The birth of the Wellington

Ken Ellis celebrates the birth of the Wellington and the genius of designer Barnes Wallis, while Andrew Thomas documents the type in service

As investigators sifted through the grim wreckage of the R101, it was clear that Britain’s airship industry had come to a tragic end. Built by the Royal Airship Works at Cardington, near Bedford, the 731ft long colossus embarked on a headline-grabbing flight on October 5, 1930, only to strike a hillside near Beauvais in France. Seven people miraculously survived the disaster, but 47 perished.

Competing with the state financed R101 was the private venture R100, built at Howden on Humberside, which had shown great promise. Both programmes were terminated in December 1930, and the Airship Guarantee Company, run by Vickers, had to write off its massive investment: the R100 was dismantled in October 1931.

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