Captain James Fitzmaurice, one of Ireland’s greatest aviators, is commemorated with a monument in Portlaoise, Co Laois. He was the co-pilot on the first successful east-west flight across the North Atlantic Ocean in 1928. In Mountmellick town hall a bust of Fitzmaurice was unveiled by his daughter Patricia in 1998. In the same year An Post issued a stamp in his honour.
James Michael Christopher Fitzmaurice was born in Dublin on January 6th 1898. His family moved to Portlaoise in 1902 when he was four years old. Fitzmaurice was educated at Christian Brothers School Portlaoise and later joined the British Army. He was wounded in France during the First World War. Towards the end of the war Fitzmaurice was posted to the School of Military Aeronautics. He served with the Royal Air Force for a number of years, resigning in August 1921.
Fitzmaurice joined the Irish Air Corps in February 1922 shortly after Irish independence. By 1927 he had been promoted to the rank of Commandant. His first attempt to fly across the Atlantic to America ended in failure in 1927. His second attempt was in the German plane, The Bremen, which took off from the Air Corps Base at Baldonnel, Co Dublin in April 1928. The pilot was Captain Kohl and Fitzmaurice was his co-pilot. The owner of the plane, Von Hunfeld was also on board.
Following the first successful transatlantic flight the Bremen landed on Greenly Island, Canada just over 36 hours after take-off from Baldonnel. The successful flight made heroes of the three aviators. They were conferred with the Distinguished Flying Cross by US President Coolidge and were celebrated with a parade in New York City. They were also awarded the Freedom of the City of Dublin.
Captain James Fitzmaurice was co-pilot on the first successful East-West flight across the North Atlantic, which took off from Baldonnel, Co Dublin in the year 1928 On This Day.
Bremen flight 1928. Irish celebrations in Limerick