Cecil Grace
Cecil Grace
Collection of Jean-Pierre Lauwers

GRAVE FEARS THAT NORTH SEA HOLDS LATEST AERO TRAGEDY. from See Them Flying: Houston Peterson's Air-Age Scrapbook, 1909-1910
Courtesy of Roy Nagl, 1-4-04
     "Grace was born in Chile, about thirty years ago, the son of the late John Grace, of the banking-house of W.R. Grace & Co., New York. Former Mayor Grace of New York, was his uncle. He was graduated from Columbia University, and when his parents came to this country to live, he studied at Oxford. Since the death of his father, he has made his home with his mother here. He has long been interested in sports and is a member of the Royal Aero Club.."
     To read the whole article, from which the paragraph above was extracted, you can click on the title above.
     In addition, Roy has transcribed two other articles which feature information about Cecil Grace. You can access them by clicking on:

     While there, if time permits, I heartily recommend that you sample some of the 54 other articles, (1-5-04), which Roy has transcribed for our enjoyment.

by Jean-Pierre Lauwers, 4-27-02
British aviation pioneer licensed 1910.
Reached at Folkstone 1,800 meters altitude and a speed of 96 km/h.
December 22, 1910, in a Short-Farman plane, flew from Sangatte to Dover.
The same day he attempted to fly over the English Channel, but never arrived in France. Missing at sea, he very probably drowned.

by email from F. Cecil Grace, 4-1-04
"The same day he attempted to fly over the English Channel, but never arrived in France. Missing at sea, he very probably drowned."
     The tradition in my family is that this was to have been a round trip flight, that he did make it to France, and went down in the Channel on the return trip, probably due to weather, as instrument flying did not exist in those days. I believe I can find something in writing to support this, if you are interested and can give me time.
     Cecil Grace was my father's first cousin, and since he died without issue, I was given the name when I was born in 1915.
     As far as I know, I am the only pilot in the family in my generation, but in the next generation after me, it might interest you to know that at least six family members have received pilot certificates from three countries, including a female ATP. Not all, of course, have the surname Grace, and many, including me, are not currently flying.
Very truly yours,
F. Cecil Grace

by email from F. Cecil Grace, 9-23-09
Dear Mr. Cooper:
     Many thanks for your interesting website, found in Google by entering "Cecil Grace +aviation". Cecil Grace was my father's first cousin, and since he died without issue, when I was born in 1915, my parents gave me the name. Until a little more than a year ago, I knew practically nothing about him, beyond what I was told as a child, that he attempted a round trip channel crossing and was killed on the return trip. Then, when the British were getting ready for Sky Sheppey 2009, (a disappointing might-have-been) I found out about that and much more about my cousin. (If you don't know about Sky Sheppey 2009, please let me know and I'll send you data on it.)
     I obtained through Amazon a copy of "The Old Flying Days" by Major C. C. Turner, which has twice run out of print, but there may be some copies available. I have just ordered the book you recommend, A History of Aeronautics.
     My wife is interested in producing a small booklet on Cecil Grace, to give to our relatives and anyone else interested. I have produced a list of the pilots in our family. This may (or may not) interest you, and if you will email me your address, I'll mail you a copy. (Yes, I know experts can send printed material by email, but I'm not there yet. Iíll also take a course on the internet when I get a little time.) We'll also send you a copy of the booklet when it is ready. I hope you won't mind if we contact you with questions.
Very truly yours,
F. Cecil Grace
Editor's Note: I thank Cecil for this additional information. I will ask him for information on "Sky Sheppy 2009" and will add it to this story when it becomes available. I applaud your wife's intention to produce a booklet on him and look forward to seeing a copy. Of course I will help you in whatever way I can.

via email from Bob Davis, 8-16-47

In cataloging the clippings on file at home, I got these fairly conclusive details:

"Aviator's Body Found in Harbor of Ostend," Knoxville Journal and Tribune, March 15, 1911, "Ostende, Belgium, March 14. - A body was brought to the surface in this harbor today which is thought to be that of Cecil Grace, the aviator who was lost last December while attempting a return aeroplane flight from Calais to Dover. Although greatly disfigured the body is said by those who examined it to have the appearance of that of the luckless English aviator.

Cecil Grace was the son of the late J. A. Grace of New York and a nephew of former Mayor William R. Grace. He was a member of the Royal Aero club and in an attempt to win the Baron de Forest prize of $20,000 December 23 flew over the English channel from Dover, reaching the Belgium frontire. He was turned back by adverse winds and after landing near Calais started on the return trip across the channel. He was never heard from again but his cap and glasses were picked up in the North Sea off Mariakerke, Belgium, January 6 and later what was supposed to be the wreckage of his aeroplane was found near the same place."

Evidentally I missed an intervening article on the denial of the body being Grace's. Possibly a search of NY or London newspapers will give more details, but almost two weeks later we find this:

"Aviator Grace is Officially Dead," Knoxville Journal and Tribune, March 28, 1911, "London, March 27. - The executors of the estate of Cecil Grace, the aviator who lost his life while attempting a cross-channel flight, were granted leave to presume his death by the probate court today. The body of the aviator has not been found."

