"Kiki" Kimmerling - An ice hockey and pilot pioneer...
Born: June 22, 1882 in St Rambert-L'Isle Barbe (near Lyon)
Died: June 10, 1912 in Mourmelon, Reims
A Hockey pioneer...
Kimmerling was among the first Europeans to pick up the Canadian
version of ice hockey in Europe. He quickly established himself as one of
the top European players during the first years of the sport.
He took an immediate liking to the new sport and was an ambitious student of
He started playing for his hometown team, "Sporting Club de Lyon" at
turn of the 20th century.
In 1902-03 he was the teams star player together with a gentleman by the
name of R. Aubert.
A rivalry quickly developed between the hockey club from Lyon and the one
from Paris named, "Club des Patineurs de Paris".
They were regarded to be among the best hockey clubs in Europe at that time.
The two clubs clashed regularly for the French hockey supremacy over the
years. In 1907 Kimmerling was instrumental when Lyon beat Paris for the
Internationally Lyon used to play for the "Lyon Challenge Trophy"
against Prince's Ice Hockey Club from London. Kimmerling and Lyon were also
frequent visitors to the Swiss alps where they
played against various Swiss teams, most notably SC Leysin.
During the 1907-08 season, "Palais de Glace de Lyon", the home rink of Lyon
had to close down and the team dissolved. This ment that "Kiki" found a new
home with his former bitter rivals of Paris, "Club des Patineurs de Paris".
They of course gladly embraced their new player since he was regarded to be
among the best players in France at that time, if not the best. His first
(and one of his last) appearance with Paris in an international tournament
came in November 1908, held in Berlin, Germany.
Unfortunately Kimmerling got sick with "bronchitis" and couldn't perform as
well as he would have wanted to as Paris lost to Prince's Club of London 2-3
in the final. But his courage and fighting spirit was admirable as he played
all-out despite his sickness.
Kimmerling was very fast on his skates and was an excellent puckhandler and
dribbler. He also had a heavy shot that he liked to use a lot, much to the
dismay for the goaltenders.
Also a pioneer in aviation...
But aside from hockey Kimmerling was more known to be an avid aviator. He
studied at the lycée Ampère and quickly developed an interest in mechanics.
He started out by racing with cars, but in 1908 his interest shifted to
airplanes, less than five years after the Wright brothers historic first
flight. At this point Kimmerling was slowly leaving hockey behind him and
started devoting more time to his newly found passion. He was one of the
first people in France and Europe who flew with airplanes. Kimmerling was
the first man to fly on the whole continent of Africa and the entire
southern hemisphere. He had the first successful demonstration of powered
flight in South Africa as he brought a Voisin, [Flying Matchbox] to East
London for the Gala Season in 1909 as a promotional attraction after an
invitation by the East London Council.
Kimmerling made a lot of headlines and on the afternoon of December 28,
1909, Kimmerling attained a height of about 6 meters (15-20') in a flight
over the Nahoon racecourse with an average speed of about 30 miles an hour.
Towards the end of February 1910, Kimmerling made three successful flights
at Sydenham Hill, near Orange Grove. On March 19, 1910, Thomas Thornton of
Johannesburg became the first passenger in South Africa, for the respectable
sum of 100 Pounds Sterling. Kimmerling wasn't just an enthusiast, he was
also a businessman.
At that point Kimmerling was "not in possession of an aviatorís licence,"
but that did not seem to be a serious impediment in those aviation days.
A dangerous hobby...
Flying back then was a hazardous business. Many people lost their lives in
the first few years of flying. Unfortunately Kimmerling was not an exception
as his passion for planes eventually cost him his life. He had his first
serious flyng accident in June 1910 when his plane crashed landed from 20
metres above, only slightly injuring Kimmerling. Of course, Kimmerling
didn't let that accident scare him away and he happily continued with the
flying. On October 19, 1910 he obtained his pilot license, No. 291 in the
world at that time.
Kimmerling entered the aviation school in Bron and was one of the first who
took part as an observer of military aviation training in Lyon.
On June 10, [some say June 2 or June 9] 1912 in Reims (Mourmelon), France,
only 12 days before his 30th birthday he was test flying a new airplane, a
two-seater, a Sommer Mono-Plane designed by a gentleman named Tonnet. Léon
Bathiat, an excellent pilot himself and an associate of professor/airplane
builder Roger Sommer asked Kimmerling to pilot the new plane. According to
eyewitnesses the plane was very unstable as soon as it took off, shaking
violently. Kimmerling reached a height of 300 metres [more probably 30] when
the plane suddenly plummeted and crashed to the ground after a wing had
detached from the plane. Kimmerling was killed instantly and both the hockey
and aviation world lost a great sportsman, a true pioneer in both fields.
© 2004 SIHSS Patrick Houda