close up shot of the R100 on the Motreal Mast. The
design differences can be seen clearly verses the
the completion of the R101, the R100 followed closely on, being
an innovative and modern ship when compared to its counterparts
at the time. The daring decision to move way from the more traditional
Zeppelin design lines was shown in the more oval, streamlined
and aerodynamic shape of both the R100 and R101. It
was as early as 1921 during the Imperial conference when A.H.
Ashbolt London Agent-General for Tasmania, proposed an Imperial
Air Company. The idea being that a subsidy for mails carried and
a proposed passenger service to connect London to South Africa,
and across to Australia and New Zealand.
This plan later was adapted as part of the 1924 Imperial Air Communications
1923, Barnes Wallis, and Sir Dennison Burney both visited the
Zeppelin Company in Friedericshafen to see if agreement could
be met in a commercial operation between the Zeppelin Company
and the Vickers Company. This plan was later not followed up on.
It was after much deliberation and further discussing that in1924,
a contract between the Burney-Vickers Group was completed on 1st
decision had been made that separate organisations would construct
two ships. One would be built by the Royal Airship Works and the
other by a commercial contractor. The contract for the R100 had
been awarded to Vickers, who were regarded as one of the best
airship constructors, considering their history with lighter than
air craft. A new subsidiary of Vickers, the Airship Guarantee
Company, was set up purely for the construction of the ship. It
was felt by the government that having two prototypes built would
lead to twice the level of innovation over traditional lines.
Both the R100 and R101 teams were the first to build airships
in a more aerodynamic form than the traditional Zeppelin designs.
British designers had always tried to improve the aerodynamic
shape to aid efficiency compared to other contemporary ships,
the R 80 being the case in point, being the most aerodynamic ship
constructed to date.
Barnes Wallis using new design techniques assisted by Neville
Shute-Norway as his chief calculator, the R100 was designed as
a unique and efficient craft. Construction of the R100 began at
the Howden construction facility in 1927, the ship being designed
to only just fit within the existing shed. Construction of the
ship was slow due to innovations being added, such as rainwater
collection devices along the top of the ship. Also, the contract
with Vickers was for a ship to be constructed at a fixed contract
price. It had been remarked that there was rivalry between the
R100 and R101 design teams, fuelled by comments made by Neville
Shute-Norway, but recent research is contradicting the these views.As
part of the original design concept, Barnes Wallis had designed
the R100 to be built from as few different parts as possible,
with as few machines, to cut down the need for additional costs.
The plan was to design, and build a ship to fit the planned contract.
Arrangement of R100 (click plan to enlarge)
Arrangement of Power Car (click plan to enlarge)
wind tunnel tests showed that a 16-side transverse section had
about the same drag as a circular one, both R100 and R101 used
a smaller number of longitudinal girders than previous airships
in order to simplify stress calculations. Even so, the calculations
for the transverse frames required hand computation that took
two or three months to produce a solution for each frame. The
thoroughness of the stressing calculations was a consequence of
new Air Ministry criteria for the strengths required of airships,
formulated in response to the catastrophic structural failure
of R38 in 1921. However, fewer longitudinal girders resulted in
larger unsupported panels of fabric in the envelope.
Barnes Wallis created the frame of the airship using only 11 standardised
components. The 16 longitudinal girders were formed of three tubes
each, formed from strips of Duralumin wound into a helix and riveted
together. These connected 15 polygonal transverse frames, which
were held in shape by wire bracing connected to a central longitudinal
girder running the length of the ship. A further consequence
of the new rules for airframe stress design was that a new way
of harnessing the lifting force of the gasbags had to be found.
Wallis's solution to this problem later led to his innovative
geodesic airframe fuselage and wing design for the Wellesley,
Wellington and Windsor bombers.
was during the construction phase at Howden that strikes delayed
works, in 1926, 1927 and 1928. The ship was 80% completed by December
of 1928, and it was hoped thatshe
would be able to fly in early of 1929. However construction was
hit by further strikes by fitters in 1929, and the R100 was not
ready for shed trials until 3rd July 1929.
elevators were aerodynamically balanced but the rudders were unbalanced.
