- R. 100 passing the village of Trios
Pistole, located at the mouth of the
St Lawrence River. (Credit AHT member
passing Point Wolfe Island, Ontario Canada
(Credit AHT Member Tom Raub)
on the Montreal Mast
close up shot of the R.100 on the Motreal
Mast. The design differences can be
seen clearly verses the Cardington mast
completion of the R101, the R.100 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 R.100 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 Scheme.In 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 November 1924.
The 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 R.100 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 R.100 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
Wallis using new design techniques assisted by Nevil
Shute Norway as his chief calculator, the R.100
was designed as a unique and efficient craft. Construction
of the R.100 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 R.100 and R101 design teams, fuelled by comments
made by Nevil Shute Norway, but recent research
is contradicting the these views.As part of the
original design concept, Barnes Wallis had designed
the R.100 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 R.100 (click plan to enlarge)
Arrangement of Power Car (click plan to enlarge)
Since wind tunnel
tests showed that a 16-side transverse section had
about the same drag as a circular one, both R.100
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.
It 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 R.100 was not ready for shed trials
until 3rd July 1929.
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 R.100 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
R.100 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 hydrogen.
By 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.
With the prototype
completed the R.100 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 R.100 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
The 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 R.100 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 R.100
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
R.100 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 at 13:40.
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, R.100 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.
During a test
on 16 January 1930, R.100 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.
A further short
flight was made on 20 January before an endurance
flight, starting at 09:38 on 27 January when R.100
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 R.100 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.
On return from
testing the outer cover and investigating the ripple,
on a flight on 22nd May 1930, the R.100 was on it's
return leg of the trial, when the officers were
very surprised to receive a wireless message from
the Cardington base saying "I suppose you know
you tail is buckled?" The officers knew nothing
of the sort.
The air pressures
around the hull had built up and the tip broke off.
The faring behind the last frame had buckled. It
was thought that this was done during a full speed
test which the ship had undertaken for 10 minutes.
The R.100 landed
safely at Cardington mast in gusty winds, showers
and sunshine, and then was carefully let down to
the ground and walked in to the shed.
On inspection in the shed showed that the conical
section of light alloy tubes had buckled and there
was a discussion on how best to repair it.
It was decided that the designers and engineers
would trim the tail, and replaced with the more
traditional rounded tail, and thus shortened the
length 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
A 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.
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 R.100 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
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
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.
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.
Work 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
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 crowd control.
Media 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 July.
Hour Endurance Flight
On the 25th
May, the R. 100 was put in to shed 1 for repairs
to her tail, and during this time the tail was rounded
off and a loss of lenght of some 15ft, reducing
the ships original lenght from 709.5ft to
to 695ft. Also during this time in the shed, it
was agreed to save weight for the forthcoming Canada
trip, that some of the upper cabins had their bunks
and fittings removed.
25th July, the R.100 emerged from the shed showing
the world her new, more rounded tail design, and
then was flown up to the Cardington mast. Preparations
were made for a 24 hour endurance flight to test
the outer cover, and also the handling of the ship
with the new tail design. The R.100 left the Cardington
mast at 19:02pm that evening, and flew out over
the Midlands, then across Wales, and out over the
Irish Sea. The ship then turned south and made her
way over Cornwall and down to the Channel Islands
of Guernsey and Jersey.
The R.100 then turn north east and headed back up
the English Channel and across southern England,
to return to Cardington on 26th July, mooring on
the Cardington mast at 19:18pm, a journey of some
24 hours and 16 minutes. The R. 100 had successfully
passed the trial, and preparations were now to be
made for the trip to Canada.
more details, with original R.100 footage kindly
donated by Roger Dawson taken by his Grandfather
whilst on holiday in St Peter Port on Guernsey,
26th July 1930.
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 R.100 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 first two days crossing were very smooth and
the crew settled down in to a normal routine of
standard watches. As day 3 approached, the ship
flew over the Atlantic and headed down the Newfoundland
more details, with our video of the Atlantic Crossing
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.
The R.100 finally
arrived at the Montreal mast, on 1st August at 05.37am,
after a voyage of some 78 hours and 49 minutes;
a journey of 3,364 miles.
were made in flight and then the cover was replaced
at the mast at Montreal.
