Le GenWeb de la Basse Côte-Nord est une composante du GenWeb du Québec et du Canada GenWeb.
By Sharon Chubbs-Ransom
In the history of air travel there are many recorded history breaking flights by daring and adventuresome pilots. There were the Wright Brothers, Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindburg to name a few. By 1928 there had already been an Atlantic west to east non stop flight with the much publicized and historical Spirit of St. Louis in 1927. Fewer people are aware of the 1928 east to west non stop Atlantic crossing of the Junkers aircraft W33 “Bremen” from Ireland to Greenly Island near Blanc Sablon, Quebec on the very eastern reaches of Canada.
The Junkers monoplane W33 was built by the Junkers Company in Desseau, Germany. On 13 April 1928 with a crew of three aviators, two Germans and an Irishman, another milestone in aviation history was made. They left from Baldonnel, Ireland on April 12 1928 bound for New York. After flying for 36 hours and far of course the Bremen landed in terrible conditions on a small speck of rock called Greenly Island in the Strait of Belle Isle. Greenly Island a small flat green expanse of rock with only a lighthouse sets just offshore from Blanc Sablon, Lower North Shore, Quebec. Is it any wonder that the flight crew Captain Herman Koehl, Baron Ehrenfreid Guenther Von Huenefeld and Commandant James C. Fitzmaurice had no idea where they were.
Against public opinion of the day which considered these flights useless and of no importance to aviation these aviators realized both the risk to their lives and there reputations should they fail. The trio though sheltered from the worst of the elements had no heat in the cockpit and had to spell each other at the controls every half hour. There was no radio communication so once they left Ireland there was no contact until they landed at there destination. Through high winds, fog, over heavy seas and through snow they finally spotted what they thought was the funnel of a ship. It turned out to be a lighthouse! Low on fuel and in a terrible snow squall they made the decision to land. A fly by showed a choice spot near the lighthouse but on landing they went through the ice and damaged the propeller. The three man crew was just happy the damage wasn’t worse and they were alive. They had no idea where they were.
Some sources claim the first story to break to the outside, of the Bremen’s flight, came from Greta Ferris the International Grenfell Nurse at Forteau, Labrador When she received word of the landing at Greenly Island being the only medical care available she set out by dog team to offer what ever aid she could. Her story relayed by telegraph through the Point Amour lighthouse told that the men were fine though cold and suffering from exhaustion. Local Blanc Sablon historian Antonio Cormier claims that his grandfather Alfred Cormier was the telegraph operator at that time and as soon as he heard he immediately sent the message that told of the Bremen’s landing on Greenly Island and the safety of her crew.
The plane sustained some damage to the shaft and though attempts were made to repair it so as it could be flown out it was finally transferred to Quebec City by steamer. The Junker monoplane was much later acquired by Henry Ford for his museum and can still be viewed to day in Greenfield Village near Detroit, Michigan.
On Greenly Island a monument was erected to mark this incredibly brave feat in aviation history. “The dedication took place on August 14, 1928. Monseigneur Jean-Marie Leventoux, Catholic Bishop of the North Shore presided over the ceremony, Father Gallix of Natasquan, Father Francois Hesry of the parish of Lourdes Blanc Sablon, Alfred Cormier, telegraph operator of Lourdes Blanc Sablon as well; Captain J.A. Brie, Master, the officers and men of Clarke Steamship were present. Besides other Canadians present, there were tourists from the United States, as well as fishermen and residents of Greenly Island and their families.
The inscription on the monument marks an important event in the history of world aviation: On this island landed the Bremen, Friday April 13, 1928, after the first east-west non-stop flight, having left Ireland at dawn on Thursday April 12, 1928. The crew members were Baron Ehrenfreid Guenther Von Huenefeld of Germany, Major James C. Fitzmaurice of Ireland. It was erected by the Clarke Steamship Company Limited of Montreal in recognition of this great exploit.”
(Ref. Antonio Cormier )
Date Entered on the Web: 27 December 2004
Thank you to the previous coordinators,
Sharon Ransom and Marc-André Gosselin, for their excellent work !
We are looking forward to reading your suggestions and comments. / Il nous fera plaisir de lire vos suggestions et commentaires.
Dernière mise à jour: 13/10/2016
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