When the designers learned that R101 had been fitted with servo
motors at a substantial cost in weight and money they thought
that they had made a mistake and rechecked their calculations.
They eventually concluded that their calculations had been correct:
when R100 was flown the controls proved both light and effective,
and its control characteristics were compared favourably with
those of R101 by Nöel Atherstone, First Officer of R101.
was built suspended from the roof of its shed. The individual
transverse frames were assembled horizontally then lifted up and
slung from roof-mounted trackways before being slid into position
and attached to the adjacent frames by the longitudinal girders.
The ship remained suspended until the gasbags were inflated with
summer 1929 the ship's structure was nearly complete and her gasbags
were inflated. Following inflation of the gasbags, the outer covering
of linen fabric painted with aluminum aircraft dope was put in
place, and she was completed at the beginning of November. Lift
and trim trials were carried out on 11 November.
the prototype completed the R100 had design features which were
to be incorporated within the next generation of ships. The interior
passenger space was completely new to airship design and was very
different from that which was designed for the R101.
was high between the two design teams but it was still seen that
both of these ships were unique prototypes. On a global scale,
the Imperial Airship scheme was the largest project of its kind
and in 1929 the only competition was from Germany with the smaller
LZ127 "Graf Zeppelin". Not until the Hindenburg and
Graf Zeppelin II some seven years later would newly designed commercial
passenger airships of this scale take to the skies.
It had originally been intended to design special engines for
R100 which would be fuelled by hydrogen and kerosene but after
a years' work it was realised that the engine would not be developed
in time and it was decided to fit the Beardmore Tornado diesel
engine that was being developed for the Air Ministry for installation
in R101. However at a very early stage the Tornado was judged
unsuitable because of its weight and other problems. Wallis finally
settled on the use of six reconditioned Rolls-Royce Condor petrol
engines even though the fuel, with its lower flash point, was
considered to be a fire risk under tropical conditions. The
engines were contained in three gondolas, each with one engine
driving a 17 ft (5.18 m) diameter tractor propeller and a second
driving a 15 ft (4.57 m) diameter pusher propeller. The engines
driving the pusher propellers were also fitted with a gearbox
to provide reverse thrust for docking the airship
ship was designed with only 13 longitudinal girders compared to
previous designs of up to 25, and hence the ship was lighter.
Upon completion, the R100 contained 58,200ft (11 miles) of tubing,
5,000,000 rivets, 400,000 minor bracing pieces, and yet as per
the specification and Barnes Wallis design genius, made of only
nine basic and 50 different parts.
With all tests completed, on the morning of 16th December, 1929
the R100 was brought out of the Howden Shed, with clearance of
9ft each side of the hull and only 5 feet clearance of the roof.
Her first flight was from her constructional base, at Howden and
down to Cardington, as her operational home.
made her maiden flight in the morning of 16 December 1929. After
departing Howden at 07:53, she flew slowly to York then set course
for the Royal Airship Works at Cardington, Bedfordshire, running
on five engines since one of the engines had to be shut down because
of a cracked water jacket, and completing the mooring process
A second flight was made the next day, with the intention of making
a flight to London, but shortly after slipping the mast a strip
of fabric became detached from the lower fin, and the flight was
limited to a cruise around Bedfordshire to test control response,
lasting 6hr 29 min.
The following day, R100 was taken from the mast to No.2 shed at
Cardington and work on modifying the wiring holding the cover
in place begun: this took until 11 January 1930.
a test on 16 January 1930, R100 achieved a speed of 81.5 mph.
