Col. James M. Christopher Fitzmaurice

 

The References section of this site lists two biographies 207, 208 of Colonel Fitzmaurice as well as two more general books 66, 230 which describe the flight of the Bremen and related adventures of the crew. All four books focus on the flight of the Bremen on the first East-to-West transatlantic flight. The books by Hotson and Fennelly include extensive bibliographies relating to the flight.

This web page is not intended as a substitute for the books. It has two modest goals:

  1. To provide a time line of events in the life of Colonel James Fitzmaurice.
     
  2. To list every known hyperlink to a website that relates to the Bremen, to any of its three crew members, or to activities and people involved with the historic flight.
Time line of Events in the Life of James M. C. Fitzmaurice
  • 6 Jan 1898: James was born in Dublin, Ireland.66 Considering the customs in his father's family, he was probably baptized "James Michael" and added the name "Christopher" at Confirmation. His parents were Michael FitzMaurice and Mary Agnes O' Riordan. The family was then residing at 35 Mountjoy Cottages on Dublin's North Circular Road.
     
  • 23 May 1902: At age four, James moved with his parents to a house on Dublin Road, Portlaoise, Co. Laois.208
     
  • 1908: James broke his arm at about age ten when he fell out of a tree while collecting the eggs of wild birds.207
     
  • James attended St. Mary's,207 a Christian Brothers School217 in Maryboro (Portlaoise) until shortly before his 16th birthday.208
     
  • It is reported that, prior to his 16th birthday, James was sent to a private business college in Waterford.208 It is also reported that James attended St. Joseph's College in Rockwell.217 These conflicting statements are probably due to two different descriptions of the same college.
     
  • In school, his sport was Gaelic Football.217
     
  • James was employed as a trainee salesman208 "for a period" in the Drapery Firm of Hearns, Waterford.217 He was then 16 years of age.208
     
  • In 1914, at age 16, James joined the Irish National Volunteers. 208
     
  • Later in 1914, James enlisted in the Cadet Company of the 7th Battalion of the Leinsters. He was then 16 years of age although the "required" minimum age was 19.208 James was taken out by his father (too young).217
     
  • In 1915, James enlisted in the British Army, 17th Lancers217 (a cavalry unit),208 at the age of 17. He was sent to France, was wounded, and was twice recommended for a Commission.217
     
  • James arrived in France circa May 1916. He was then posted to an English unit, the 7th Battalion of the Queen's Royal (West Surrey) Regiment of Foot. It was part of the 55th Brigade in the British 55th division.208
     
  • In July 1916, James fought in the Battle of the Somme.208
     
  • In 1916, James became an acting sergeant in the Queen's Royal West Surrey (an infantry unit).207
     
  • On his 19th birthday in January 1917, James held the rank of Corporal, was an acting Sergeant, and commanded Platoon No. 13 of D Company of the 7th Queen's.208
     
  • In May 1917, James was approved for a commission.208
     
  • 8 June 1917: Cpl. Fitzmaurice left for England "to take up commission".208 He was sent for training to Cadet College and Gazetted to 8th Battalion, Liverpool, Irish Regiment.217
     
  • 28 Nov 1917: James was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant207 and was posted to the 8th Irish Battalion of the King's (Liverpool) Regiment.208
     
  • 3 Mar 1918: James was posted to the School of Military Aeronautics at Reading.207
     
  • 1 June 1918: James began his "practical flying training" at Eastbourne Aerodrome.208
     
  • 28 October 1918: Having completed his elementary training at Eastbourne,207 James was posted to the No. 1 School of Fighting and Aerial Gunnery at Marske, near Middlesbrough.208
     
  • James completed his training as a fighter pilot and was posted to sail to France on 11 Nov 1918, the day that the armistice became effective.207 His sailing was canceled when the Armistice was announced.
     
