt, wrecking
his plane five days before.
Louis, who had injured his foot a few days previously, but was determined to have a
crack at the Channel crossing, walked to his frail little craft with the aid of
crutches, and set off at 4.37am on a Sunday morning. Guided by the smoke from a
Dover-bound French destroyer he spotted St Margaret's Bay 20 minutes after
leaving France. Turning towards Dover his aircraft was caught by the wind and he made
a crash landing in Northfall Meadow, behind the Castle, breaking the undercarriage and
Two French colleagues, Coastguardsman Richard Tems and coastguardsmen's families
were supposedly the only witnesses, but through the years many others have called at or
written to the Dover Express offices to claim the 'distinction.' Certainly a
group of East Cliff boatmen, some soldiers, near residents on the cliffs and PC Standen
were soon on the scene. Others, including, it is said, the media, thought he would land
the other side of Dover and went to the wrong side of town!
July 2009 marks the centenary of this historic flight. R.E.H.
Blériot's first aeroplane flight across the English Channel on 27th July 2009