A case of keeping some little hope up?

Cecil Grace
Arthur Chapman
My Grandfather standing by an aircraft, I do not know the name of the man standing on the wheel, the man working underneath the plane I think may be one of the early flyers but could well be wrong.
Contributed by David Payne, 3-9-10

via email from David Payne, 3-6-10
Dear Sir,

Having discovered your website on Cecil Grace I thought that you might be interested in an extract from my family history that was put down in writing by my late Uncle some 40 or so years ago. As this was some 60 years after the event my Uncle's memory may have been a little hazy! I would therefore appreciate it therefore if you would inform me of any errors that you are aware of in order that I may correct the details for the future.

My Grandfather was Arthur Chapman, 1877-1937, who started working for Short's in 1909 as head mechanic on the Isle of Sheppey and knew Cecil Grace well. The paragraph about Cecil Grace is as follows:

"Cecil Grace was lost on the 22/12/1910. Dad strapped him in his plane after trying to dissuade him from flying that day. Some wealthy person (I believe he was Baron de Forrest) had offered £3000 or £4000 to the aviator who could fly furthest from Britain on the Continent in 1910. Someone had managed to reach Belgium and Cecil Grace was anxious to try, but bad weather hampered him. Weather conditions at Eastchurch were O.K. but there were reports of head winds on the Continent and Dad was dead set against an attempt that day, Cecil Grace told him that if he found he could not possibly beat the other chap, he would turn back. Dad pressed him to take a compass but Cecil Grace was anxious to be off and went without one. Over France he could not make it and so turned to fly back. Unfortunately, fog had descended over the Goodwins and, without a compass, he lost his bearings. Ships in the Channel heard his plane flying over and it is assumed that he flew up the east coast until his petrol was used up and then he came down in the sea. He and his plane were never found."

As a matter of interest I have found (again by searching the Internet) that my Grandfather is mentioned in the Hon. Maurice Egerton's logbook.


David Payne.
Cecil Grace
  I think this picture may have been taken by Grandfather. It appears to include the Short Brothers in the group and possibly some of the early English flyers but, again I am not certain.
If you recognise any of the faces, (difficult I know from such small photos'), or can identify the aeroplanes, I would be pleased to receive the information.

Contributed by David Payne, 3-9-10

Early Flying Pioneers - Eastchurch Memorial
via email from Helen Landau , 1-25-06
     I am currently writing a novel concerning the Early Pioneers and am in the process of endless research! However one thing I do know about is the Memorial at Eastchurch which was funded through Oswald Short and built by my Great Grandfather Charles Rosewarne who built all the sheds at Eastchurch. He had a brilliant joiner/stone mason called Bert Chesson and it was he who carried out the scuptures.
     Horace Short was a great friend of my Great Grandfather's and as a result I have had many stories passed down to me.It is indeed terrible that Governments have given so little acclaim to these incredible men particularly the Short Brothers.I am in touch with the Shorts Commemorative Society and I have Bill Croydon's Early Birds and wonder if he is still alive?
     I am currently trying to trace Horace's descendants - any information you may have would be gratefully received. I have sourced your information on Cecil Grace but would like to know more. I should be most grateful for any individual stories you may have which could be appropriate.
Kind Regards,
Helen Landau
Editor's Note:9-9-07 I apologize for this very tardy response to Helen's request. However, if you can help her in her research, I know she would appreciate it. Please send your message to me. I will forward them to her promptly. Thank you.

via email from Helen Landau , 1-27-06
Dear Ralph,
     Thank you for replying to my EMail. I was amazed to see that you live in Pasadena - I had presumed you were English! Early Birds by Bill Croydon is the best, most concise booklet I have come across relating to the early British pioneers and their struggles along with the Wright Brothers in trying to convince Governments,(American, British, French, German) to purchase the Wrights biplane. In the end it was Sir Charles Rolls and his friends of the Royal Aero Club based at Mussel Manor, Leysdown, who moved to Eastchurch (as you probably know) who commissioned the Short Brothers, and who are the very first British Manufacturers of the aeroplane.
     Ref. The Short Brothers Commemorative Society, The Chairman is Darrell Penhale and his EMail is
     Yes, I have accessed information about Cecil Grace but agree would like to know more.
     I am sorry ot hear of your wife's poor health. I am intrigued to know your aims in relation to all your research. Mine are simple, ie through means of a simple novel (which may not be awfully good I'm afraid to say as I am not an experienced writer or novelist) highlight the incrdible feats of the Short Brothers in their early years of manufacturing. They should have received honours and awards right at the start from the British Government and they should still receive them albeit posthumously. Any information you have on the early Aero Club Members would be very welcome.
Kind Regards,
Helen Landau
Editor's Note:9-9-07 I thank Helen for the important bits of information. If any of you can help her in her search for more information, please let me know, I will forward your messages to her. Thank you.

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