The best definition
of how the airship was moored was described in the
Barry Countryman book "R.100 in Canada"
streaks of dawn showing in the eastern sky the R.100
[on her first landing in Canada] swung in narrowing
circles about the St Hubert field. A few minutes
before 5 oclock she turned toward the mooring
mast. On the passenger platform stood Lieutenant
Commander Pressey, the landing officer, and his
assistant at the cabinet controlling all the mooring
machinery The R.100 had to valve little hydrogen,
having collected almost 5 tons of rain water in
her ballast bags. As she slowly approached the mast
head from the east at a height of about 500 feet,
her 900 foot long mooring cable snaked down in swinging
loops to the ground. Her aft engines were put in
reverse. Presseys 14 men, 3 of whom watched
the winch drums, allowed the wire to discharge any
static electricity in order to avoid a severe shock.
With not a breath of wind the main wire was
secured by three of the ground crew and spliced
to the ¾ inch cable which had been led from
the top of the tower through the mooring arm to
a spot determined by the direction of the wind
airships approached a mast head to wind. The ground
crew signalled to the ship and the tower. As the
engines eased off a little more the cable became
taut. At 5:13 am, as the variable speed, electro-hydraulic
winch was slowly reeling in the wire the airship
dropped her first water ballast from frame 3 in
the bow to keep an even keel. The 750 foot
starboard yaw guy was paid out 4 minutes later,
coupled with a yaw winch cable from the base of
the tower and carried to a snatch block on one of
the 24 concrete blocks spaced at 15º intervals
on the circumference of a circle of 750 foot radius.
The port yaw guy dropped and was seized by
the waiting ground crew and coupled to the masts
second yaw cable. The last engine stopped at 5:25
am, but the ship continued to release ballast, some
of the water drenching the ground crew and those
on the passenger and searchlight platforms.
Dungareed mechanics climbed out of the silent engine
cars as the ships dew drop neared the mooring
cup. Pressey called Ship secure
at 5:37 am Friday, August 1 as the ram contracted
and locked, allowing the airship to swing freely.
The mooring in a record 27 minutes versus
35 minutes at Cardington was a signal for rolling
cheers from early risers and those who had remained
all night. (Countryman, 1982:58-62)
Upon 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, where
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.
It was seen
that this trip would be the start of many crossings
and the start of commercial operations. On 13th
August 1930 the R.100 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.
At 6.15pm on
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
The route it
covered Ottowa-Hull, Kingston, Peterborough, Oshawa,
Toronto, Niagara Falls, St Catharines, Hamilton,
Burlington, Garnanoque, Prescot, Cornwall and Montreal.
worked perfectly, until the reduction gear of one
of the engines failed just before mooring, and it
is suspected that some damaged gearing flew in to
the path of the spinning propellor, and caused damage
to the outer cover and knocking a fist size hole
into a 4" transverse tube, and bending it as
well. The engine was quickly closed down, and propellor
held in place by it's brake.
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.
On 16th August 1930 R.100
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
detailed track of the R.100 return to Cardington
On 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 R.100 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 R.100 1931-32
Not much was
written about the R.100 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.
The R.100 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 R.100 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
The R.100 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 R.100.
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 R.100, 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.
It 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 R.100, 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 R.100 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 R.100 would have
been realistic in line with the plans as discovered.
In 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
- The flying Aircraft Carrier
Over 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.
Plans in December
1930 were also being drawn up for the R.100 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.
Aeroplane Carrying Concept Document - click to enlarge
We 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 R.100. Plans were drawn up, and the idea
that the adjustments would be ready for the RAF
Hendon display in 1931.
The R.100 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.
After 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.
from Hansard for 21st December 1931:
in the House of Commons. On Wednesday, December
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
It is estimated that the cost of material and labour
necessary for preserving the framework of R.100
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 Airship Works.
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
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 R.100 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 It
was originally £627.00, but £100 was
deducted, when the final ring section to be retained
for testing, was excluded - final
price £527.00 paid by Elton Levy & Co.
Ltd., 18 St Thomas Street, London Bridge. 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.
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 R.100
by the workmen of Messrs. Elton, Levy & C0.
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 advanced.
of the R.100 being dismantled, showing 1931
experimental 'padding' of transverse ring
supporting wires, to avoid previous gasbag
nose of the R.100 being lowered to the ground
The experimental covers for the central axial
girder disc and transverse ring support wires
fitted during June 1931 - but never used.
An detached engine car lies on it's side at
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 experiment.
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 decision?
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 is.
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 R.100 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 carted away.
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
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 R.100 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
arrangement close up
up details showing testing work platforms
next to framework 1937
On 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 of cord.
The 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 R.100 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
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-.
We 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.
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.