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 >>
We’ve all heard of the zodiac, and have probably on more than one occasion checked our daily horoscope in the hope it will reveal what the future holds. When I sat down to write this blog I was buoyant in the revelation that my day was going to be “filled with love and joy”.
But perhaps lesser known in Western culture is the Chinese Lunar Calendar and the 12 animals that represent it.
The Chinese Lunar Calendar
More commonly known as the Chinese Zodiac, it is believed the Chinese Lunar Calendar begun around 2600 B.C. and is related to the worship of animals in Chinese culture. Legend has it before departing to the next life, Buddha asked every animal on the planet to comfort him and the twelve animals (including the dragon, tiger and rat) that responded are now honoured in the lunar calendar that spans 12 years – one animal for every year.
Much like the Western Zodiac, your lunar animal sign depends when you’re born. And people born in specific lunar years are believed to have certain personality traits and characteristics related to their animal.
Turns out I was born in the Year of the Sheep – so I’m creative, compassionate and friendly. I’d say that’s fairly accurate, though I’m not sure I agree that I like to spend my money on fashionable things… you win some you lose some!
The incredible popularity of Lunar Coins
For over 40 years mints from around the world have celebrated Chinese New Year with Lunar Coins. These issues have turned in to something of an international phenomenon, to the point where the lunar theme is the largest ongoing coin programme on the planet.
Most prestigious mints have a lunar series, including Australia, Canada, and of course our own Royal Mint. With each selling millions of ounces of gold and silver coins each year inscribed with the year’s relevant lunar animal.
Collectors will snap these coins up for a variety of reasons. Some collect their own lunar animal, because they like the personal connection, others will collect a particular specification because it’s especially limited. Personally, I find they also make great birthday gifts for obvious reasons – my friends love them.
The Year of the Rat
The 25th January 2020 will mark the Chinese New Year, and with it the next lunar animal will be celebrated – the Rat.
The Rat is in fact the first animal in the Chinese Zodiac, and people who are born under the sign of the Rat are thought to be intelligent and quick-witted with rich imaginations.
If this sounds like you the odds are you’re born under the sign of the Rat. And this year your lunar animal will be celebrated on lunar coins around the world.
What’s more, The Royal Mint has just released their brand new Year of the Rat range, including what’s perhaps the most sought-after specification of all – the 1oz Silver Proof Coin.
Apparently Rats are known for taking good advantage of opportunities presented to them – so what are you waiting for, make sure you snap up your lunar coin today!
If you’re interested…
You can own the BRAND NEW Royal Mint Lunar Coin TODAY – the 1oz Silver Proof Year of the Rat coin.
This coin is sure to be the most sought-after yet because not only is the 1oz Silver Proof a key specification for collectors, it’s also got the lowest edition limit yet!
We all have our favourite coins to collect, whether it be historic coins, special 50p designs or coins from around the world.
But one thing that piques the interest of almost all collectors, including myself, is the elusive ‘error’ coin.
Considering the high levels of technology involved in minting coins and the number of different quality controls in place, it is extremely rare that a coin is minted with an error. And it is even rarer for an error coin to be released to the public.
However, over the years there have been sporadic cases of error coins being struck and issued to the public. Just a few things that would be considered an error would be an off-centre strike, a crack in the die or even use of the wrong die completely!
And that last one is exactly what happened to the 2014 Year of the Horse Lunar Silver Coin when it was incorrectly struck with the distinctive denticle obverse of the 2014 Britannia coin.
After an investigation, it was discovered that approximately 38,000 Year of the Horse coins were struck with the incorrect denticled edge on the obverse. And once The Royal Mint confirmed this as a genuine error, these coins understandably became incredibly sought after.
What makes these error coins particularly desirable is that, because it was issued as a bullion coin, many were sold around the world to coin dealers and investors. That means that they are much harder for the British public to track down. Plus, of course, in terms of pure numbers struck they are considerably scarcer than previous errors such as the ‘undated 20p’.
In fact, Ebay listings have seen the value of these coins soar to around 30 times their original value! So if you are lucky enough to own the 2014 Year of the Horse coin, I’d suggest you go and have a closer look at it!
We have a small number of the ‘Year of the Horse Silver Mule Sets’ available to buy. This set contains the Year of the Horse error coin alongside the correct version of the coin for easy comparison. This ‘mule’ is an absolute must for any collection and is extremely rare, so secure yours today.