Embark on Airship R34’s historic journey at Museum of Flight

100 year old letters adds to story of airship R34 at East Fortune airfield

Wednesday, 3rd July 2019, 4:14 pm
Ian Brown, Assistant Curator, Aviation at the National Museum of Flight,  holds a letter written 100 years ago and dropped over Nova Scotia from the R34 airship during its record-breaking double transatlantic crossing in 1919.
Ian Brown, Assistant Curator, Aviation at the National Museum of Flight, holds a letter written 100 years ago and dropped over Nova Scotia from the R34 airship during its record-breaking double transatlantic crossing in 1919.

A letter written 100 years ago and dropped over Nova Scotia from the R34 airship during its record-breaking double transatlantic crossing has gone on display as part of an exhibition marking the centenary of the R34’s departure from its East Fortune base.

The letter, which was recently acquired by National Museums Scotland, was written by the Reverend George Davys Jones who worked as a chaplain at RAF East Fortune.

He gave it to the R34 crew to post to his sister in Bournemouth once the airship had reached the USA.

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It was dropped from the airship over Nova Scotia on 5 July, discovered by Milton Weldon on 8 November at Selmah, Hants County, forwarded to Halifax, Nova Scotia and then posted back to England where it arrived later that month.

The letter describes the sense of excitement about the R34’s forthcoming journey, explaining that the whole station was required to guide the massive airship out of its shed ahead of its record-breaking flight.

Rev Jones’ letter will be displayed until 31 October alongside other objects that help to tell the story of the R34, including its large bowplate and altimeter dial, binoculars and a camera used on the flight as well as a bottle of brandy taken on board for medicinal reasons.

The exhibition also includes a piece of the linen fabric from the airship’s outer cover, part of one of the internal gas-bags and a piece of girder from the airship.

Visitors can see a memorial to the flight, a twin of which exists in Mineola, and can recreate the flying experience of the record-breaking giant in an R34 flight simulator.

The R34’s epic journey, which took place just a few weeks after Alcock and Brown’s record-breaking west-east Atlantic flight, was the first ever return flight across the Atlantic and the first east-west crossing by air.

The National Museum of Flight, including the Fortunes of War permanent display, is open seven days a week from 10am until 5pm. Details www.nms.ac.uk/flight