It was at speed a problem with the outer covering became apparent:
it tended to ripple and flap excessively in the form of a standing
wave. During a fourth flight on 20 January cine film was taken
of this phenomenon, which occurred because of the large areas
of unsupported fabric; it is also clearly visible in some photographs.
further short flight was made on 20 January before an endurance
flight, starting at 09:38 on 27 January when R100 slipped the
mast at Cardington and ending at 15:26 on 29 January after more
than 53 hours in the air. The flight was down over the south west
of England, and then down over the Channel Islands, and return
Following this flight it was returned to the shed for work on
the cover to be carried out. At the same time the original reconditioned
Condor IIIA engines were replaced by six new Condor IIIBs and
some weight was eliminated by reducing the amount of passenger
accommodation. The work was complete by the end of April but on
24 April it was caught by a gust while being walked out of the
shed, damaging the tail surfaces. The wind prevented it being
replaced in the shed, so it was moored to the mast. It was not
possible to return it to the shed for repairs until the morning
of 27 April. Repairs took longer than expected, and R100 remained
in the shed until 21 May, when it made a 21-hour flight intended
to test the new engine installation and modifications to the cover.
The flight this time was to the north of England and up to Hull
and her home town of Howden.
An initial design problems was that the outer cover would ripple
in flight, however this did not affect the performance of the
ship. Also, there was a slight problem with the aerodynamic forces
acting on the tail. This had shown up on wind tunnel tests but
was dismissed as a scale anomaly.
return from testing the outer cover and investigating the ripple,
on a flight on 22nd May 1930, the R100 was on it's return leg
of the trial, when it was noticed that the tail end failing had
broken. The original tail design was a very sharp tapering point,
but the pressures built up and the tip broke off on one test flight
(see flight log). The R100 masted at Cardington safely, and then
put in the shed. The decision was made to trim the tail, and replaced
with the more traditional rounded tail, and thus shortened the
lenght of the ship by 15ft (4m). Some say that this detracted
from the streamlined shape of the ship, and changed it's beautiful
originally designed sleek looks.
double staircase led down to the interior dining room. The dining
and central space had galleries in which passengers could access
the accommodation. Flanked on each side were two large panoramic
windows allowing a two tier promenade deck giving the interior
a large, open and light feel.
interior was different again from the set up of the R101, the
idea being that design details would be taken from each airship
and utilised in the next generation. The R100 could carry 100
passengers in a selection of accommodations; an arrangement of
14 two-berth and 18 four-berth cabins were available. With two
sets of double height windows in a curved shape on either side
of the ship, gave light to two sets of promenade decks on both
sides of the passenger accommodation.
A gallery lead to the upper deck cabins, which could overlook
the lower promenade deck. The dining room was internal to the
ship, and could seat 56 passengers in one sitting. The catering
was undertaken in an electric kitchen next to the dining room,
where the food would passed through a large window by the serving
staff to the diners. More details can be found on the Interiors
really became involved in the Imperial Airship Scheme during the
1926 Imperial Conference, when Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie
King, showing an unusual amount of enthusiasm, pledged Canadas
assistance to the mother country. Patriotic duty was not the only
thing he had in mindKing was certainly counting on an increase
in foreign trade if the program came through. Ironically, of all
the Dominions, only Canada and South Africa, showed any inclination
toward the Airship Scheme; the Air Ministrys well-rehearsed
presentation had fallen somewhat flat, since Australia, New Zealand
at this stage, were not convinced of its value.
problems at the House of Commons, money was set aside for the
construction of an airship base, airport and mooring mast in eastern
Canada. British experts came over in May 1927 to choose a site;
they visited a number of locations in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic
Canada, finally settling on a piece of land on the south shore
of Montreal, at St Hubert, and officially announcing this decision
in August 1927.
on the airfield began almost immediately and St Huberts
first airmail delivery took place in November 1927. It was also
during the summer of 1927 that the Air Ministry decided to send
the R.100 to Canada, and the R.101 to India. The mooring mast
at St Hubert was a gigantic structure, sixty metres high, which
enclosed all the complex machinery required for mooring, refuelling
and servicing future airships coming to Canada. Design work was
done in Canada by the Department of Public Works while Canadian
Vickers of Montreal received the building contract. To ensure
proper handling, and at the request of the British authorities,
a small team from the Royal Canadian Navy spent eighteen months
training at Cardington.
