90th anniversary of R-100 airship at Cardington gets commemorative stamp of approval

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R-100 and R 101 at Cardington
R-100 and R 101 at Cardington

The Airship Heritage Trust is marking the 90th anniversary of the arrival of the airship R-100 at Cardington with a commemorative postal cover.

On Monday, 16 December 1929, crowds of workers from the Royal Airship Works at Shortstown and members of the public all looked upwards to watch the 700ft (213m) long airship R-100 circle and then moor to the 203ft (62m) high Cardington airship mast at the end of her maiden flight from Howden in Yorkshire.

She had flown from Howden with 54 passengers and crew on board, including her designer Barnes Wallis (later of ‘Wellington Bomber’ and of ‘bouncing bomb’ fame) and Deputy Chief Engineer Nevil Shute Norway (later better known as novelist Nevil Shute).

The RAW-built R 101 was already in one of the Cardington sheds and now the second giant airship (built by Vickers Ltd) would soon occupy the other shed and start her proving trials.

These led to a successful return flight from Cardington to St. Hubert, near Montreal, Canada in July/August 1930.

Today, there are no airships at Cardington, the mooring mast has long gone but the Shorts Building and the two huge sheds survive as reminders of an industry that provided employment to many in the Bedford area.

Set up by Short Brothers in 1916 to build airships for the Royal Navy, the site was nationalised after the First World War and became the Royal Airship Works.

It was here that the ill-fated R 101 airship was designed and built and from where she left on her final flight to India on 4th October 1930 which ended in tragedy near Beauvais in northern France early the following morning.

The Airship Heritage Trust works to keep alive the memory of the great airships and the men and women who built and flew them.  It has recently carried out restoration work to the R 101 memorial and mass grave in Cardington cemetery and pays for its upkeep.

The commemorative postal cover is available for sale priced £6.00 either at the Airship Heritage Trust website or in cash if bought at Shorts Building on Monday 16th December, 2019, between 1 – 2.30pm.

If the cover is to be mailed, a protective envelope for an additional cost of £1.00 plus mailing cost can be purchased.