The Airships 1916-1930

In 1915 the government appointed Shorts to build airships for use in WW1. The brothers chose land by Cardington village near Bedford to base their site. The site would initially include one shed for the airships, a gas plant to produce hydrogen gas for the ships, numerous workshops, a large admin block for the design team (The Shorts Building) and a small village consisting of 150 houses opposite the site to house the workers to be called Shortstown.

After WWI due to severe financial constraints the British government agreed to sell the R38 to America and a US crew was sent over to the UK for training. The ship would then be flown back to America with a US crew. The airship left Cardington in June 1921 and flew to Howden for further testing - during a test flight on August 24th the ship crashed in the River Humber near Hull claiming 44 lives.

Following the crash of the R38 in 1921 airship production was suspended and between 1921 and 1924 the number of employees fell - with mainly maintenance staff for the shed (which housed the R33) and gas plant remaining. However in 1924 the government took the decision to build two new airships one of which would be at The Royal Airship Works at Cardington.


The R100 at the Mooring Mast at Cardington.
( Image shown with permission from The Airship Heritage Trust)

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