Preparations were also made to handle the huge
crowds, 600 000 people or more, which were expected to flock to
see the R.100. In anticipation, the Canadian National Railway
(CNR) ran an extra siding into St Hubert; elaborate traffic regulations
were prepared and published in the papers; special flights in
and out of the airport were duly planned; and a special camp was
established for the six hundred troops needed for traffic and
coverage was on a scale never seen before in Canada; the CNR,
the Canadian Pacific Railway and other groups set up observation
posts in a number of places, in both Quebec City and Montreal.
It was agreed that bilingual official commentators would be on
hand, but only after a fair amount of pressure was applied by
some newspapers and Quebec Members of Parliament. The mooring
tower was finally completed in May 1930. The flight of the R.100
to Canada was originally scheduled to take place in May or June
1930, but was delayed. Unfortunately, one of the R.100s
fins was damaged in April 1930, and the ships tail cone
was damaged in May. By the time these were repaired, the event
had to wait until after the Canadian federal election, in late
Voyage to Canada
After the 7 successful trial flights and flights checking the
outer cover ripple effect, the decision was made for a transatlantic
flight or long distance proving flight by one of the two new airships.
As the R101 had been put back in Shed Number 1 for further changes
to the design to increase the disposable lift, the R100 was tasked
with a trip to Canada, successfully crossing the Atlantic to Montreal
to the newly erected mast.
The ship slipped the moorings from the Cardington mast at 02.48am
on the morning of 29th July 1930. The ship flew over the Atlantic
and headed down the Newfoundland coast to Montreal, arriving on
1st August at 05.37am, after a voyage of some 78 hours and 49
minutes; a journey of 3,364 miles.
transatlantic passage was smooth but the airship ran into difficulties
over the St Lawrence valley on a couple of occasions. Near lIle
aux Coudres, the R.100 was buffeted by shifting winds like never
before. A number of very large tears appeared on three fins and
the engines had to be stopped for eight hours so that repairs
could be made. The people of Quebec City, forty thousand or more,
cheered and waved as the airship slowly flew overhead.
A second incident occurred closer to Montreal as the R.100 flew
through storm clouds, and very strong updrafts caused more damage
to the fabric of the fins.
repairs were made in flight and then the cover was replaced at
the mast at Montreal.
its arrival, Montreal simply went wild; there were dozens of VIPs
on hand,and a huge crowd. Companies used the visit to advertize
everything from beerto cigarettes; there were signs everywhere,
not to mention special R.100 songs,in both English and French.
The forty-sixbynine-metre sign erected by the SunLife
Insurance Company was by far the biggest.
Two dozen aircraft transported sightseers by the hundreds. According
to some estimates, more than one million people came to see the
R.100 at St Hubert; three thousand actually had a chance to tour
the airship, many of them borrowing souvenirs along
the way. The visit may have been a rare pleasure, but the half-metre
gap between the airshipsgangway and the towers platform
gave quite a scare to many visitors.
The crew were deemed heroes for this voyage.
The crew enjoyed banquets and receptions in their honour. There
were banquets too, ten or so in all, in Montreal and Toronto,
Burney and Air Ministry representatives extolled the virtues of
airship travel, and greater Imperial co-operation. The two sides
did not always see eye to eye; the British officials promoted
the Air Ministrys ideas, while Burney put forward his own.