  • James married Violet "Bill" Clarke on his 21st birthday, 6 Jan 1919.208
     
  • James continued in the Royal Air Force, flying the mails with 110th Squadron.207
     
  • Served in "Army of Occupation" until 1919.217
     
  • He joined the Army Air Corps in 1919 and was appointed to the rank of Lieutenant.217
     
  • In May 1919, James was selected to undertake the first night mail flight (Folkstone to Bologne).217
     
  • August 1919: The experimental airmail service ended.208
     
  • In 1919, James was selected for Cape to Cairo flight (which did not materialize).217
     
  • Sep-Nov 1919: James commanded the 6th Wing Working Party of the RAF. He was assigned the task of removing useful material from six aerodromes which had been deactivated.208
     
  • Dec 1919: James was demobilized and spent most of the following 18 months selling insurance for the North British and Mercantile Insurance Company.208
     
  • Circa May 1921, Patricia Fitzmaurice was born. She was the only child of Violet and James.
     
  • May 1921: James was recalled after 18 months and was attached to No. 25 Fighter Squadron.208 He accepted a Short Service Commission for four to six years.
     
  • Aug 1921: James resigned his RAF commission.
     
  • Sometime during his service in the RAF, James adopted the accent used by English officers. He apparently retained this distinctively non-Irish accent for the remainder of his life. While his new accent may have helped his career in the RAF, it was probably a net disadvantage when he was promoting any of his business schemes in Ireland.
     
  • Feb 1922: James joined the Irish Army Corps following the formation of the Irish Free State.
     
  • Early 1923: James was promoted to Captain.208
     
  • 25 Oct 2171925,208: James was promoted to Acting Commandant and was appointed second-in-command of the Irish Air Corps, with headquarters in Baldonnel.
     
  • Promoted to Commandant on 1 Sep 1927.217
     
  • 16 Sep 1927: The Princess Xenia (a Fokker Vila airplane) took off from Baldonnel headed for New York with a planned landing at Newfoundland. The pilot was Captain Robert Henry MacIntosh. Co-pilots were Maurice W. Piercey and James Fitzmaurice. Because of bad weather, the flight was aborted when the Xenia was about 300 miles out over the Atlantic. The flight lasted five and one-half hours.
     
