The Challenge

In 1913 the Circuit of Britain race was the first major British competition for seaplanes, thanks to the sponsorship by Lord Northcliffe, the proprietor of the Daily Mail. He was a great supporter of aviation and between 1905 and 1925 awarded over 15 prizes for the completion of various aerial challenges. Three of those challenges were over water. In 1909, £1,000 was awarded to Louis Bleriot for the first cross channel flight. In 1919 Alcock and Brown received £10,000 for crossing the Atlantic. And, Harry Hawker received two consolation prizes. He was the first to attempt the Atlantic in 1919 and covered over 1,000 miles before radiator failure forced him and McKenzie Grieve to ditch. Previously in 1913 Harry had been awarded £1,000 for nearly completing the Circuit of Britain in a waterplane. Harry Hawker, the man who gave his name to aviation, was the pilot of the only plane to attempt the challenge.

Although four aircraft were entered, Samuel Cody was killed in a flying accident on 7 August while F K Mclean withdrew the Short S.68 aircraft due to engine trouble. The Radley-England Waterplane scratched for the same reason. That left only Harry Hawker and his mechanic Harry A Kauper.

Flight 1913 Pilots

Radley (top left), McClean (top right), England (centre), Sopwith (bottom left), Hawker (bottom right)

The first attempt by the two Harrys (both Australians) ended at Yarmouth with a cracked cylinder head and pilot exhaustion. They started again on 25 August and managed to reach just north of Dublin but crashed in the sea when Harry Hawker’s foot slipped off the rudder pedal while landing. The aircraft was destroyed and Harry Kauper broke his arm. Harry Hawker got wet but was otherwise unharmed. The Daily Mail prize of £5,000 was not awarded but Harry Hawker was given £1,000 as consolation. Shell who had supplied the fuel and oil also gave him a souvenir.