His Majesty’s Airship by S.C. Gwynne: 4****

Very interesting book about the plight of His Majesty’s Airship (R-101). Airships (blimps) had their heydays in the early 19th century and here author S.C Gywnne gives us a really good overview of the history of the airship industry, which really gets started with Count Von Zeppelin in Germany whose failed airship adventure became a source of German pride, so much so that his next airship was funded by private donations! Yes, there was Zeppelin-mania over in Germany. From there we see those airships used to bomb London and England in WW1 and how they were allegedly banned by the Treaty of Versailles – fascinating look at how the Germans got around that! But now the British are interested in Airships and were far behind the Germans in both experience and technology and developed many airships in the 1920 that ended in tragic failures. But one of the offshoots of the Treaty of Versailles is that the British Empire was greatly expanded, and even though a decision had been made to discontinue their manufacture and use, Lord Thomson, one of the leaders of the Socialist Party, wanted to use these airships to float among the regions of the British Empire. Yes he wanted to connect London with the Middle East, India, New Zealand, Australia and Canada, and convinced Parliament to restart airship production. R-101 was still an experimental ship, and we get to see all the issues and problems that beset this airship, problems that are too numerous to list in detail. Suffice it that this disaster in 1930 was because of one man’s ego, as well as his desire to become Viceroy of India. Instead this airship, that had never been fully tested sets out in stormy weather which never gets better, and within a day it has crashed killing everyone onboard except the lucky six who survived. This is a riveting account of the history of airships, their use, assumed potential and all that went wrong with not just the R-101 but so many other airships that were used during this era.

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