HMA No 23r

HMA 23r in flight.

HMA 23r was part of an order from the Admiralty for four airships. HMA 23r and HMA 26r (later named R26) were to be built by Vickers at Barrow, HMA 24r was to be built by William Beardsmore at Inchinnan, and HMA 25r was to be built by Armstrong-Whitworth. All these ships were based on a much earlier airship design (HMA no 9). HMA 23r was the first to be completed so these airships were collectively known as “23 class” ships.

Work began on this airship in January 1916 at Barrow but ran in to many obstacles. Primarily she proved too heavy but was finally accepted in October 1917 after a stripping back of fittings and engine changes. She was mainly used for training and experimental purposes. In December 1917 she flew over Buckingham Palace in daylight and at the end of the war in 1918 she escorted a flotilla of U-boats into Harwich when Germany surrendered. She was later used for more experiments at Pulham before being deleted in September 1919.

Some known crew of HMA 23r

One time Captain of HMA No 23r Godfrey Main Thomas was born in Jamaica on lOth Sep, 1895. He was the youngest of five sons and started his military service at the end of the WW1 as a Midshipman on H.M.S. Colossus. He was awarded the King's Medal & Dirk. His squadron was transferred to the RNAS until the formation of the RAF in 1918. He was promoted to Flt Lieutenant but sadly was killed in the R38 airship crash.

Pilot Victor Goddard

Victor Goddard was a young navy cadet in 1910 but by 1915 was a fully trained airship pilot. He served on several non-rigids during the war and later served on airships HMA 23r, HMA 24r and then was an advisor on both the R34 and R80 airships. He later went on to have a distinguished career in the RAF becoming an Air Marshall and received a knighthood in 1947.

Engineer J S Middleton

J S Middleton served with early non rigid airship Eta and from 1914 to 1916 was part of the team at Kingsnorth involved in the design and construction of Submarine Scout and Coastal Patrol airships. He was then stationed at Longside airship station before joining airship HMA 9r, followed by the HMA 24r and then the R31. (Source IWM oral histories).

Rigger Corporal R J Burgess joined the airship service in 1916. After serving on the R9 he worked on both the R31 and R32 and then on the R34. He later joined the R100 crew and was part of an advance team of men who sailed to Canada to assist in the arrival of the R100. He is registered as a resident of Shortstown in 1930 and 1931.

Assistant coxswain Thomas Hobbs joined the airship service in March 1915. He had served on P4 (non-rigid) and after HMA No 9 served on airships R31, R23, R24, R25, R36, and R33. He later worked on both the R100 and R101.

Walter Potter joined the RNAS in 1915 and worked on non-rigids. After working on the R9 he served on the R23 and was Asst Cox on the R33. Walter was one of only five survivors of the R38 crash in 1921 but sadly was to lose his life in the R101 crash in Oct 1930.

Another captain of HMA No 23r was Major Ivor Little. Like Godfrey Thomas, Ivor was killed in the R38 airship crash in August 1921.

Rigger George Martin Rampton joined the Royal Flying Corp in 1915 and served in the First World War. He also worked on the R32 and the R101. Sadly he too lost his life when the R101 crashed.

Flight -Sgt Thomas Greenstreet. Worked on No.4 Parseval, No.3 Astra SS Willows, SS4 & 5 Coastal 21. After serving on the R9, he worked in the R23, R31, R36, and was Second Coxswain on the R33. He was Chief coxswain on the R100.

Shown above Harold Butler Wyn Evans. In 1916 he was Admiralty Overseer for H.M. Rigid Airships and worked on airship R9. In 1917 he became Chief Admiralty Overseer and was attached to airships R23 and R26. He later worked on airships R29, R33 and R38. From 1924 to 1926 he was Officer in Charge of Design, Research & Construction of H.M. Airships at Cardington. (With grateful thanks to Christine Dalton the grand-daughter of Harold Wyn Evans for providing this information. For more details about Harold see his biography written by Christine in the Notable People Section of this website)..

HMA No 23r was designed by H B Pratt and Barnes Wallis and built by Vickers.