Over the last hundred years Stradey has been the venue for many a sporting activity and entertainment. Not only is it famous for the exciting rugby and cricket matches that have been played there but it has also been the arena for other events such as the ‘Royal Welsh Show’ and ‘Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show’ to name but a few . But perhaps another claim to fame could include ‘the runway for the first aeroplane to land in the town’.
On Saturday May 25th, 1912 an aeroplane piloted by Monsieur Henri Salmet was guided in to Stradey by a balloon trailing a streamer bearing the ‘Daily Mail Aeroplane Tour’. The blimp was placed 800ft high to show the intrepid pilot where to land and also to advertise the event.
It seems that the whole of the town turned out en mass to see Llanelli’s first aerial visitor, as word of the event must have reached the ears of every Llanellyite. The crowds gathered around Stradey and Pembrey Road to such a mass that the local tram service had to be abandoned.
At precisely half past five his aircraft was spotted, and a cricket match that was in play was abandoned, the stumps were drawn and all the seats were removed to allow the aircraft to land. But all this was unnecessary as Salmet avoided the cricket pitch and landed on a nearby strip of land thirty five yards long. He was met and greeted by a number of civic dignitaries including The Chairman of the Urban District Council, Mr Herbert Rees and the Town Clerk, Mr H. W. Spowart. His aircraft was a 50 horse power Bleriot monoplane and was marked with the words ‘Daily Mail’ emblazoned on the wings. The side of the fuselage was decorated with the ‘Tricolour’ and the Union Flag with ‘Entente Cordiale’ inscribed below. Salmet then took off and gave an exciting display of the aircraft’s capabilities. He then laid his aircraft up for the night under a sheet of tarpaulin guarded by a watchman.
The following Monday he gave further air displays above the town to the excitement of the spectators. On landing his plane he was overwhelmed by a cheering crowd. Salmet pleaded to his fans “Enough I thank you all very much, but please clear away and let me get into the air again”. This time he took off and headed for Mumbles where he gave another show .He then returned to Llanelli.
A strong breeze was blowing on Wednesday 29th May, the day our intrepid airman departed Llanelli for Taunton. Once again a vast crowed gathered to wish Monsieur Salmet a ‘Bon Voyage’. Bigyn Hill was literally packed with thousands of people there to witness his departure at twenty past five in the afternoon. Salmet was seen to circle Llanelli and then head for the channel. That evening the post office in Llanelli received the following telegram from Hamilton Fyfe of the Daily Mail at Taunton which read … “Salmet arrived at six thirty- Splendid flight - Hamilton Fyfe”.
A few years later Salmet was serving as a pilot in the French Air Force and Hamilton Fyfe became a famous war correspondent, both serving in the Great War.