Trans Atlantic Airship!
The R 34 was built in 1918 for the Royal Navy by the William Beardmore and Company in Inchinnan, Renfrewshire, Scotland. Her design was influenced strongly by that of a German Zeppelin that had been captured almost intact in England during the war.
In 1921 it was decided to attempt the first ever return East to West flight across the Atlantic.
It was then decided to attempt the first return Atlantic crossing, under the command of Major George Scott. R34 had never been intended as a passenger carrier and extra accommodation was arranged by slinging hammocks in the keel walkway. Hot food was prepared using a plate welded to an engine exhaust pipe.
The crew included Brigadier-General Edward Maitland and Zachary Lansdowne as the representative of the US Navy. William Ballantyne, one of the crew members scheduled to stay behind to save weight, stowed away with the crew's mascot, a small tabby kitten called "Whoopsie"; they emerged at 2.00 p.m. on the first day, too late to be dropped off.
R34 left Britain on 2 July 1919 and arrived at 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 achieved weeks after the first transatlantic aeroplane flight. The return journey to RNAS Pulham took place from 10 to 13 July and took 75 hours.
As an observer on board the crossing Air Commodore Maitland kept a log of everything that occurred and this was published as a book. Illustrated with 35 photographs taken during the flight, this is real airship adventure!
Here is the introduction to this fascinating read.
You can read this wonderful adventure in its entirety at the Internet ArchiveIT is often thought necessary to preface a first literary effort with apologies from the author for its shortcomings. In this instance no one could be more aware of such a necessity than myself. But am I entitled to make apologies? R 34 is not a literary effort neither, therefore, am I an author. In writing a story such as this, the obvious and comparatively simple course would have been the adoption of the conventional narrative form, helped by notes and memories, ample time and thought and a comfortable arm-chair. Apart, however, from its practical usefulness or official importance, R 34's journey was just one long, wonderful and delightful experience. To look upon this journey coldly as part of yesterday, or to treat it with recognized con- vention, would be to lose both the essence and the spirit. My only hope of convincing my reader of this is to try and induce him to share our adventure- taking him with us upon our flight. Every word of this diary was written on board the Airship during the journey, with the exception of the explanatory footnotes and, of course, the appendices : the writer perched in odd corners, and amid continuous interruptions and ever- changing surroundings, to the silent accom- paniment of the wireless, like ghostly whispers across lonely space. Every incident, important or trifling, was recorded at the actual time of happening. Even to stop to focus or to pigeon- hole these would have been to destroy actuality. If only I can share a little of that fascinating and buoyant adventure with any readers of these pages I shall be content, I only hope my ship- mates may not find their journey too dull; if they do they must not blame R 34, for the fault will be mine.
For those who want a hard cover version of this book a reprint edition is also available from Amazon
Keep your sightglass full your firebox trimmed and your water iced.
The Log of H.M.A. R34
Journey to America and Back.
Air-Commodore E. M. Maitland
C.M.G., D.S.O, A.F.C, Royal Air Force
Hodder and Stoughton
Kessinger Publishing (Sept. 10 2010)