1951 saw the airship revival
by the Airship Club, with the creation of the little known airship
named "Bournemouth" and her brief career in reviving
the interest in lighter than air travel
Belonging to the little known
category of British built "private" airships, the "Bournemouth"
was constructed by the Airship Club launched in 1951.
In 1948 Lord Ventry posed
the idea to a small group of his friends and together they formed
a small fund raising society which they called "The Airship
The objective of the club
was to create the first airship in Britain for over twenty years.
The renowned author of "Airships Cardington" Geoffrey
Chamberlain was a founder member of the club. As part of the club,
Lord Ventry, Squadron Leader T.P. York-Moore and a small group
of enthusiasts wanted to prove that airships could still return
after the closure of the British Airship programme in 1932.
|The Airship Club car
badge lead by Lord Ventry and fellow airship enthusiasts
|The Bournemouth during
inflation in shed 1
|Walking out the airship on Cardington
|Newreel of the Bournemouth loss
|Bournemouth in flight
over Cardington taken from the family garden just before the
crash. (Photo Credit Marion Sweeney and the Conder family)
on airfield. Notice the ambulance in attendance and Shed 1
in the background (Photo Credit Marion Sweeney and the Conder
|The fins and envelope
being removed (Photo credit
Marion Sweeney and the Conder family)
The project was funded largely
by private enthusiasm, however as Lord Ventry lived on the south
coast resort, he was able to canvas the Bournemouth Corporation
who in turn made a substantial grant from it's "Festival
of Britain" funds to assist with the completion of the craft
and for it's first flight.
This is how the British south
coast resort managed to have an airship named after it. The idea
being that the completed ship would play a part in the local celebrations
of the Festival of Britain year.
To keep costs down, the Bournemouth
was not to have a home "base" and the following quote
from "Flight Magazine" 1950
of the most expensive items in the construction of an airship
must be a hangar and at the present time it is one which, in a
private venture, would be virtually impossible of achievement.
Surprisingly, however, an airship is quite amenable to being tethered
in the open, and we are assured by Lord Ventry that, with the
aid of a protective screen of trees, a small non-rigid can safely
ride out a 70 m.p.h. gale if properly picketed. This, therefore,
is the plan for the Bournemouthshe will be kept inflated,
and out-of-doors, during all spells of operational activity that
promise to be fairly continuous."
Having someone to fly the
ship was to prove an interesting issue for the Civil Aviation
Authority (CAA) as the idea behind the project was to give members
of the Club an opportunity of flying in the ship and of learning
to pilot it
Again an issue noted in "Flight"
present anybody who aspires to pilot an airship must hold a 1st,
2nd or 3rd class Airship Pilot's Licence (according to the size
of the craft)having first qualified by securing a private
or commercial Balloon Pilot's Licenceand a Navigator's Ticket.
There is, it seems, no lighter-than-air equivalent of the Provisional
Pilot's Licence, so the eager pupils of the Airship Club are,
clearly, going to present the Ministry of Civil Aviation with
some new problems when the time comes."
A surplus of the type originally
envisaged was purchased from the Air Ministry and dated to the
R.F.D company in Guildford, where it's original length was increased
from 92 feet to 108 feet. The diameter of the envelope remained
unaltered and so this provided a gross volume of 45,000 cft. A
control car of some 15ft by 4ft wide was built at Hurn Ariport,
just out side of Bournemouth. A French radial engine of 60hp was
fitted along with a four bladed propellor.All the control surfaces
were also constructed at Hurn Airport. In the spring of 1951 all
of the component parts of the airsihp were ready, and taken to
Cardington for errection in shed no. 2.
The ship was re-constructed
at Cardington, and with a band of experienced former airshipmen,
Gerry Long and Ralph Deverell from the R100, and the R.101 survivors
Arthur Bell and Joe Binks. Leaking gas valves delayed the inflation
tests, but eventually the trim and lift trails began in July 1951.
The lift trials meant that the ship could carry a compliment of
a crew of four plus 260lbs of ballast.
The first test flight of 25
minutes was made on 19th July by Captain Jack Beckford Ball, a
newcommer but having piloted the other early British private airship
the AD-1, based out of Cramlington near Newcastle in 1929.
A second flight was made on
28th July, but a forced landing was made after 25 minutes. Main
road traffic had to be held up whilst the airship was walked across
the main road the the shed.
The third flight was not overly
successful, on 17th August when Lord Ventry took the controls
of the ship, but when flying back to the base, the ship flew too
low over some army huts and the trail rope fouled on an obstruction
which brought the ship down on a roof causing damage to the windows
and tearing the envelope. The propellor broke and thankfully none
of the crew were injured during this crash landing. The film clip
left, interestingly shows optimism and spirit of the day.
Having a gross lift 3,060lb
and useful lift of 13,000lb, the Bournemouth managed 3 flights
in 1951 and then put in for repairs and a chance for the improvements
for stability following the crash landing.
A further eight flights were
managed in 1952. It was found that the first set of steering planes
were too small and made her unstable and she had a top plane on
the first two testing flights of in 1951, however this was removed.
In 1952 a larger set of de
Havilland planes were fitted and made the ship quiet controllable.
Only eleven flights were made through lack of funds, the last
flight made on 16th August 1952, Battle of Britain Day, where
a fight of 1 hour 55 minutes over Bedford was taken.
The ship was stored away and
plans made for improvements to the ship, however the Bournemouth's
end came on 24th April 1953, in Number 2 shed when some netting
slipped. This tore the envelope badly and the front portion of
the ship reared up into the roof, as the rear of the envelope
collapsed on the floor. This along with other damage made the
repair work impractical, and sadly the ship bearing the name Bournemouth,
was never able to fly over the town bearing it's name.
The photos left, of the Bournemouth
crash are attributed them to Marion Sweeney and the Conder family.
The photos were taken by her
grandfather who worked at the Cardington Camp, Marion shared these
photos and commented
father and grandfather with their associations with Cardington
loved anything to do with aviation, and would have been thrilled
that their photos were of wider interest. Incidentally, Conder
Boulevard in Shortstown was named after my grandad!"
If you have any personal memories
or photo's you would like to share of this little known ship,
then please contact the webmaster
and we'll be happy to add them to the site for you