The R100 Airship

The R100 airship moored at Cardington

The R100 was designed by Barnes Wallis and built at Howden by the Airship Guarantee Company. When the airship programme stopped in 1921 following the R38 crash much of the site at Howden had been cleared so work began in 1924 to revive the site.

Similar to events at Cardington where crowds gathered to get a glimpse of the R101, the R100 was a major draw to the public at Howden whilst it was being built and in 1928 it was possible for members of the public to view the ship.

On completion and having passed flight tests the ship left Howden for Cardington in November 1929. Whilst this was a major step forward for the airship programme workers at Howden must have felt a little sad to see it leave.

In August 1930 the ship made a triumphant return trip to Canada.

Barnes Wallis - the designer of the R100.
Crowds greeting the R100 at Montreal, Canada.
The R100 was built by the Airship Guarantee Company a subsidiary of Vickers-Armstrong.
'My Airship Flights 1915-1930' by George Meager describes the flight to Canada.
George Meager First Officer of the R100.

1929 saw the arrival of the R100 to shed no 2 at Cardington from Howden and many personnel followed on. The First Officer was Captain George Meager a highly experienced airship man having served in the Airship section of the RNAS in the First World War. George Meager lived in North Drive, Shortstown in 1929 & 1930 as did quite a few of the R100 team. His airship exploits are recorded in his book 'My Airship Flights 1915-1930 shown here. His book includes some terrific chapters describing the flight to Canada.

For many years after the airship programme ended some of the remaining crew and staff would meet up in Bedford at The Swan Hotel for a reunion dinner.The newspaper caption at the time described these as 'R100' gatherings but some of those people attending were from the R101 team. Seated first left is Arthur Bell resident of Shortstown and survivor of the R101 crash.

Although the R100 was originally constructed at Howden the men chose to meet up in Bedford which made sense as many of them stayed on in Shortstown and found other work on the camp.

The gathering seen here in 1939 would have been especially poignant as WW11 had just begun. Several of the men are in uniform. The man seated first left in the picture (right) is Arthur Bell one of the six survivors of the R101 crash. It is not known if any reunions took place during the war and if any others were held after the one in 1945.

The R100 reunion at The Swan Hotel Bedford November 1939. (Picture from Beds & Luton Archives Services Times & Citizens Collection BP Box 761 Photography courtesy of John Day.)