Perth County’s Bud Blowes set world record 100 years ago

The Beacon Herald - - NEWS - BETTY JO BELTON STRAT­FORD-PERTH ARCHIVES The Strat­ford-Perth Archives is lo­cated at 4273 Line 34 (High­way 8), just west of Strat­ford. We are open for re­search from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mon­day to Fri­day. Please call 519-271-0531 ext. 259 or email [email protected]

A hun­dred years ago this month – on Jan. 2, 1919 – Perth County’s lieu­tenant, Arthur “Bud” Blowes, was in­volved in setting a world record for fly­ing al­ti­tude. Blowes was half of a two-man team fly­ing an open two-seater DeHav­i­land

“bomb­ing ma­chine,” with a 450-horse­power Napier en­gine for 66 min­utes and 15 sec­onds. Dur­ing that time, the plane climbed 30,500 feet – nearly six miles – into the air. (Wil­bur and Orville’s Wright Flyer first rose off the sands at Kitty Hawk for 12 sec­onds to travel 120 feet in De­cem­ber 1903!)

Blowes had been in the Royal Air Force for one-and-a-half years and was con­sid­ered one of the most ex­pert fly­ers at the RAF Martle­sham Heath Sta­tion near Ip­swich, Eng­land. Blowes was the ob­server on the flight, and the avi­a­tor was Capt. An­drew Lang from Sydney, Aus­tralia. The sun shone brightly, but it was cold up there. Blowes and Lang were each wear­ing two pairs of silk socks, three pairs of stock­ings, thigh boots lined with lambs’ wool, thick un­der­cloth­ing, three sweaters, an “Arc­tic suit” lined with fur, a bal­a­clava and fur-lined cap, gog­gles lined with cot­ton wool and elec­tri­cally lined gloves with gauntlets and a muf­fler round the neck. In spite of these pre­cau­tions, Blowes suf­fered se­ri­ous frost bite to both hands and his face. Lang re­moved his gog­gles at some point be­cause they were frost­ing over and one of his eyes watered and froze “and was soon as big as a plum.”

At around 20,000 feet, Blowes’ oxy­gen sup­ply was com­pro­mised, so he passed out. At 30,500 feet, the en­gine failed be­cause the fuel pres­sure pumps stopped work­ing. Lang re­ported that Blowes re­gained con­scious­ness again when they dropped back to 20,000 feet. Pre­sum­ably, the en­gine re­turned to life as well, as they were able to get back to the RAF sta­tion and “alighted amidst the cheers of their com­rades.” The flight made in­ter­na­tional head­lines, and Blowes and Lang were hounded by news­pa­per re­porters and pho­tog­ra­phers for days. In a 1955 ar­ti­cle about his fly­ing ad­ven­ture, Blowes said he hadn’t been higher than 20 feet off the ground since that day. He also re­ported that Lang, who he de­scribed as a “real gen­tle­man in ev­ery sense of the word,” was killed in a motor crash in Aus­tralia in 1920.

Bud Blowes was born in Mitchell on June 5, 1899. He en­listed in the Royal Fly­ing Corps in April 1917 while still in high school. After train­ing in Toronto, Eng­land and Scot­land, he went to France in March 1918, where he flew with the No. 62 Bris­tol Fighter Squadron. After the war, and after the record­set­ting flight, Blowes re­turned to Canada in April 1919. He took a busi­ness course in Strat­ford and joined the Bell Tele­phone com­pany. He later worked for the Mitchell Bridge Works. There, he met Amy Made­line Hill, the owner’s daugh­ter. They were mar­ried on April 19, 1922. Even­tu­ally, Blowes be­came deputy clerk-trea­surer for the County of Perth and then clerk­trea­surer from 1953 to 1971. He was the first per­son from Perth County to be elected to the ex­ec­u­tive of the On­tario Mu­nic­i­pal As­so­ci­a­tion. A crowd of 400 peo­ple gath­ered at the Col­i­seum in Strat­ford to cel­e­brate Blowes’ re­tire­ment. “Mr. Perth County” re­sponded to the thanks and re­marks with a se­ries of po­ems he com­posed about all the county war­dens that he had served un­der. Arthur W. Blowes died at his home in Mitchell in 1981. His fly­ing ad­ven­tures were noted in his obit­u­ary, along with his long ser­vice in lo­cal gov­ern­ments, the school board, the Royal Cana­dian Le­gion, the Lions Club and Mitchell Golf and Coun­try Club.

STRAT­FORD-PERTH ARCHIVES

A Jan­uary 1919 news­pa­per clip­ping about Blowes from the R.T. Orr scrap­books.

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