  • 1928 Feb 15: Baron von Hünefeld acquired title to the Bremen.207
     
  • 1928, 12 — 13 Apr: James flew in the crew of the Bremen on the first transatlantic flight from East to West. The crew consisted of
    Captain Hermann Köhl (15 Apr 1888 — 7 Oct 1938), pilot;
    Captain James Fitzmaurice, (6 Jan 1898 — 26 Sep 1965) co-pilot; and Baron Ehrenfried Guenther von Hünefeld (1 May 1892 — 4 Feb 1929), owner.208
    • 12 Apr, 05:09 GMT: Started engine of the Bremen at Baldonnel Airport207 (about 19 km southwest of Dublin).
    • 12 Apr, 05:38 GMT: Lifted off from Baldonnel Airport and headed west.207
    • 12 Apr, 07:05 GMT: The Bremen passed the Slyne Head lighthouse in Galway, started across the Atlantic, and headed for Mitchell Field, Long Island, New York207 while maintaining an altitude of 1500 feet and an airspeed of 200 kmh (125 mph).
    • 12 Apr, 09:00 GMT: The crew started their first meal aloft: hot bouillon and sandwiches.207
    • 12 Apr, 13:45 GMT: Bremen crossed the 30th meridian. Surface speed was over 90 knots.207
    • 12 Apr, 16:00 GMT: Bremen climbed to 2000 feet.207
    • 12 Apr, 21:00 GMT: Crew made their last drift calculation.207
    • When the sun disappeared and the clouds obscured the stars, the Bremen climbed to 6000 feet. Köhl estimated that they were then about three hours from land. If they had been able to stay on course, his estimate would have proven to have been correct. In fact, without the aid of the north star, they then relied on a magnetic compass and drifted far off course toward the north.207
    • 13 Apr, 06:50 GMT: They saw Polaris again. James then estimated that their magnetic compass was in error by 40 degrees.207 Köhl immediately turned southwesterly to follow the east coast of North America towards Mitchell Field (New York), which was then about 1500 miles207 south of the Bremen. They flew among the Torngat Mountains of Labrador and then (without recognizing any landmarks) followed the George River upstream.207 In order to minimize the adverse effect of a strong southwest wind, Köhl descended into the George River Valley and flew at an altitude of ten meters (32 feet).207
    • 13 Apr, 14:00 GMT: The Bremen passed over the lakes at the source of the George. The crew saw nobody on the ground but people on the ground sighted the plane.207
    • 13 Apr, 15:00 GMT: The Bremen was seen flying over North West River on the shore of Lake Melville.207
    • 13 April: At about 17:50 GMT, with about two hours of fuel remaining, and only a global knowledge of their location, the crew spotted a lighthouse on an island; then a pack of dogs; then four people. It was Greenly Island in the Strait of Belle Isle. The Strait separates Newfoundland from Labrador and Quebec on the mainland. Greenly Island is about four miles inside the boundary of the Province of Quebec.
    • Köhl made a "perfect three-point landing" on a shallow, ice-covered, water reservoir (which James called a "lagoon"). Just as the Bremen came to a stop, it broke through the ice. The tail then projected about 20 feet into the air. Everybody got wet but everybody was safe.
    • The clock in the lighthouse was remembered (by the family of the lighthouse keeper) as indicating 2 pm Atlantic Time when the Bremen was first sighted from the ground. Captain Köhl and Baron von Hünefeld said that they were in the air 36 ½ hours. If their statements of elapsed time had an accuracy of better than one minute (unlikely), then the time of touchdown was 18:08 GMT or 13:08 EST or 14:08 Atlantic Time. I would guess that the time of touchdown has a probable error of ± 5 minutes.
       
  • Alfred Cormier of Long Point (Lourdes Blanc Sablon), who operated the local telegraph office from his home, made contact with Marconi station VCL at Point Amour in Labrador--18 miles east of Long Point. From there, his message went through St. John's, Newfoundland (at 6:30 p.m.), and Louisburg, Nova Scotia. It was forwarded by land lines across Canada and via Radio Corp. of America station WCC at Chatham, Massachusetts, for transmission to New York City.

    The first message read: "German plane at Greenly Island, wind southeast, thick."

    A short time later, a second message was sent: "German plane Bremen landed Greenly Island, noon, slightly damaged, crew well."

    By 7:15 p.m., the story was in all the newsrooms of the eastern seaboard.207

  • 14-26 Apr 1928: Reporters and photographers rushed towards Greenly Island to cover the story of the Bremen and its crew. At the height of the activity, there were 60 reporters who were covering the story from the field.207 Canadian Transcontinental Airways pilot C. A. "Duke" Schiller, acting as a reporter for the Toronto Daily Star, arrived at Greenly on Sun 15 Apr 1928. Shortly afterwards, Canadian Transcontinental Airways Chief Pilot, Roméo Vachon arrived with four passengers: photographers Roy Fernstom of Associated Press and Edward N. Jackson of Pacific and Atlantic Photos, with reporters Leslie Roberts of Hearst and James Stanton of the Quebec Chronicle Express.

    Roméo Vachon was not only a pilot but also a licensed engineer. He is reported to have declared that the Junkers could not fly because its engine's crankshaft was bent. This did not prevent others from trying to fly the Bremen off Greenly Island. However, they were never able to start the engine.228
     
  • 26 Apr 1928: After 13 days of fruitless attempts to repair the Bremen and fly it to New York, the three flyers left Greenly Island on a Ford Trimotor Airplane flown by Bernt Balchen. They flew to Curtis Field, Long Island, New York with a stop at Lac Ste. Agnes, Quebec. Also aboard the plane were Charles J. V. Murphy (reporter from the New York World) and Ernest Köppen (mechanic from Junkers).207
     
