Airship Construction

Friday, February 19, 2021 0 comments

Building the last great airship.

It is in 1930's propaganda style German, but there are some great images and film of construction details.
Released a year after the Hindenburg disaster, this film documents the construction process of the next zeppelin, the LZ 130. At this stage seen in the film, she was to have been nearly identical to the LZ 129 (Hindenburg), with only a small number of minor improvements (notably, her tail fins were 60 centimeters shorter in addition to some slight changes elsewhere). Later redesigned with new passenger decks and tractor-type engine cars designed for helium, the LZ 130, named the Graf Zeppelin (II), would ultimately be the last zeppelin ever flown.
Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed, and your water iced. 

The Old Navy seen from the New Navy!

Saturday, August 29, 2020 0 comments


An aerial view of a portion of the Grand Fleet at anchor in the Firth of Forth looking at the iconic rail bridge, taken from the British Airship R.9.

Come take a trip in my Airship

Sunday, July 5, 2020 0 comments

A lovely little ditty.

Thanks for reading.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed, and your water iced.

Description of a downed airship 1917

Saturday, April 4, 2020 0 comments

Secrets of the L49

Found this fascinating description of the interior of the downed German airship L49.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

From the ‘Nottingham Evening Post,’ 1st November 1917.

In the early hours of 20th October 1917, disorientated, suffering from airsickness, with only two engines working and attacked by Nieuports of Escadrille N.152, Zeppelin L49 came down in France.

It was examined in great detail by the British and French and an account of an inspection by an American “air expert” was published on 1st November 1917.




An air expert of the Chicago Daily News, who visited the wrecked Zeppelin at Bourbonne-les-Bains, has communicated the following account of his impressions to the Press Association’s correspondent.

“Having just visited Zeppelin L49, which fell five kilometres from here, I have been struck by a number of facts. In the tanks there was still a large amount of petrol. The alcoholised water used for fluid ballast was frozen in the reservoirs, and in the 19 balloons of goldbeaters’ skin there was a great lack of gas. The only conclusion to be drawn from these facts was that the Zeppelin’s descent was caused by want of gas, and the impossibility of dropping ballast owing to the freezing of the water.

“Two meteorological authorities have informed me that the Zeppelin’s commander was, in all probability, deceived by the heavy wind like a mistral, which was more violent at the higher than at the lower altitudes. The highest altitude shown by the instruments was 7,000 metres, and rising to this height no doubt resulted in loss of hydrogen, and caused the liquid ballast to freeze. After descending to a lower altitude the commander was unable to reduce his ballast but went on in the hope of reaching Germany. French fighting machines, however, forced him to land. Hoping to set his machine on fire, the commander fired his pistol at the Zeppelin until stopped by a French sentinel. Fortunately he did not succeed. His only remark was ‘As you please, but I thought I had the right to destroy my machine when I surrendered.’


“I went all over the captured airship from the turret platform to the cars. In the wireless telegraphy compartment I found some dry biscuits marked ‘Hanover,’ but was afraid to taste them for fear of poison.

“After all I had heard of Zeppelin comfort, I was surprised not to find much. On the contrary, I should not care to pass a night in one, even for the pleasure of bombing Berlin. The means of communication in the interior of the envelope consisted of an aluminium bridge 4½ inches wide of very fragile construction made of small pieces of aluminium and thin wood, with wire here and there to assist the passenger in keeping his balance. The sides of the bridge were merely waterproofed cloth – nothing else between the passenger and the ground beneath, but all, perhaps, that was necessary. But, still, I confess to being somewhat surprised at the makeshift appearance of the construction and workmanship, of which any English or French workman would have been ashamed.

“One notable exception, however, was the wireless room and installation, which closely resembled that of a transatlantic line of the latest type. According to a French expert who was sent to examine the apparatus, it included several new features of some importance. He assured me that in spite of the operator’s attempt to destroy the machinery before abandoning the ship, it would be possible to reconstruct the apparatus completely,

“Forward of the wireless room, the roomy bridge on the control station was furnished with a fibre mat, and with thick glass wind-shields on all sides. On the right and in the centre were two wheels for the elevating and directing rudders respectively, like those on a small motor yacht. A chart table stood on the right. Square stools, with rounded corners, made of thin wood, were used here elsewhere. They were so lightly made that when a French officer stood on one in order to reach the envelope it collapsed.


“Aft of the wireless room stands the engine-room, where the largest of the five motors actuates the direct drive propeller. This is reached by a ladder which leads to a narrow path, 500 or 600 feet long, within the envelope. On the engine-room floor there was a folded parachute, which looked as though the engineer wore it attached to his shoulders until the moment when the commander decided to surrender.

