THE DAY OF THE AVIATORS
Hydro-Aeroplane Races, St Aubin’s Bay. August 26, 1912
History is breaking in. It explodes over the Jersey skies with the force of an electrical storm. At first we scarcely notice the harbinger on the horizon, swooping in like a seabird over the waters. Then the black machine draws steadily, stealthily closer, and as it looms ever larger, the vast crowds below shiver in anticipation.
Suddenly we hear it – the sound of electric birdsong, an ethereal, unearthly hum droning high above the bay. As the sleek aircraft blazes in over the heights of Fort Regent, even the hard-bitten soldiers manning the battlements raise a primal, thunderous cheer. The terrible machine now soars overhead into full view, singing with a power undreamed of, gleaming with a fabulous technology that has effortlessly mastered the skies.
The sight electrifies the human chain along the Esplanade, shocking us into a frenzied wave of delirium. We run headlong for the beach.
Then the first Aviator swoops down from heaven like an angel. He is a birdman in an elaborate cage, strapped like a moth to his fragile and beautiful wings. His hood and goggles surely mark him out as the high priest of a new age. His flying machine glides as sublimely as a swan over the choppy waters of St Aubin’s Bay, finally coming to rest on the bridge right in front of the ancient castle. For a moment, the crowd is struck dumb by the impact.
Then a fresh wave of hysteria ripples over us like wildfire, and we surge forward to embrace our glorious shining future. The very first aeroplane has landed in Jersey. The power and glory of our sparkling new twentieth century has landed.
Taken from Jersey: The Hidden Histories published by Seaflower Books (c) 2015, 2017