Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Thomas Blenheim Williams

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Thomas Blenheim Williams (1893- ) (Bill Williams), early Airship Pilot.

1893 Born in London

As a pioneer in this field in 1916 he obtained the Airships pilot's licence No 28 which gives the title to his book 'Airship Pilot Number 28'. With the First World War at its height, he was posted to Anglesey to a unit flying non rigid airships over the Irish Sea to guard convoys of ships heading for Liverpool against submarines. This was a dangerous occupation when supported by a large gas bag of hydrogen which was liable to catch fire if punctured by a bullet, and he received an Air Force Cross for his efforts.

In 1918 he was seconded to be the First Officer of the much decorated crew who flew the Airship SR1 from Italy to England; the longest flight achieved for some years.

With the war's end he was part of an ill-fated expedition to use Airships in the seal fisheries of Newfoundland. Returning to England he was heavily involved in the burgeoning Airship industry until its demise with the crash of the R101.

Many years later, with the development of the modern recreational Hot Air Balloon, he became involved again in his first love, and was of considerable use to the pioneers with his experience of actually having flown these things before.

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