All offers of help by the U.S. Navy were politely but decisively
turned down by the federal authorities;
this was, after all, Canadas day. New fabric panels for
the damaged fins were prepared by Canadian Vickers, which also
did some interior repair work.
was seen that this trip would be the start of many crossings and
the start of commercial operations. On 13th August 1930 the R100
was required to go on a "local" flight where it was
received excitedly by all the towns she crossed over. Flights
over southern Ontario, Quebec and the Eastern Townships had been
planned from the start, but had to be postponed and modified due
to the damage to the fins.
the evening of 10 August, the R.100 left with a number of senior
military officers, government officials and one journalist, eighteen
people in all. During the next twenty-six hours, it flew over
Ottawa, southern Ontario, the Niagara Peninsula and most notably
Toronto, where the R.100 caused horrendous traffic jams. Everything
worked perfectly, until the reduction gear of one of the engines
failed just before mooring, and the propeller spun away into the
St Lawrence River.
could not be made since the special derrick needed to hoist the
engine had been left in England; the R.100 had to fly home on
five engines instead of six. The R.100 started back to England
on 13 August, as thousands cheered it on; many were expecting
to see it
return within a few months.
Return to Cardington
On 16th August 1930 R100 made her return to Cardington and, making
use of the gulf stream, managed to knock off some 21 hours off
the outward bound flight time, arriving on 16th August 1930 at
11.06am after 2,995 miles and a trip of 57hours 56 minutes. Some
19 journalists were invited as passengers for the return leg back
to the United Kingdom. There were a few problems on the way home,
noticeably the loss of cooking facilities as the electric oven
was "shorted" out on the return due to ingress of water
through the fabric. This mean the lack of hot food and so only
cold meals could be served. Some dairies of the crew and journalists
noticed this discomfort for 3 days.
The detailed track of the R100 return to Cardington
her return to Cardington there was less of a public reception,
however some 200 cars and coaches turned up. The crews were congratulated
by Lord Thompson when they decended the mast. On mooring, the
new watch was formed of members of the R101 crew, under the charge
of Grabby Atherstone. Early the next moorning, on Sunday 17th
August, a landing party was assembled and the R100 was flown from
the mast, to the ground. The ship was then carefully put into
the shed for inspection and attention switched to the R101's flight
to India, which was anticipated to be at the end of the year.
Because many of the crew members were actually operating on both
ships, the majority were transferred over to the R101
Life of the R100 1931-32
much was written about the R100 following her retirement to the
shed in August of 1930 and the crash of the R101. However, recent
research made by AHT member Brian Harrison uncovered some very
interesting facts regarding the final days of the ship.
R100 was put back in the hangar on 17th August 1930, and the crew
switched their attention to the R101 for the next long trip. It
was noted of the poor condion the R100 was, on return from the
trip from Canada. The outer cover was in a poor condtion, and
liable to split, as had occurred over the St Lawrence River, on
the outward journey. Considering the cover was starting to come
to the end of it's life, a refit was in discussion, and more expense
required. It had been decided that after the refit and repairs
that a return flight to Canada to be prepared for in early 1931.
At this stage of the Imperial Airship scheme, there was only a
small group of trained officers to cover both ships. However with
the R102 in the planning stage more crews would be required and
training was underway. This was abandoned when the destruction
of the R101 in October 1930 led to the decision to halt all future
R100 was deflated on 11th December 1930 and "hung" in
the shed. The outer covers were still under inspection but it
was seen to be deteriorating in places. After the R101 inquiry,
Parliament then had to discuss where the future lay for the R100.
Some of the
original re-design ideas had been started in August of 1930. Documents
and plans show that progress was being made in making changes
to the R100, to again alow more lift. One of the main ideas was
to remove the upper deck of the passenger accommodation, remove
the upper deck wooden flooring and wood pannelling, then having
some of the accommodation moved to an extended external cabing
behind the control car. With some of the weight saving, plus allowing
the gasbag to be enlarged above the passenger accommodation, this
would gain an extra 9.25 tons. in lift.
was hoped that by placing some of the car externally to the ship,
then this may have given more room in the gasbag which was immediatly
above the passenger accommodation. This would have also allowed
more disposable lift suitable for more commercial operations.
