Downside and the R100 Airship
04 Jul 2017
Discovered amongst the photographic archives recently were two photographs which have revealed Downside’s link with a unique moment in British aviation history.
The R100 was a privately built dirigible or airship, which was completed in 1929. One of its principal designers was the famous Barnes Wallis. The R100 was based at Cardington in Bedfordshire from where it made a transatlantic flight to Canada in July 1930, returning on 16th August 1930.
After this flight, the R100 was put into it’s shed on 17th August whilst its sister ship, R101 was prepared for it’s ill fated flight to India where it crashed, ending the days of British airship travel.
The two photographs of the R100 found in the Downside collections are labelled August 1930, and through communication with the Airship Heritage Trust, it seems that the Downside boys were lucky enough to have been among the last civilians on board R100 before she was stored.
On 17th August, whilst attached to her mast before entering storage, it seems the pupils were allowed up the mast and onto the airship, thus securing them a place in history. The only mystery that remains is who the Downside boys were, and who arranged this historic trip.
The images below show the R100 attached to her mast on 17th August 1930 and the Downside boys inside the cabin.