Monday, 16 June 2008

Howden And The R100

Many people have heard about the R101 airship, mainly because it crashed in France on its maiden flight to India killing all on board. But fewer know about its private sector rival ,the R100 . That airship was a much better, lower-technical risk design from Vickers that crossed the Atlantic twice but was steamrollered and sold as sold as scrap in 1931 after the government lost confidence in airships following the R101 disaster.

The R100 was built at the former RNAS airship station at Howden in David Davis' constituency of Haltemprice & Howden and was designed by a team Barnes Wallis (structure) and Neville Shute Norway (chief stress engineer) who later became a famous author. Wallis developed the geodetic structural framework later used on over ten thousand Wellingtons for the R100. Neville Shute described the Howden locals in his 1954 autobiography Slide Rule rather unfavourably:

"The lads were what one would expect, straight from the plough, but the girls were an eye-opener. They were brutish and uncouth, filthy in appearance and in habits. Things may have changed since then — I hope they have. Perhaps the girls in very isolated districts such as that had less opportunity than their brothers for getting in to the market and making contact with civilization; I can only record the fact that these girls straight off the farms were the lowest types that I have ever seen in England, and incredibly foul-mouthed."
Mind you, the gas bags in the airship were each made from over 60,000 goldbeaters' skins (the outer layer of cow caecums with the fat scraped off and stuck together in layers) so Vickers were perhaps lucky to get anyone to do this work.

1 comment:

William Gruff said...

I can't recall where it was that I read that Wallis advised 'the powers that be' that R101 would crash because it was inherently unstable but you'll be aware that Wallis and the Martin Baker Aircraft Co, director Neville Shute-Norway, suffered difficult relations with the various ministries controlling aircraft development in Br*tain (recte England) until well into the 1960s