Exclusive extract from ‘A Great and Restless Spirit’ by D R Dymock:
Unaware of the mid-ocean drama, Muriel continued to mark off the hours Harry had been in the air. As the day went on, she began to prepare to head over to Brooklands, hopeful she would soon be reunited with her husband. There was quiet anticipation among the Sopwith representatives, military officers, and government and aero club officials gathered at Brooklands that Monday afternoon, 19 May, 1919. It promised to be a momentous occasion for the future of cross-Atlantic travel and for British aviation.
Muriel and her brother, RAF Captain Laurence Peaty, had driven over from Hook in the Sunbeam. Word had come through that the American fliers were trapped in the Azores by the weather, so NC-4 had not yet been able to make the final hop. There was still a possibility that Harry and Grieve could claim the transatlantic gong.
Nevertheless there was also an undercurrent of anxiety about the two fliers. No messages had been received; no sightings reported. Based on the reported Sunday departure time from Newfoundland, by Muriel’s 22-hour timeline the Atlantic should touch down at Brooklands at around 4.30pm. Unlike some others, she wasn’t worried by the lack of contact with the plane because she knew Harry and Grieve weren’t counting on the wireless during the flight.
But as the afternoon ticked by, concern started to grow. The Royal Air Force sent planes out from its Aldergrove base in Ireland to probe along the transatlantic route, but the pilots came back with nothing to report.
When Muriel crossed off hour number 22, and there was still no sign of the plane, the tension among the waiting group must have been palpable. They all knew that by then the Sopwith’s fuel tank would be close to empty. When a full 24 hours had passed without any contact, no one had to say what that meant.
Title: A Great and Restless Spirit: The incredible true story of Harry Hawker, Australian test pilot, aircraft designer, car racing driver, speedboat racer, world-beater
Author: D R Dymock
Publisher: Armour Books, Brisbane
RRP: AU$33.99 paperback
Publication date: March 2022