Historical places, airship, Bedfordshire local history, airships, national heritage sites, historic preservation, attractions in the UK, heritage sites in the UK, historical monuments, historical landmarks, tourist attractions in the UK, places in UK to visit, tourist in England, historical tourism, R101 and R100 airships.
The Bournemouth Airship 1951
Whilst researching village life in the 1950's it was interesting to find that once again residents in Shortstown were involved in constructing an airship - albeit on a much smaller scale than the heady days of the R101. This airship was called The Bournemouth - after the corporation of Bournemouth sponsored it's creator Lord Ventry who lived there.
In 1951 Lord Ventry (who already had a lifelong interest and association with airships and Cardington) brought all the components he and his team had been working on to Cardington to be assembled and tested. He was able to call on old RAW staff notably Mr L Speed from the old R101 Drawing Office team and to erect the airship Arthur Bell and Joe Binks (both R101 survivors) and Gerry Long and Ralph Deverell (former R100 crewmembers) - these four veterans still living in the village at this time.
Short trial flights were made in July 1951 - Bill Bell the son of Arthur Bell vividly remembers his mother crying and pleading with his father not to fly in the airship for obvious reasons as she had lived through the terrible time of the R101 crash but this did not deter Arthur Bell who went up anyway! It is recorded that the 2nd trial did not end too well with a forced landing after 20 minutes holding up the traffic on the road immediately opposite the sheds.
After further repairs and improvements a third test flight was held on August 17 - with the ship flying over Shortstown - we are lucky to have pictures of this flight from Mr Conder whose RAF father worked at the camp and who lived in East Square at the time. Unfortunately the ship flew too low on it's return journey with her ropes caught up in some of the army huts causing severe damage.
The Airship was not used again until 1952 when it took part in Battle of Britain celebrations over Bedford and sadly was damaged beyond repair in Shed no 2 in April 1953.
The pictures below are extremely rare images of the airship flying over Shortstown have been shown with the permission of Mr Brian Conder. The photographs were taken from Mr Conders garden in East Square.