Try to imagine the surprise of local people when, on a summer’s morning in July 1914, a hot air balloon descended from the sky and landed near Foryd Station, Rhyl. The balloon, “Belgica”, had been taking part in the 10th annual contest of L’ Aero-Club de France and had two Belgians on board.
The Belgians made a very good landing in a field near Gaini (sic.) Farm (? Gainc Farm), Foryd Station. The Rhyl Police arrived on the scene to ascertain whether the visitors were foreign spies. The two Belgians gave their names as Albert Vleminekx and Ernest A. Demuyter.
M. Demuyter could speak English fairly well, and explained that he and his companion were two of twenty four competitors taking part in the longest distance balloon race from Paris. They had been in the air for over 12 hours. On reaching the Welsh Coast they found that all their ballast was gone and it was impossible to continue their journey to Ireland.
The chances of their balloon landing near someone who could speak French were highly unlikely, but that is exactly what happened. The balloon landed near Miller’s Cottage, Towyn, the home of Louis Henri Junod, a Swiss who was a teacher of French and German. M. Junod invited the Belgians in for breakfast and conversed with them in French. The men then hired a trap, were conveyed to Abergele where they caught the fast train to London for the first stage of their homeward journey.
Other newspapers reported that a violent storm had occurred not long after the competitors had left Paris and that 11 of the balloons had landed in various parts of England and Wales.
Pilot Ernest A. Demuyter was 21 when he landed near Rhyl. Born in Brussels in 1893 he was a prolific sports balloonist. In WW2 he joined the anti-nazi underground fighters, was captured by the Germans and sentenced to death. He escaped from prison. He died in Brussels in 1963.