Historical places, airship, Bedfordshire local history, airships, national heritage sites, historic preservation, attractions in the UK, heritage sites in the UK, historical monuments, historical landmarks, tourist attractions in the UK, places in UK to visit, tourist in England, historical tourism, R101 and R100 airships.

Shortstown Heritage

The R100 Airship

R100 front photo

(This photograph is shown here with kind permission of the Airship Heritage Trust).

As described in earlier pages the R100 was the second airship to be ordered by the government but the actual design was left to private industry. The ship was designed by Vickers at Howden and led by Barnes Wallis (who went on to greater aviation achievements) - incidentally another personality was the young chief calculator called Neville Shute who was to become more famous as an author. In 1929 the R100 was flown down with relevant key staff following some of whom were allocated homes or shared lodgings in Shortstown along with the R101 crew members. Indeed the electoral listings for 1929 and 1930 show an influx of new names appearing in the village and it is surprising how these numbers were easily absorbed into the houses. The RAW Sports Club minutes record a proposed snooker competition between the two crews (it doesn't record who won). Opposite is a picture of the R100 moored at Cardington.

Following months of test flights the R100 made a momentous journey across the Atlantic and back again in July/Aug 1930 and received a rapturous welcome in Canada stopping off at both Toronto and Montreal to large enthusiastic crowds.
This picture shows the crowds gathered in Montreal in Aug 1930 to see the moored airship.
Although the R100 and R101 were built and designed by separate teams it is interesting to note that some of the crew members were inter-changeable and served on both ships when in flight. It is a great shame that this wonderful achievement tends always to be in the shadow of the R101 disaster but we can only imagine how proud these men and their families must have felt on their return to England.
As a result of the R101 crash the Airship programme was abandoned and the R100 never flew again and was scrapped in 1931/2.

R100 Airship arriving in Montreal in 1930

(Images reproduced here with the kind permission of Mr Romilly Meager son of Captain Meager )

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

Below is a list of those crew members on the R100 flight to Canada who were living at Shortstown in 1930. Those highlighted in blue* also served on the R101. A few of the R100 crewmen stayed on in the village after the R101 crash and lived here for many years after.

  • Arthur Disley - Wireless Operator*
  • Frederick McWade - Chief Inspector RAW*
  • Albert Savage - Chief Steward*

R100 Reunion Dinners in Bedford

R100 Reunion 1939

At The Swan Hotel Bedford November 1939*

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

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

The gathering seen here in 1939 would have been especially poignant as WW11 had just begun and several of the men are in uniform and may have been posted abroad later. The man seated first left in the picture on the left above is Arthur Bell one of the six survivors of the R101 crash and I believe the man sat down slightly obscured second from the right is Joe Binks another R101 survivor. It is not known if any reunions took place during the war and if any others were held after the one in 1945.

*Pictures from Beds & Luton Archives Services Times & Citizens Collection BP Box 761 Photography courtesy of John Day.

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