Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

Registered UK Charity (No. 115342)

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,152 pages of information and 245,599 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

R34

From Graces Guide

The R33 class of British rigid airships were built for the Royal Naval Air Service during World War I, but were not completed until after the end of hostilities as part of the Royal Air Force.

Substantially larger than the preceding R31 class, the R33 class was in the design stage in 1916 when a German Zeppelin, coincidentally designated L 33, was brought down on English soil. Despite the best efforts of her crew, she was captured near intact with engines in good order. For five months, the L33 was carefully examined to uncover the Germans' secrets.

The existing design was adapted to generate a new airship based on the German craft and the construction of the R34 was by William Beardmore and Co in Inchinnan, Renfrewshire, Scotland. Assembly began in 1918. [1]

R34 was powered by five 275 HP Sunbeam Maori engines[2].

1919 R34 made her first flight on 14 March and was delivered to her service base at East Fortune on 30 May of the same year.

1919 R34 made her first endurance trip of 56 hours over the Baltic on the 17 to 20 June.

It was then decided to go for the first return Atlantic crossing under the command of Major George Herbert Scott. The R34 had never been intended as a passenger carrier and extra accommodation was arranged by slinging hammocks in the keel walkway. Hot food was provided by cooking on a plate welded to the engine exhaust pipe.

The crew included Brigadier-General Edward Maitland and a representative of the US Navy.

She left Britain on 2 July 1919 and arrived in Mineola, Long Island, United States on 6 July after a flight of 108 hours with virtually no fuel left. As the landing party had no experience of handling large rigid airships, Major E. M. Pritchard jumped by parachute and so became the first person to reach American soil by air from Europe. This was the first East-West crossing of the Atlantic and was done two weeks after the first non-stop Atlantic crossing by Alcock and Brown. The return journey to Pulham in Norfolk was from 10 to 13 July and took 75 hours.

She then returned to East Fortune for a refit before going to Howden, East Yorkshire, for crew training.

1921 On 27 January she left on what should have been a routine exercise. Over the North Sea the weather worsened and a recall signal sent by radio was not received. Following a navigational error the craft hit the North York Moors in the dark and lost two propellers. She went back out to sea using the two remaining engines and in daylight followed the Humber estuary back to Howden. Strong winds made it impossible to get her back into the shed and she was tied down outside for the night. By the morning further damage had occurred and the R34 was written off.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Engineer 1919/04/04
  2. 'An Account of Partnership - Industry, Government and the Aero Engine: The memoirs of George Purvis Bulman' edited and with a commentary by M. C. Neale, Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust, Historical Series No. 31, 2002. 376 pages