Cat no. 15

The R101 Story

Running time10:52 Black & White Sound 1930 Cardington, Bedfordshire

This record does not currently have a video available to watch online.

To only see records with online videos in the future, please use the tick box provided during your search or browse.

If you would like more information on using search and browse you can view the 'using this site' page.

Newsfilm coverage (British Movietone and Pathe Super Sound Gazette) of the R1O1 disaster and the funeral of the victims.



The first part of the film shows close-up and distant pictures of the R101 in dock. There are shots showing men at work in the stores and loading provisions. (British Movietone). The next part shows similar pictures. There are scenes showing the captain and the crew in uniform, in front of the R101 and entering the lift. There are some onlookers in civilian dress, including the Director of Aviation. There are some shots of maintenance men at work on the R101, giving an indication as to its size. The soundtrack at this point reveals the sound of the airship.There are some panoramic scenes taken from the R101 in flight over Britain and France. Then the burnt out, tangled mass of iron as the wreckage is inspected by a French official. The final scenes are of the funeral of the victims in Beauvais. We can hear the sound of the bands playing and there is a wounded man, presumably a survivor, watching the funeral with officials. (Pathe Super Gazette). The film ends with a silent prayer and a lingering shot of the British Ensign. (Unidentified.)

Background Information:

The R101 was, with the R100, the last rigid airship to be built in Britain. This R101 flight was to have been the first airship flight to India. The R100 had more success, flying the Atlantic to Canada, but the fate of the R101 finished the development of airships. The R100 was sold for £470 and broken up for scrap. There were 54 people on board [the R101 when it crashed]; 6 survived. Men lost included:-

Flight Lieutenant R.S. Booth, Captain of the airship
Sir Sefton Brackner, the Director of Civil Aviation
Flight Lieutenant H.C. Irwin
Squadron Leader E.L. Johnston, the navigator
Flight Lieutenant Michael Rope, a leading airship design technician
Major G.H. Scott, the Assistant Director of Airship Development Brigadier-General Lord Thompson, Minister for Air

The steel frame for the R101 was made by the Norwich engineering firm Boulton and Paul at their Riverside works in Norwich. Much has been written about how the R101 was despatched on her maiden flight to India without ever having flown in bad weather and without even having carried out speed trials. The ship had been beset by problems: diesel engines selected for the R101 had proved to be almost twice the calculated weight; servo controls to operate the control surfaces were either not fitted or were removed at considerable expense; a new midship section and an additional gas bag had to be added to give the craft added lift; and in the view of reliable experts the ship should not have set out on the Empire flight when she did. (G. Kinsey, Pulham Pigs. Terence Dalton, 1988.)

Weakness That Cost The R101.... (name withheld) wrongly states that the R101's structure failed .. where an additional section had been inserted. In fact, she was seen to be structurally intact after her forced landing. Subsequent partial collapse of her framework resulted from the hydrogen fire. The R100 and the R101 were planned in 1924 as experimental prototypes towards linking Britain with India, which aeroplanes could only do with several intermediate stops on non-British soil. As petrol was deemed dangerous in the tropics, diesel engines were specified, but owing to their great weight, Vickers received an interim dispensation to use petrol, provided R100 did not attempt India, and so long as the R101 retained diesels, despite their crippling weight penalty.

The Achilles heels of both ships were their outer covers - R100's spanned vast unsupported areas, which leaked badly, whilst R101's were weakened by being tautened AFTER doping. I later found out by microscope why this was. When R100 met a squall in Canada, her fins ripped so that her captain (in an unpublished letter) said she was lucky to get through. R101's fabric was replaced - except near the nose, where it had been doped in place. However, we now know that it was later relaxed, and re-tautened, so unsurprisingly, it ripped when she met atrocious weather. Her deputy designer inspected the rip (which caused an immediate nose-dive) and advised control to slow engines (to just breast the headwind and reduced further damage) and to apply full up-elevator to bring her to near horizontal for a forced landing. She bounced, but caught fire on the rebound. The government abandoned airships since aeroplanes could now do the job; this embittered Nevil Shute (Barnes Wallis's deputy and successor) into making unwarranted allegations for which he later apologised. Sir Peter Masefield and the undersigned have now researched the whole issue over several years, and unearthed many new facts. I hope soon to publish the new evidence for the attempted emergency landing, which ended so disastrously, and we now know that R100 would have fared no better under similar conditions.

(Letter from Norman B. Peake, Airship Heritage Trust Council, Cardington Bedfordshire. Published in the Eastern Daily Press, 15th January, 1998.)
(See also: Pulham St. Mary, Norfolk, 1925, R33's Great Flight.)
British Movietone News was the first sound newsreel. It broadcast from June 1929


Valuable for its historic interest. This is one of the earliest examples of live sound on a newsreel recording. This reveals the sound of the R101s as well as the sound of the military band in Beauvais. The commentary is practically indistinct

Featured Organisations:


Featured Events:

The last flight of the R101

British Movietone; Pathe

Terms and conditions

The Terms and Conditions apply to the website (the Website) and by accessing the website you are agreeing to abide by them.

