A Knight’s Tale (19: She Saw The R100)

During a family discussion of my paternal grandfather’s teaching flying during WW1, my mother recounted her experience of a beautifully sunny day on 27th May 1930.

There had been great disappointment in Manchester on the rainswept 16th December 1929, when the huge airship the R101 was expected to fly above the city. In fact the R101 missed Manchester, but would not have been visible anyway in those weather conditions.


Seven year old Jean Hunter was, six months later, on that May day, lined up with the rest of the schoolchildren in the playground of the Jewish Board school in Waterloo Road. Mum attended this school because the prison officers’ quarters, to which her father was entitled, was nearby. There was much excitement and dazzling of juvenile eyes peering into the skies. No sound came from above. Mum thinks that had there been any noise they would have been scared.

Suddenly, slowly, silently, a huge sausage shaped balloon glided overhead. This was not the R101, but its sister ship the R100.  The Manchester Evening Mail described the transport thus: ‘Imagine an object with an enormous length equal to that of two football pitches, shaped like a massively long and cigar-shaped dart; cruising at almost roof-top height, with its silvery outer-skin gleaming in the May mid-day sun, and moving so slowly it seemed to hover: Well! I put it to you such a sight would stop traffic even now; and to an age hardly used to air-flight, it must have appeared awesome’.

Three days after little Jean’s eighth birthday on 2nd October 1930, the R101, on its maiden passenger flight crashed in France and burst into flames. This effectively ended the British air industry’s airship adventure, and the R100, that had so awed Manchester’s thousands, was dismantled in its shed at Cardington in November 1931 and eventually sold as scrap for £450.

In July 1969, it was at my parents’ home that I was to heave their grandson Michael out of bed to watch “one giant leap for mankind” on their small black and white television..


    1. Not so much in Manchester, I think. Because my grandfather moved around in the prison service Mum attended a number of schools in different parts of the country. Thanks a lot, Merril

    1. My pleasure, Eugi. I’m not usually much for following prompts because I have my work cut out with my daily diary, your loyalty to which is much appreciated. Thanks very much

  1. I love these stories, Derrick. There were so many social and technological changes in the 20th century for one to witness, and absorb. I think this century will be much the same.

  2. During a trip on one of the major freeways in Los Angeles County, I was surprised to see the “huge sausage shaped balloon” of the Goodyear Blimp glide silently overhead. What a thrill it must have been to see the first of its kind!

  3. Our parents really have seen so much in their time. My Mum is 89 and got her first iPhone last week. Thankfully she has family around to keep an eye on those apps ?

  4. The flaming accident of the Hindenberg was in the time period. With flammable gases inside, these airships were dangerous things indeed; they needed cautious care and treatment lest they go POOF. It would’ve been an awesome sight to see one of these behemoths crash from the skies …

    — Catxman


  5. Amazing and extraordinary the changes and advancements that your Mum has seen in her lifetime! Makes us wonder what changes Ella (and other young-uns) will see in their lifetimes! (They might be able to travel to outer space. ) 😮
    So wonderful of your Mum to share her memories. 🙂 It must have so exciting for everyone who got to see the airship!
    (((HUGS))) 🙂

  6. I often used to think of the changes my relatives saw in the twentieth century. I can imagine the indelible memory this left on your mum, as well as the moon walk. I wonder if she still remembers them both now. Often it is the earliest memories which are the last to fade.

  7. I lived for a while very near the Goodyear Blimp, which lived in a large field between freeways. It was remarkably quiet when it flew — something like a quiet helicopter! Since then, they have built new blimps, larger than the last version, and probably quieter.

  8. I would love to have seen that enormous airship. My Dad saw one of them, the R100 or the R101. At the High School, the little boys were all allowed out of class to see it, but not the older boys. That’s a bit tough to take !

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