By removing the large passenger areas and reviewing the use of
the R100, it was seen that the new class of ship, the R102 class
be deemed more suitable for carrying the large number of passengers
as orignally planned in the R100 and R101.
It was also planned that the R102 was also to have some of the
passenger accommodation protude from below the main hull, and
so this could have been seen as early concepts for part of the
planned external smoking lounge for the R102. The passenger capacity
of the R102 was deemed to be a realistic 50 passengers and so
the potential reduction in cabin numbers and configuration on
the revised R100 would have been realistic in line with the plans
May of 1931, Parliament and the Government lead by Ramsay McDonald
discussed the options and their costs. The country was coming
out of the depression years but still had a long way to go and
so there were many financial restrictions.
- The flying Aircraft Carrier
the Spring and Summer of 1931, the staff at the Royal Airship
works still continued to maintain and monitor the ship. Recent
documents have been uncovered which show the condition of the
ship, plus the costs involved in making good for further flights.
in December 1930 were also being drawn up for the R100 to not
only have the re-arrangement of the passenger accommodation, but
also to have two hatches, winches and suspension frames attached
from the main corridor for up to 4 Tiger Moth aircraft to be attached.
plan carrying concept- click to enlarge
know that there had been successful trials with the R26 and the
R33 as aerial aircraft carriers, and the experimental work with
the R33 was being considered to be transferred to the R100. Plans
were drawn up, and the idea that the adjustments would be ready
for the RAF Hendon display in 1931.
The R100 was seen as very advanced for its time and in the lighter
than air world it was a real innovation. So much so that the American
Government had offered cheap or even free helium to inflate the
ship in return for the British technical know-how and data.It
was declared that Helium deposits had been discovered in Canada
and so an option was for the sale of the ship to the Canadian
Government. There was even suggestion that helium had been found
in Ceylon and Singapore, within the bounds of the British Empire.
Canada already had a mast from which the ship could be serviced
and this was deemed a reasonable option. The future of the ship
and the service was debated for a long time, with opinions given
from many people for and against.
three main options were to:
1. Keep the ship, refurbish the cover and continue with the project,
moving on to the R102;
2. Reduce the staff numbers from 850 to 300 at the Royal Airship
Works and keep the ship for scientific study until future plans
could be made;
3. Scrap the project.
long and hard deliberation, the final outcome was that the British
Government could not afford to keep the project in place nor the
staff at Cardington. The world was emerging from a global financial
depression and a project of this scale could not find financial
backing from either the private or public sector.
transcript from Hansard for 21st December 1931
in the House of Commons. On Wednesday, December 2nd 1931.
asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air in the House of Commons
to give an estimate of the annual cost of preserving the framework
of R.l00 on a "care and maintenance" basis had this
course been preferred to selling the framework as scrap
The Under-Secretary of State for Air (Sir Philip Sassoon):
It is estimated that the cost of material and labour necessary
for preserving the framework of R100 on a "care and maintenance"
basis would have been approximately £1,000 per annum in
direct charges. This however, makes no allowance for the occupation
of the airship shed and for other overhead charges of the Royal
asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air what use it is proposed
to make of the houses, offices, hangars, workshops and hydrogen-producing
plant at Cardington; and what annual outlay their maintenance
is likely to involve?
Sir P. Sassoon:
Some of the houses will be occupied by the care and maintenance
party and the remainder will be let to suitable applicants for
housing accommodation. The hydrogen-producing plant will be closed
down, the use to be made of the: offices, hangars and workshops
no longer required for airship purposes or for the care and maintenance
party, is still under consideration.
The annual cost of maintenance cannot therefore be exactly stated
at present: it will probably be in the neighbourhood of £4,000.
Capt. Sir William Brass:
Can the right lion. Member say whether the hydrogen plant will
be kept or sold?