 We may modify the terms and conditions or withdraw or deny access to the Website at any time at our sole discretion.

In your use of the Website you agree not to, at any time:

  1. Conduct or promote any illegal activities
  2. Attempt to reverse engineer or jeopardize in any way the correct functioning of the Website and its services or otherwise attempt to derive the source code or other code or software that enables the operation of this website.
  3. Use any automatic, electronic or manual process not provided by this website to access search or harvest any information from the website or to interfere in any way with its proper functioning.
  4. Mirror or frame the website or any portion thereof, place pop-up windows over its pages or otherwise affect the display of its pages.

Every effort has been made to exclude or flag content that may be upsetting or cause offence and not to include films that are unsuitable, however the East Anglian Film Archive bears no responsibility for people under the age of 18 viewing the Website or for any offence that may be caused by people viewing the Website. If you feel that some items could cause offence please contact us in the first instance. If you would like to have access to any of the films available for purposes not permitted by these Terms and Conditions, including any commercial venture, then please contact us.


The content of the Website including but not limited to the text are Copyright © 2011 The East Anglian Film Archive of the University of East Anglia.

The copyright in the original film materials and the digital reproductions of all still and moving images herein and their arrangements in many cases may be owned by a number of parties. Any requests for copyright clearance for use of the material should be directed to the East Anglian Film Archive in the first instance. It is the requester’s responsibility to obtain such necessary clearance and the East Anglian Film Archive will not be held responsible for any failure on the requester’s part to do so.

The contents on the Website may be accessed as view only and purely for non commercial personal, educational and cultural interest. Under no circumstances shall any content be downloaded, transferred, copied or re-produced in whole or in part in any manner or in or on any media without the prior written consent of The East Anglian Film Archive.

The East Anglian Film Archive would like to thank those who allowed copyright permission for the use and display of works that appear on this site.


The East Anglian Film Archive has made every reasonable effort to locate, contact and acknowledge copyright owners. There are a small number of cases where, despite our efforts, the copyright owner has not been identified. In these cases, we welcome contact from copyright owners and will take immediate action to gain any appropriate clearances or remove the items if requested.

We do not guarantee that the Website will be compatible with any and all hardware or software which you may use nor that the Website will be available all of the time or at any specific times.

The East Anglian Film Archive makes no warranty that the Website is free from computer viruses or any other malicious or impairing computer program.

The Website contains links to other websites with their own terms and conditions. The East Anglian Film Archive is not responsible for the terms and conditions of these websites.


The East Anglian Film Archive is committed to a high standard of quality in all its work and with this in mind every attempt has been made to present up to date and accurate information on this website. However, visitors need to bear in mind that it is possible that information contained on this website may be out of date, incomplete, the opinion of the author or the opinion  “of the time” and may contain technical inaccuracies and typographical errors. We accept no responsibility for keeping the information in these pages up to date or liability for not doing so. If you notice information that needs to be updated or corrected, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Personal data

The Website may contain some personal data such as names of film-makers, some film participants etc. We have taken all reasonable care to ensure that we operate within the provisions of data protection legislation. If you believe that any of the data on the Website causes or is likely to cause damage or distress to you or any other living person, please contact us with details.

Liability and indemnification

Any unauthorised use you make of the University of East Anglia or East Anglian Film Archive copyright and/or trademarks will constitute an infringement of the University of East Anglia’s Intellectual Property and may lead to legal action and other such remedies in accordance with the governing law.

You agree to indemnify and hold harmless the University of East Anglia and its employees, affiliates and students

Except to the extent prohibited by the governing law the University of East Anglia accepts no responsibility for any use you may make of the Website.

The University of East Anglia is only liable to you for direct losses which you may reasonably be expected to suffer where you can show that such losses were as a result of our breach of these terms and conditions. Any implied warranties and conditions are fully excluded.

Our Liability to you shall in no circumstances include any loss of profit or revenue or any other indirect losses you may incur whether foreseen or not.

Governing Law

The Laws of England and Wales shall govern and the Courts of England and Wales shall have exclusive jurisdiction over

  1. The formation, existence, construction, performance, validity and all other aspects of these terms and conditions whatsoever
  2. Any and all claims made by you or us for any and all breaches acts omissions, misuses, liability and copyright claims as set out in these terms and conditions.

The East Anglian Film Archive is owned and operated by the University of East Anglia

© 2011 The East Anglian Film Archive of the University of East Anglia.