  • The crew of the Bremen then began a two-month tour of cities in North America and Europe to be celebrated as heroes:
    • Mon 30 April 1928: Parade in New York City over a route ten miles long.
    • Wed 2 May 1928: Each of the three fliers received the Distinguished Flying Cross from President Coolidge in Washington, DC.
    • Wed 9 May 1928: Philadelphia, PA
    • Thu 10 May 1928: Cleveland, Ohio
    • Official welcome to Chicago on Fri and Sat, 12 and 13 May 1928. The parade was on Sat. Although James had at least two FitzMaurice uncles and nine FitzMaurice first cousins living in the Chicago area at the time, there is no oral history indicating that James met with any of them. This seems strange since Mayor Thompson was acquainted with one of James's cousins (namely my father) and would likely have mentioned that fact to James. James would have been welcomed by his Chicago relatives even though they would have disapproved of his decision to adopt the accent of RAF officers.
    • Sun and Mon, 13 and 14 May 1928: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    • Tue 15 May 1928: Saint Louis, Missouri
    • Thu 17 May 1928: Detroit, Michigan
    • Fri 18 May 1928: Boston, Massachusetts
    • Mon 21 May 1928: Albany, New York
    • Tue 22 May 1928: Montreal, P.Q., Canada
    • Wed 23 May 1928: Quebec, P.Q., Canada
    • Fri 25 May 1928: Back in New York
    • 9 Jun 1928: The three flyers sailed for Europe aboard the Columbus.
    • 18 Jun 1928: The Columbus arrived in Bremerhaven. The flyers were feted in the city of Bremen.
    • 19 Jun 1928: The three flyers flew to Berlin aboard the Europa 11, a sister ship to the Bremen.
    • Thu 21 Jun 1928: The flyers were received by President Hindenburg.
    • 30 Jun 1928: The names of the three flyers were added to the "Roll of the Honorary Freedom of the City of Dublin".
    • Visited Hungary and Austria (dates and cities unknown).
    • Tue and Wed, 3 and 4 July 1928: The flyers were feted in Dublin.
    • Thu 5 July 1928: Welcomed in the city of Limerick.
    • Fri 6 July 1928: The flyers met the abdicated Kaiser in Doorn Castle in Holland. They stayed in Doorn over the weekend and then separated as their tour ended.
       
  • James was promoted to Major retroactively to 13 Apr 1928.217
     
  • James was promoted to Colonel on 24 Aug 1928.207 The appointment was backdated one year (with back pay).
     
  • Circa 2 Feb 1929: James resigned from the Irish Air Corps.
     
  • Circa Jan 1931: James and Violet were divorced.208
     
  • 27 Feb 1933: While in Germany attempting to negotiate with German aircraft manufacturers, James saw the Reichstag building in Berlin burn down. On the same trip, James had a meeting with Adolph Hitler.
     
  • 19 Oct 1934: James signed a memo as "J.M.C. Fitzmaurice, Colonel". "M" probably stood for Michael but I have found no confirmation and no other record of his ever using the initial "M".
     
  • James spent most of the 1930s in the vicinity of New York City.207
     
  • During World War II, James operated a club for servicemen in London.207 An article written by Andrew A. Rooney (then a staff writer, later a TV star) for the 8 Jan 1943 edition of Stars and Stripes notes that James was a member of the newly formed "London Hanger" of the "Quiet Birdmen", an international social club for veteran fliers.
     
  • During the late 1940s, James returned to Ireland to look for work.
     