Sir P. Sassoon:
It is being kept. The cost of maintaining the hydrogen plant in
its present condition is included in the figure of £4,000.
The R100 was therefore sold for scrap and work began to
dismantle her on 16th November 1931. The work was finished in
February 1932. The interior fixtures and fittings were sold off
and the framework was sold for £427 - originally thought
to be £450, however in recent research by our curator, it
was discovered that a ring section was retained. Some original
footage of the dissassembly can be seen
here. The major purchaser of the scrap was Elton Levy. A presence
was however kept at Cardington with some 300 people continuing
to be employed there. Even though the ship was scrapped, the sheds
and workshops were still kept in place for future plans.
transcript from an article of a visit during the scrapping reported
in Flight Magazine December 11th 1931
MEMORIES of many pleasant visits to Pulham. Howden and Cardington
were awakened by the journey to the Royal Airship Works on Thursday.
December 3rd to witness the destruction of R100 by the workmen
of Messrs. Elton, Levy & C0. Ltd.
All previous visits to airship stations were characterised by
a spirit of hope and a band of enthusiasts full of belief in their
own craft of the air, and extremely convincing in the arguments
by which they supported their belief, always made the visitor
very welcome, especially if that said visitor was prepared to
take an intelligent interest in the subject of airships. A more
delightful set of hosts it would be impossible to imagine, and
the arguments which they used, if still not proved by practice,
are still unrefuted.
lt was true that on those visits one sometimes had to say good-bye
to a particular airship which had made a name, but had outlived
its usefulness. Gallant old R.33 comes first to the mind ; and
the wisdom of breaking her up when we had no other airship in
which to train and practise crews is still in question. Regret
was felt too, when the doom of R.36, with her passenger saloon,
was pronounced. No tears were shed over the un?nished framework
of R.37, or the interesting little R.80, or the two surrendered
Zeppelins, all of which went to the airship knackers. In those
days, one was always looking forward to something bigger and more
of the R100 being dismantled and held together with bracing
nose of the R100 being lowered to the ground
Interior of the R100 showing some of the covers already
seemed to fulfil those expectations. It is true that she was experimental,
and at the utmost only pointed the way to better things; but still
she did fly the Atlantic twice with ease, and she survived the
dreaded ordeal of a storm with violent rising air currents. She
accomplished a good deal, and at the same time she asked a lot
of questions, which could only be answered by further trial and
the nation is too poor at the moment to pursue those investigations,
but one wonders, is it really so poor that it could not have afforded
a small number of men to keep the framework in order until such
time as the experiences of Germany and the United States; should
have enabled us to decide definitely whether it would be worthwhile
to carry on or to close down? Is the nation so poor that the price
received for some 50 or 60 tons of scrap duralumin was a consideration
suffcient to deprive the future of the chance of making a free
As I entered the shed at Cardington last Thursday the sound of
hammers at work came to my ears. Then, passing through the offices
into the main shed, the skeleton of the great airship met my eyes.
The breakers had been at work for a week, (w/com. 23/11/1931.
- almost a year after the expiry of the original contract. RAA)
and they had already made considerable havoc. The main longitudinals
and transverse rings were still in place, slung from the roof.
Wooden props supported the passengers' coach and the control car.
The passenger quarters were being rapidly dismantled. The gangway
from the nose to the quarters had been removed intact. Mr. Elton,
with whom I travelled down from London, said that there might
be some use found for that, and it would be a pity to break it
up. l was surprised to and what a pleasant companion Mr. Elton
I had expected to find him a sort of Jack Ketch; but he seems
to consider his vocation in life is the benefcent one of preventing
waste. He had many interesting stories to tell of how he had retrieved
metal from all sorts of unlikely places, where others thought
that it would be no good for anything, and had made it available
for the further service of mankind. I suppose that it had never
occurred to him that anyone might have a sentimental affection
for R100 and feel it a desecration to see the axes at work on
her once beautiful duralumin structure.
