Ships! Curly's Airships Launched on October 5th 2000
At mid-day on Thursday 5 October 2000, on a cliff top near Hastings, Sussex, in clear bright sunshine and a stiff breeze, the seventieth anniversary of the R.101 airship disaster was marked in a ceremony by some of the creators of Curly's Airships including Judge Smith, John Ellis, Ian Fordham and Nick Lucas supported by ground crew and an audience of invited guests and the press. The event also marked the official launch of the Curly's Airships CD set and the new web site.
Press and invited
guests gather for the launch at Cliff End, overlooking Haddock Gap,
through which the R.101 passed, crossing the south coast of England on her
The cliff top location, overlooking the village of Fairlight marks the exact point at which the R.101 crossed the English coast on its maiden voyage to India, the voyage that was to end only a few hours later when the stricken craft crash landed on a hillside at Beauvais, Northern France and was destroyed by fire, killing all but six of the fifty-four men on board.
the R.101 Disaster
Judge, wearing the full period uniform of an officer of the Imperial Airship Service, made a short speech about the anniversary and the bravery of the men involved, many of whom had serious misgivings about the likely success of the flight. A minute's silence was observed in memory of those killed in the disaster.
With the formalities over, the festivities began. Two model airships, 1.2m (4ft) long and dubbed r.100 and r.101,
each bearing the web-site address emblazoned along the hull, were duly christened with champagne, and toasted by the assembled throng. Each airship carried a voucher for a free copy of Curlys Airships in the clear plastic gondola, slung below the silver hull.
being readied for launch. In another of those odd co-incidences, the
ground crew discovered that while r.100 maintained gas pressure throughout
the proceedings, r.101 was found to be loosing gas at it's mooring and all
spare ballast had to be ditched just before launch.
To the accompaniment of an appropriate track from the audio CD, the ground crew readied the two craft for launch, trimming the ballast and checking the payloads. At the command "Let Go" the ground crew released the mooring lines and the two ships rose majestically into the air and were carried out to sea on the breeze in the direction of France.
As well as being most appropriate, this southerly flight was unusual, as the prevailing winds on this part of the South Coast normally blow in from the sea.
The two model
airships, r.100 and r.101 (top and middle-right in the picture) head out
to sea towards France.
Biscuits in the shape of the R.101, iced in silver, were passed around
with the champagne, while interviews with the performers took place before we repaired to The Cove at Fairlight for an excellent pub lunch.
The Launch as
reported in the local press