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Shortstown Heritage

The R38 Airship UK Crew


The R38 crashed in the River Humber on August 24th 1921 with the loss of twenty eight UK and sixteen US men with only five men surviving. It has been extremely difficult to find photographs of any of the UK crew but it is hoped we will be able to find images of all of the men on board the final flight in the future.
so they are not forgotten.

Final R38 Flight UK Crew List


Flight Lieutenant Archibald Wann
LAC Ernest Wynne Davis

3rd harry

R38 survivor Harry Bateman

Shown above is an undated photograph of a young Harry Bateman sent in by his great niece Mrs D Colquhoun. Harry Bateman was a member of the National Physical Laboratory team and had taken part in a series of trials on the R38 before its subsequent crash. He was one of only five to survive the crash over the River Humber but wasn’t deterred by the experience and went on to work on both the R100 and R101 airships. The experience he had gained working on airships was to prove invaluable in later years when he worked on the design of barrage balloons and dinghies at Cardington in WW2. In 1945 he was appointed Superintendent of the Balloon Development Establishment at Cardington and worked on a wide range of projects before retiring in 1959. Henry Bateman died in Bedford in 1969.

Potter Meadows
Wann R38 Commander

R38 survivor Flt Lt A H Wann

Archibald Herbert Wann was born in Nov 1895 and eventually rose to become an Air Commodore. He started his service career in the Royal Navy and by 1915 was attached to Wormwood Scrubbs Airship Station. In the subsequent WWI years he served at Kingsnorth, Polegate and East Fortune (all airship stations). After the war he continued working on airships being stationed at Pulham and later Howden by which time he was now attached to the RAF.

He was badly injured in the R38 crash but continued in service and later flew on the R100 flight to Montreal. He was also part of the Court of Inquiry into the R101 disaster. Despite his injuries he went on to have a very active and varied career with several postings in WW11. Herbert Wann died on 11th Oct 1948.

Those who lost their lives

Air-Commodore E. M. Maitland, G.M.G., D.S.O., Born on 21.02.1880, he was educated at Haileybury, and at Cambridge (Trinity), and saw service in South Africa. In 1913, he was placed in charge of No. 1 (Airships) Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps at Farnborough where he spent time in the development of parachutes and kites. He is credited with making the first parachute jump from an airship in flight.
He went on to become the Station Commander at Pulham Airship Station during the war and was part of the R34 return flight to America in 1919 before moving to Howden.

Edward Maitland
R38 Campbell 3rd from left individual

Charles Ivor Rae Campbell had the dual role of constructor of the R38 and Supt of the Royal Airship Works. He had previously worked on the construction of the R34.

Air-Commodore E. M. Maitland, G.M.G., D.S.O.

Charles Ivor Rae Campbell.

Flt Lieu R S Montague R38

Flt Lieutenant Rupert Samuel Montague

Left is Flt Lt Rupert Samuel Montague - does anyone have any information about this man please?

Major Pritchard article (2)

With grateful thanks to Rosalind Hodge Parish Archivist at Willingdon and Polegate we now have details of Flt Lt James Edward Maddock Pritchard O.B.E and A.F.C.

Born in Leighton Buzzard in 1889 he was commissioned in the Royal Navy Air Service in 1915 and later that same year became an airship pilot serving at East Fortune and Polegate and Howden. By 1917 he was called upon to inspect and research downed German zeppelins in France. He was also part of the triumphant R34 return trip to America in 1919. Like Maitland his death was a severe loss to the UK airship programme.

Again with grateful thanks to Rosalind Hodge we now have details of Edward Steer. Rosalind was able to supply the following information:

"I was very interested to see your site with info on the R38. I am the parish archivist at Willingdon and the Polegate Royal Naval Air Station covering 142 acres was wholly within the parish of Willingdon and was commissioned 6 July 1915. I am therefore doing a display on the RNAS as part of our large annual archives exhibition.

I have been researching Eric Edward Steere who is of particular interest as he was a boy mechanic at the base and rescued colleagues in a fatal accident on 20 December 1917 just on the Downs above the village. I was born on land which was part of the base and still live on what was a perimeter track road of the base. Nothing remains of the station but 4 mooring blocks right at the base of the South Downs. My grandma used to tell me all about the airship station and how she and her father climbed up the downs in the snow to see the wreckage of the two airships.

Smaller R38 Steer )

A C I Eric Edward Steere

NPL - John Pannell 2nd row 4th left

Thanks to The National Physics Laboratory this photo shows John Pannell who was on board the R38 conducting trials for the NPL. He is second row fourth right. His colleague C W Duffield also lost his life in the crash. We have yet to find a photograph of Mr Duffield - if anyone has one please send it in and we can show it here and also send to the NPL for their records.

Final R38 pic Brian Gouldesbrough

Sent in by Mr Brian Gouldesbrough this photograph shows some of the British crew attached to the R38. Sadly it is more than likely that most of these men were killed when the ship crashed in 1921. It is such a shame that no names were recorded of the men in this image. Can anyone put a name to some of these men? It is of special interest as it is probable that a few of them lived in the houses in Shortstown or in the huts across in the camp built in 1917 to house the naval officers attached to the R31 and R32 airships also built by the Short Brothers. Please get in touch if you can help with this research as information about the R38 crew members is very sparse and proving extremely difficult to gather. Thanks must go to Brian for sending in this photograph.

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