British Airship People.
Welcome to the British Airship People website. This is to remember and celebrate the small group of people who put their faith in airships and in some cases lost their lives. Boldly going into the unknown these extremely brave men were truly remarkable individuals.
Almost ten years ago I was studying the press release reports of both the R100 and R101 crews and passengers. I was researching other airship topics at the time but knew I had some unfinished business. Something has always bothered me – where did airship men come from? What made them risk their lives standing on top of airships in mid-flight repairing ripped covers? What would make someone test a parachute for the first time? To find out more I started with the press reports and worked backwards. The reports gave brief details of officials, officers and crew listing their previous experience and the airships they had worked on. It was surprising to note that of the 31 R100 crew on the trip to Montreal in 1930 only 16 had worked on other airships. The R101 crew had similar numbers of first time flyers.
I listed every airship each individual had worked on and then visited the national and local archives, scoured newspapers and books for any other references to crew. Trends began to emerge - for example if a man was part of the R38 crew he was very unlikely to have been part of the R36 crew. This became very apparent and made sense as these ships were operating at the same time and from different sites. Often in other cases the same sets of names would appear against the same airships.
Due to the pressure of WW1 rapid progress was made in both the design and the production of airships. The early WWI airships were small non rigids and several types evolved. They were used around the coastline firstly to spot any approaching German submarines and secondly to escort UK ships at sea. At the end of the war new larger airships were planned and many of the crews of the smaller airshps simply returned to civilian life. So at this point we say goodbye to quite a few individuals. For this reason I have for the moment only followed the men who served on the later larger rigid airships. Although it has to be said in most cases these individuals cut their teeth serving on the non rigids in the war.
I have also included where possible the names of men and women who built and designed these airships. There are plenty of “back room boys and girls” who contributed much to the whole programme and as is often the case they can be overlooked. It is these people who I would like to find out more so will continue researching. On most pages you will see there are known individuals without photographs - if you can help with any of these any contributions will be gratefully received! Likewise if you wish to contribute articles on other people please make contact - details on the contact page.
I lived in Shortstown for 14 years and so there are pages about the history of that village and the Royal Airship Works but I intend to address the balance in future and have pages of other sites such as Pulham and Howden which were equally important. Whilst I have your attention please be aware this website is all about people. I have included small descriptions of each rigid airship to identify the crews but if it’s facts about airships you want you will be better served by visiting the Airship Heritage Trust website - they have the in depth technical stuff and much more!
Finally I am not normally an envious person but I wish I was the first to coin the phrase “Those magnificent men in their flying machines” because you know what? They were magnificent. Each and every one of them.