“From this main motor-room, where the engine is twice the power of the others, I walked inside the envelope along a frail, narrow path of little sticks mounted on aluminium to a point where two diverging paths led to the nacelles.

“On the way I passed a tube of balloon cloth, enclosing an extremely light aluminium ladder, with rungs as far apart as possible, and leading to this was a wooden ladder reminiscent of those used for toy dog performances, but probably much less strong. I climbed uncertainly some 40 rungs to the top of the envelope, where was a small gun platform for two men and machine guns. I noticed here that the top of the envelope was almost white, shading gradually into black towards the lowest part.

“The aft nacelles, one on each side, were reached by ladders about eight feet long leading down from the interior of the envelope. Each of these contain two motors driving a single propeller – two motors being employed so that only one may be used on each side if it is desired to economise fuel.

“Inside the envelope are 19 balloons of goldbeaters’ skin, with smaller balloons built into them for the purpose of taking any overflow of gas, or if required they can be inflated by means of valves which are controlled from the navigation bridge forward.

“The envelope also contains water tanks of canvas, with a capacity of two hundred litres each, evenly distributed. This water ballast can also be controlled from the bridge. There are besides 16 petrol tanks of very solid construction, so arranged that any motor can be fed from any one tank. The rest of the contents include some spare parts, hammocks for the crew, which were probably not much used this last journey, and the aluminium framework that gives the envelope its shape.”
Image: 'The Sphere,' 3rd November 1917.

2019 World Parasol Duelling Champions!

Sunday, September 8, 2019 0 comments

Madame Saffron Hemlock is proud to announce...

The 2019 World Parasol Duelling Champions!

L to R
Raven Hawthorne Street Duelling and Flirtations Champion
Farmer Mandy Compulsory Figures Champion
Linda Laszchuk Duelling and WORLD CHAMPION!
Congratulations Ladies!

Inflating An Airship

Sunday, March 24, 2019 0 comments

Fill 'er up!

This photo shows the partially inflated gas bags of the British R33.

 From FB user Rick Zitarosa: "Gas lines at Lakehurst could provide 100,000 cubic feet per hour at 1-inch of pressure. Weather was a factor on working conditions and while the wartime-size ships could be inflated in a day or two Harold Dick advises that the inflation of the LZ129 commenced in mid January and took over 2 weeks. A critical juncture in the birth/life of a ship because in addition to having the riggers moving about attending to snags/folds/possible tears it was also necessary to ensure even inflation of adjacent cells and the proper addition and movement of sandbags, ballast, etc as the ship became buoyant."

Of course our ship, the HMAS Velvet Brush is inflated with steam, so while it wouldn't be quite so dangerous it would have been very hot!

The picture was posted on the awesome FB group Airships, Dirigibles and Zeppelins
There is an amazing collection of photos and expertise in that group.
Highly recommended is you are looking for an almost daily hit of Airship Wonderfulness.

Thanks for reading.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed, and your water iced.

Ice and Clockwork Epilogue Part III

Saturday, February 16, 2019 0 comments

Dog and Pony...

Here is the third and last part of the Epilogue to my serial story Ice and Clockwork.

Previously, Lt Cmdr Maxwell MacDonald-Smythe (Max) having recently returned to England after being shipwrecked on the coast of Norway, as detailed in Lost at Sea,  has been given command of the Velvet Brush. However his ship is still undergoing refit at the EAD's airdock.

You can start from the beginning of the Epilogue here.

Enjoy Part III

Ice and Clockwork Epilogue
A serial story from The Airship's Messdeck.
Part III
  by Kevin Jepson

EAD London

Max enters the headquarters building of the EAD, brushing the dirty grey snow off his uniform greatcoat as he does so. It is a cold, snowy winter day in London. There has been no sign of the sun for a week and everything is chill, damp and grey. Max rubs his lame leg, which always aches in cold damp weather. The entrance hall of the headquarters building is busy with clerks, officers, and couriers heading into and out of the entrance hall.

Probably always like this nowadays, not like when we worked here all them years ago.

An orderly comes up to Max and salutes, "Lt Commander MacDonald-Smythe?"

"Aye that be me."

"This way Sir, they are waiting for you in the meeting room Sir"

Following the orderly as he threads through the rushing crowd, Max wonders who he is going to be meeting with this time.

