Airship R101 flies over Maesglas

I saw an airship in the sky. Hear its engines drone from far away – Then overhead it flew away. Someone remarked it was the sister ship of the R101. Did I see the R100? The R101 Crashed at Beavais in France October 23erd the year 1930. The German Graff Zeppelin flew over in 1932. The pilots gondola was at the front of the ship. On the British it was in the centre. The R100 was 777foot long and the largest Airship in the world at that time. It was simply Luxurious with Ballroom and Promenade deck. Built by private enterprise. Completed over 20.000 miles of flying in the 1930s.

The R101 was trouble from the start.

The bad trials and prestige at stake the Government insisted. The Maiden flight should go ahead And that fateful flight to India ended the dream of British Airship Plans. Only six passengers survived. No Crew members. Did the extra 30 foot length added to the ship and the rush and tear to get ready prepare it for its fate? That crash in flames on a wooded hillside in France. Did I see the R100 or the Graff Zeppelin?.

R101 over Maesglas Newport

Painting of this event. oil on canvas 24″x 36″ In Collection of Atan Poulev Paris.

The whole history of the air ship is an interesting one.

Zeppelins could travel a great distance, and did achieve up to 250.000 miles in eleven hours. And the name became attached to the craft, from the name of the German, Count Von Zeppelin. Who experimented with making an air ship and his first ship flew in the air at around the 19OO. And with the encouragement of the German government, with their construction for military use in mind, At the outbreak of the First World War Germany had something in the order of twenty five in its fleet of airships. and increased this to around eighty eight. These craft were made of a frame work of girders running the length of the ship and rings of girders at intervals. Made from aluminum, around about sixteen compartments made the bays to hold the gas bags. Which were filled with hydrogen. Driven by eight engines. Each driving a propeller. These were attached to the so called cars. Slung out from the craft like little motorbike cycle side cars. With girders holding them out from ship. At the front, centre and rear of the keel. The quarters for the crew, storage and petrol, were inside the main framework, towards the nose of the underside of the ship. The main controls were in the front gondola. On top of the airship, several guns were mounted fore and aft. For the defence against hostile aircraft, Airship carried out a number of raids over France, and Britain.

Although in the end these ships of the air proved a disappointment, their slow speed and huge bulk, and the easy target for the aeroplane of that period. Led to the raids by airships. To peter out after the year nineteen seventeen. Also the forcing down the then L.33 earlier in nineteen sixteen. almost Completely intact. The design was then copied and used to build the R34 which made the memorable trip across the Atlantic to Long Island in the United States. And was one of the most flown airships of the British. But alas this ship came to grief in an accident, in the North Sea, and was wrecked. The year nineteen thirty one. Tragic though it was, the British R.101 crashed at Bovaies in France. The year being OCT 1930;

The R.38 built by the British for the Yanks; broke her back over the Humber. Forty five lives being lost. The Hindenburg, which was unlucky to be destroyed by fire at Lakehurst. A real catastrophe this turned out to be, and being witnessed by crowds of onlookers. Crowds Welcoming the tying up and landing in New Jersey May 6th 1937. Newspaper men, News reel camera men of those day’s. They were helpless and shocked to do anything to help those on board. Some on board who jumped were struck by the falling mass of girders and flaming fabric. The ship exploded into a ball of flame. The Americans air ships the Shenandoah, broke her back, and crashed in a thunderstorm in 1925. The Akron lost at sea 1933. The Macon also lost at sea 1935,the lives lost in these crashes totalled 90. And the Rigid Airship, the gas bag as it was known was, finely abandoned by the British 1930. Also the Germans discontinued after the loss of the Hindenburg 1937. Although the Americans continued, very successfully to build non rigid craft, after their losses. Flying over 4 million miles without mishap. In the Second World War.

Their Navy had in service some 150 airships in the campaign against German subs operating in American waters. The use of Helium. The main story behind the success. The use of this gas instead of the lightest of the elements the gas hydrogen. Fed into in bags in the rigid frame of the airship. Hence its name RIGID.

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