He reckoned that the work of converting the ship to scrap would
take some three months. The bays would be lowered one at a time
to the floor, and broken up so far as axe and saw and blow-lamp
could accomplish it. He thought that a steam roller would have
to be used to flatten out the main girders before they could be
At one side of the shed the beds, kitchen equipment, tables. etc.,
were all neatly stacked. The beds have only three legs apiece,
the framework itself having supported the fourth corner. They
are light and strong, and yachtsmen may find them a good investment.
I was rather taken by a little ladder, used. I suppose, for climbing
into the upper bunks, which would be an acquisition to, say, a
library. Some sections of the framework may be disposed of intact,
and there have been inquiries for sections of certain dimensions.
One can imagine that some sections might serve as useful bridging
material for surveyors or explorers, perhaps in Africa, who need
lightness combined with strength. Two of the ?ns were already
on the ?oor, and for a while I watched a workman with a heavy
axe cutting the lighter webbing awav from the girders.
But I found the sight too brutal. and speedily turned away. Talk
about breaking a butterfly on the wheel! One bay, I think it is
No. 11 aft of the centre, is to be kept for experiment.
central ring of the R100 was retained, and bolted to the
rear of shed 1 door. It was kept for testing purposes, and
remained in place until 1937. This photo was taken from
the 1937 report.
up of spider joint on final central ring for testing 1937
arrangement close up
up details showing testing work platforms next to framework
each side of it were large discs of fabric connected by radial
strips of fabric to the transverse rings. Sqd. Ldr. Nixon explained
to me that those discs were an experiment to prevent sections
of the gas bag from wrapping round the wires. as they sometimes
were inclined to do. Various experiments were in progress when
the work was stopped. Outside the shed was a large frame covered
with a panel of fabric. Underneath the fabric ran a number of
wires, to which the fabric was attached at various points by pieces
cords were secured to the fabric by various methods. This represented
some experimental alternatives to the original method of securing
the cover to the framework, which had been criticised a good deal,
and which had, as a matter of fact, led to a good deal of rain
getting inside the cover. This panel had been out in all weathers
for several months, and none of the points at which the cords
were attached to it had leaked at all. I remarked that this showed
how much more experiment was desirable, and the reply was: "
that is just where R100 would have come in so useful."
I returned to the shed, in time to see the nose section of the
ship lowered to the ground. The transverse had been disconnected
from the longitudinals. The supporting ropes, which passed over
pulleys in the roof and were secured to weights on the ?oor were
loosened, and the whole section came to the ground with a grinding
noise which re-echoed fearsomely through the vast shed. The hatch
by which crew and passengers used to embark and disembark was
still covered with fabric, and it hung limply down like the mouth
of a dead creature until the nose section rolled forward on the
floor, and forced the hatch to shut. I have been in dissecting
rooms more than once, but I dislike them. I was glad to leave
the shed and the horrid work that is going on inside it.
Cardington is to be reduced to a "care and maintenance"
basis; but those in charge will care for the place and will maintain
the sheds, the mast, and hydrogen plant, etc... in good condition.
I believe that the mooring tower will be used for experiments
with kite balloons. So, if the results of the present work on
airships that is going on in Germany and the United States should
have the effect of deciding us to resume airship work when out
national pocket is a little less empty, the Royal Airship Works
will be ready to use-.
shall not have an airship, and we shall not have a crew in training.
The price of the scrap duralumin will have been spent---swallowed
up in the vast maw of our national expenditure. So if, for example,
the Admiralty clamours for airship cruisers as a great measure
of efficiency and economy (as it seems almost certain that they
would be), we shall have to start building and training afresh,
possibly under foreign guidance, and certainly at vast expense.
R 100 is now spilt milk, and to shed tears over its fate would
be almost as profitless as to hope to pay our national debt by
selling scrap duralumin.