Transatlantic Flights from Lincolnshire
A look in time to 1928 and a remarkable endurance flying attempt which was based in Lincolnshire and an even more remarkable woman . . .
This is a story of tragedy, endeavour (quite literally) and aviation out of Lincolnshire but really one of the protagonists is of greater interest – a remarkable woman called Elsie Mackay.
March 14 1928 sees an American newspaper The Pittsburgh Press report that ‘hope was diminishing by the hour’ for the Stinson Monoplane which was attempting to fly from RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire to North America.
They reported the pilot as being Captain Walter Hinchliffe and feared him lost, the headline also declared that they believed there ‘was a girl on board’
There was indeed but not a girl, a woman . . . and what a woman!
Elsie Mackay was born in 1893 to a wealthy family based in Colonial India, she reportedly eloped in 1917 and married an actor which is said to have got her disinherited, though I don’t see Elsie having worried about that.
She took to the stage herself as Poppy Wyndham and starred both on stage and in films.
The marriage and glamorous film career lasted but 5 years and the marriage was annulled seeing Elsie return to her family in India.
Did she sit there being a lady of leisure as was the wont of most in her position? No!
She started an Interior Design business
Now, if you think this was about choosing chintzy fabrics for Society Friends then think again – she designed lavish state rooms for public buildings and then moved on to luxury steam liners including some of P&O’s finest.
In 1923 she learned to fly and got her Pilot’s Licence, bought a plane and declared her ambition to be the first woman to fly the Atlantic.
Talk about a Poster Girl for Women’s Liberation!
She was renowned for not only aerial acrobatics in the Scottish Skies but also for horse riding and tearing around the country at high speed in her Rolls Royce and one remarkable story which sums Elsie Mackay up I reproduce below:
”She participated in an “outside loop,” the most dangerous of all stunts in air, with Capt. E.C.D. Herne as her pilot. During this manoeuvre her safety-strap broke but she clung to bracing wires while her body swung outside the plane like a stone twirled on the end of a piece of string”
What a woman!
Sadly though her ‘luck’ wasn’t to hold out. In 1927 Elsie ordered a Stinson Detroiter aeroplane from America and had it delivered to the famous Brooklands Racing Circuit.
In 1928 Elsie and Captain Walter Hinchliffe set up camp in Lincolnshire at The George Hotel in Leadenham and set about doing test flights in preparation for an attempt at a Transatlantic Flight.
The Stinson, named Endeavour and painted black and gold, was based at RAF Cranwell and on 13 March 1928 it took off with Elsie registered on the flight plan under a pseudonym Gordon Sinclair several sightings of the plane were noted but after 5 hours or so flying no further reports were heard. It is believed the plane went down in the Irish Sea and some 8 months later a single piece of wreckage was washed up on the Irish Coast.
Elsie Mackay was clearly a remarkable woman, spectacularly so given the time and all these years later she’s remembered and admired here from a small corner in Lincolnshire.
I raise a glass to Elsie . . .