The meeting room is a large office at the end of the corridor with a heavy oak and brass bound door. Two marine sentries stand guard beside the door and salute Max. The orderly opens the door and ushers Max inside.

The center of the room is filled with a large heavy table crowded with reports and papers. Admiral Wilcox is seated at the head of the table. Max comes to attention and salutes. The Admiral stands and says "Ah Gentlemen, and Ladies, Lt Commander MacDonald-Smythe has joined us. Please stand easy Commander and take a seat. The orderly will take your coat."

"Thank you Sir"

Max sits at the only empty seat at the table. Looking around he sees that the 10 or so men and women around the table are a mix of civilian contractors and Naval personnel. He recognizes the gruff lead of the dockyard hands, and the dockyard boffin who accepted the Velvet Brush from him more than a year ago now. Max smiles and gets a nod and smile in return. The officers seated next to Admiral Wilcox are full four stripe Captains, who Max does not recognize. At the end of the table are several ladies. one of them Max recognizes as Madame's cousin, the one with a clay pipe and bowler hat, she smiles at Max and gives the hand sign to 'fly level'. The same sign Mary had given him when he had been getting ready to present his report, in this same building, after the attack on the ship in Portsmouth two years ago.

So many miles under yer keel since then Max me lad.

Admiral Wilcox rises from his seat and says "Ladies and Gentlemen I want to thank you all for braving the cold and taking time from your extensive duties to join us. We need to make sure everyone is on the same page with respect to the status of the Velvet Brush. As you may know, Lt Commander MacDonald-Smythe has been given command and is currently collecting his crew. Their Lordships are anxious that we release the Velvet Brush back to the Admiralty as soon as we can do so. With that in mind I would like to call upon each of the department heads to make their reports please, starting with the Dock Master."

For the next hour and a half Max sits quietly as each section head presents their report on the status of the his ship, the Velvet Brush.

My Ship! Never thought I would ever get formal command being an engineer and all, but a command is a command, even if it is probably temporary till they assign another four striper.

As the meeting progresses it becomes apparent that it may still be some time before the Velvet Brush can be formally turned over to the Admiralty.

Well, more time to try and understand all the changes they've made to her I suppose.

When it is Max's turn he tells them that he has most of the old crew collected from their various postings, that the deck crew was being assembled and that the Marine contingent was mostly complete awaiting the return of its senior NCO from his "detached service" with Naval Intelligence.

After everyone has given their report Admiral Wilcox rises again and summarizes the reports for the clerks to record the status. He then dismisses everyone suggesting that they partake of the excellent luncheon laid on for them upstairs.

Max rises to leave as well but Admiral Wilcox calls out to him. "A word Commander if you please."

"Of course Sir."

"Since it appears that you will have to wait a while longer till you can get your fine ship in the air, there is another duty you will need to perform for us."


"You have heard about the new 'Spread the Wealth' plan that her Majesty's government has devised?"

"No Sir, I have not been following the press I'm afraid Sir."

"Ah, quite, mostly drivel frankly, alas this is not. Somebody in the Government has decided that it is not right for Her Majesty's Military to keep all its technical discoveries to itself. So they have requested that we start releasing the results of our experimental work to the public."

"Is that wise Sir?"

Admiral Wilcox snorts. "No it is not! However the reasoning is not all bad, if our industry can make use of these developments then our Empire will still stay ahead of our competitors even if in the process we give up some of our military lead."

"What does that have to do with me Sir?"

Admiral Wilcox sighs. "We need you to start the process of releasing the information deemed no longer secret."

"Me Sir? How am I to do that."

"Dog and Pony show I'm afraid."


"Ha, don't look like you are going to a courts marshal commander, it isn't that bad. I understand you are an excellent speaker on technical matters. Sir Gordon told me of your presentation here after the attack on your ship in Portsmouth. You don't have to worry about what technical information you will give out, that has been prepared for you already. All you have to do is give the impression that we are complying with the Government's request."

"Impression Sir?"

"Dog and Pony commander, dog and pony. We are going to release information and technologies that we know are already compromised so we loose nothing but may actually gain if our businesses can make some use of it."

"Aye Sir, understood. I'll do my best Sir."

"Excellent. Your first event is at the London Air Services association Monday next. Faraday has all the details and the documentation for you. Now let us get some of that luncheon before everything is gone eh?"

"Aye aye Sir!"

You can read the transcript of Max's speech here.


Thanks for following along with the adventures of Max and his crew from the Velvet Brush.

I hope you have enjoyed them.

There are many adventures yet to tell.

Thanks for reading and as always...
Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed, and your water iced.

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