R32 Airship

The R32 leaving the shed at Cardington.

This picture shows the R32, the second wooden airship built by Shorts at Cardington. This ship was commissioned in 1919 and had a far more successful career than her sister the R31. From the memoirs of George Meager, the First Officer on the R100 airship we learn that once the R32 was completed it was flown to Pulham which at the time was a centre for training and experimentation. The ship was flown from Cardington on September 16th 1919 with Major Elmsley* in charge.

In his book My Airship Flights 1915-1930 George Meager reports that a week later he was on board as navigator when the R32 flew across to Amsterdam - he recalls another crew member named Scroggs on this flight. He took a further two flights a month later naming Flt Lt Ivor Cecil Little* as the Captain and Scroggs as First Officer. After taking part in trials and tests for the National Physical Laboratory she was scrapped in 1920;

* Major Elmsley and Flt Lt Cecil Little - again can anyone supply any more details about these men?

The R32 Crew

Captain George Meager
My Airship Flights 1915-1930 by George Meager.

Shown above: Captain G.F.Meager, joined the Airship Section of the R.N.A.S. in 1915 and commanded various non- rigids. He was also Captain of the S.R.l, an Italian semi-rigid. He later worked on the R33, R100 and R101.

Major Elmsley - in charge of the airship Sept 1919. If anyone can supply any details about him please make contact.

Above: Norman Gerald Mann joined the Airship Service in July 1919 and also served on the R36, R33 and later served on the R100 as Chargehand Engineer.

Press reports list Flight Sgt W. R. Gent as a crew member of the R32. He was also an engineer on the R34. He joined the airship service in 1915. In 1925 he was part of the R33 crew when it broke away from its moorings. William Gent lived in Shortstown from at least 1925 until 1930 when he lost his life in the R101 crash.

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.
Flt Lt Ivor Cecil Little. Not much is known about this man. Sadly he lost his life in the R38 crash.

Rigger George Martin Rampton joined the Royal Flying Corp in 1915. He also worked on the R31 and the R101. Sadly he too lost his life when the R101 crashed.

Rigger George Ryder Scott - was later to serve on the R100 and was based in Shortstown in 1930.

Engineer William Henry King was born in Tonbridge on 02.08.1895. He joined the RNAS in WW1 and took part in airship patrols over the North Sea. He served on the R29, R32 and R36 airships and was also on the breakaway R33. In a very poignant ending to his story the train carrying his body along with the rest of the fallen crew passed through his home town on the way to London. (Many thanks to the Tonbridge Historical Society for supplying this information)

The Log Book of US crew member Thomas Dickerson showing entries for both the R32 and R80 airships.
US Crew member Thomas Dickerson


Shown left - US crewman Thomas Dickerson who was also attached to the ill-fated R38 but not on board the fatal flight. Above is an extract from his log book listing his flights on the R32 and R80.

First Officer Henry Sydney Scroggs


First Officer Henry Sydney Scroggs had wide experience of airships being stationed at Anglesey, Howden and Pulham and Capel during WWI. He went on to serve in the RAF through the 1920's and 1930's becoming a Group Captain. Sadly he lost his life on active duty in 1941 at Thornley Island aged 45.

Also listed on Thomas Dickerson's log book above against the R32 is US Captain Maxfield who was later to become the US Commander of the R38 and lost his life when that ship crashed in 1921.

Granville Watts


Shown left is Granville Watts who is also listed as serving on the R32. For more information about this highly experienced airship man go to the R100 Airship section of this website. Granville Watts lived in Shortstown from 1927-1930.

Archibald Wann

Archibald Wann (left) had a wide experience of airships having served on the R29, R32, and R36 and was a survivor of the R38 crash. He subsequently flew on the R100 flight to Montreal and was also part of the enquiry team of the R101 crash. He went on to become an Air Commodore and died in 1948.

This advert (left) for Short Brothers Rochester & Bedford Ltd appeared in The Aeroplane dated Aug 20 1919. It is very rare to see any documented references to the R32 so this was a pleasant find.