  • In early 1953, James resided at Garville Avenue, Rathgar.207
     
  • April 1953: As the only survivor of the crew of the Bremen, James took part in the remembrance ceremony "25 years of the first East to West Transatlantic flight". In memory of his friends Köhl and von Hünefeld, he laid down a wreath on this occasion.233 On 10 Apr 1953, Col. Fitzmaurice was welcomed in Bremen. Upon arrival at the airport he was picked up in a modern "Borgward Hansa 1500 Sport Cabrio" escorted by police motor-cycles. He stayed in Bremen until April 17 and took the opportunity to fly at the local airfield with flying instructor Jan Eilers.233, 234
     
  • 1 June 1955: James was a guest of honor on board the Lufthansa route trial flight E4 400/01 from Shannon to New York. Lufthansa made a photo showing James with German Minister of Transport, Dr. Hans-Christoph Seebohm, and Lufthansa Chief Executive Officer, Hans M. Bongers.233
     
  • 8 June 1955: The successful trial was followed by the first scheduled flight. The Lockheed Super Constellation L-1049 G took off from Hamburg and flew via Düsseldorf and Shannon to New York-Idlewild. The time elapsed between liftoff at Hamburg and touchdown at Idlewild was 17 hours. The aircraft, D-ALEM, was restored by Horst Jahnke and is now exhibited at the Munich airport.233
     
  • 27 July 1955: A Lufthansa representative met with James in Dublin, at 15, Lr. Pembroke Street to hand over a photo of a previous meeting with Lockheed in New York. James indicated that he was about to leave Ireland because there was no work for him in aviation. James said that Ireland had lost its importance as a port of departure for North Atlantic flights with the development of new types of aircraft.233
     
  • Circa 1962, James lived at 34 Belmont Avenue, Donnybrook.207
     
  • In May 1962 and in April 1963, James was living in Richmond. He was then partially blind.207 Although I have found no information about his vision problem, I suspect cataracts since several members of my branch of the family have had cataract operations.
     
  • Sometime in the early 1960's, James lived in Flat "A", 64 Grovenor Road, Dublin.207
     
  • 1 Sep 1965: James was invited as a guest of honor to attend the International Traffic Exhibition (Internationale Verkehrsausstellung, IVA) which had opened on 25 Jun 1965 in Munich, Germany. On the aviation honor day, James was presented with the special air pioneer award, "die Pioneer Kette der Windrose" and a breast pin set with a brilliant, an honor granted previously to such personalities as Wernherr von Braun, Wolfgang von Gronau, and the Russian Cosmonaut Komaroff. During his journey to and from Munich, it was noticeable that the health of James was failing but he was reluctant to use a wheelchair. (Lufthansa Archive) 233
     
  • James died at the age of 67 on Sunday 26 Sep 1965 in Baggot Street Hospital in Dublin.
     
  • James received a State Funeral followed by interment at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.207
     
  • Oct 1965: The news service Junkers-Nachrichten published an obituary of James and a photo showing him with Mrs. Köhl at the International Transport Exhibition in Munich on 1 Sep 1965.233
     

Related Hyperlinks

Note: All web pages are temporary. I expect about one-fifth of the hyperlinks in this list to disappear every year. I hope that viewers will report any hyperlinks that are discontinued.

Die Bremen: Geschichte Eines Flugzeuges

Blauer Max-Atlantikflug von Ost nach West
(with eight photographs)

Hermann Köhl Museum

Homepage of Andreas baron von Hünefeld

Genealogy of Col. Fitzmaurice

Two Famous People from Portlaoise

Famous Irish People

Junkers W33L "Bremen"

Der Verein: Wir holen die BREMEN nach Bremen e. v.

Roméo Vachon

Roméo Vachon, Canadian Civil Aviation Pioneer

Clarence Alvin "Duke" Schiller

Signs of the Times
(includes photo of historical marker for
FITZMAURICE FLYING FIELD, 1929--1953)

Flughafen München - Reisende und Besucher - Erlebnis Flughafen - Besucherpark - Historische Flugzeuge

Additional Information about the Bremen and its Crew

  • Do you have comments or information that you would like to share concerning the Bremen or members of its crew?
  • Do you have any more dates or details (no matter how minor) that I can add to the time line of events in the life of Colonel Fitzmaurice?
  • Do you know the address of any other web page that relates to the Bremen or to any of its three crewmen?

If the answer to any of these questions is YES, then please send your information, and comments to John A. FitzMaurice.


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