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His Majesty's Airship: The Life and Tragic Death of the World's Largest Flying Machine

Tekijä: S. C. Gwynne

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioMaininnat
883302,317 (4.15)4
History. Transportation. Nonfiction. HTML:From the bestselling author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist Empire of the Summer Moon comes a stunning historical tale of the rise and fall of the world's largest airship??and the doomed love story between an ambitious British officer and a married Romanian Princess at its heart.
The tragic story of the British airship R101??which went down in a spectacular hydrogen-fueled fireball in 1930, killing more people than died in the Hindenburg disaster seven years later??has been largely forgotten. In His Majesty's Airship, historian S.C. Gwynne resurrects it in vivid detail, telling the epic story of great ambition gone terribly wrong.

Airships, those airborne leviathans that occupied center stage in the world in the first half of the twentieth century, were a symbol of the future. R101 was not just the largest aircraft ever to have flown and the product of the world's most advanced engineering??she was also the lynchpin of an imperial British scheme to link by air the far-flung areas of its empire from Australia to India, South Africa, Canada, Egypt, and Singapore. No one had ever conceived of anything like this. R101 captivated the world. There was just one problem: beyond the hype and technological wonders, these big, steel-framed, hydrogen-filled airships were a dangerously bad idea.

Gwynne's chronicle features a cast of remarkable??and often tragically flawed??characters, including Lord Christopher Thomson, the man who dreamed up the Imperial Airship Scheme and then relentlessly pushed R101 to her destruction; Princess Marthe Bibesco, the celebrated writer and glamorous socialite with whom he had a long affair; and Herbert Scott, a national hero who had made the first double crossing of the Atlantic in any aircraft in 1919??eight years before Lindbergh's famous flight??but who devolved into drink and ruin. These historical figures??and the ship they built, flew, and crashed??come together in a grand tale that details the rocky road to commercial aviation written by one of the best pop
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näyttää 3/3
Highly recommended! You know that this ship is going down, but each chapter before the denouement is basically about a different reason that airships were never going to do what their proponents wanted because of unresolvable engineering problems. This story is also about British attempts to use technology to shorten distances between imperial outposts and thus enhance their control, which contributed to their unwillingness to press pause on the airship program. ( )
  rivkat | Jan 4, 2024 |
All I can add to the previous review is to point out that it's a well written and readable account of a disaster that was tragic in the classical sense. The story is engrossing; the characters are skilfully portrayed in their full humanity, mostly likeable but flawed individuals. The fatal flaw of hubris caused the death of the chief promoter of the scheme and so many others, thus dooming the airship program in the UK.

A plan is now being floated to design airships to ferry supplies to Canada's far north. Reading this book has made me aware of the many pitfalls awaiting the designers and backers -- and crew, if it gets that far. It will be interesting to see how that plays out. ( )
  muumi | Jul 9, 2023 |
Although I've been aware of the R101 disaster for many years now, this book couldn't have been written even ten years ago. On one hand, there was a need for modern forensic work. On the other, there was a lack of clear-headed acceptance of the bad judgement in play at the time of the disaster, which prevented a more hard-headed analysis. This is with the additional problem that the serious critics (men such as Barnes Wallis & Neville Shute, who were in competition with the team building R101), were obviously prejudiced. That brings us to this work, and Gwynne is not prepared to pull any punches, coming from the starting position that the big dirigibles were always impractical death traps, but survived on being icons of nationalistic endeavor, at least until there was no denying that the airplane had surpassed them. This is really not news.

What hasn't been widely advertised in a credible form is just how dubious the R100 and the R101 were in terms of being viable enterprises that one could depend on, never mind being the linchpins of a global transportation system tying the British Empire together. Whereas as the great engineer Barnes Wallis scoffed at the men building the R101, his own R100 wasn't tremendously better; the machines were just too fragile to accomplish what was demanded of them. However, the most blame has to attach to Lord Christopher Thompson, as the responsible official. He saw airships as a potential means to preserve the British Empire, while at the same time advancing his own career. That he generally seems to have been an admirable individual doesn't really excuse that he presided over a disaster waiting to happen, and was too willing to take stupid risks for the glory of it all. Then again, taking what now look like stupid risks seems like a congenital disease with the airship enthusiasts; the R101 became the funeral pyre of the men who designed her. ( )
1 ääni Shrike58 | Jun 17, 2023 |
näyttää 3/3
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History. Transportation. Nonfiction. HTML:From the bestselling author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist Empire of the Summer Moon comes a stunning historical tale of the rise and fall of the world's largest airship??and the doomed love story between an ambitious British officer and a married Romanian Princess at its heart.
The tragic story of the British airship R101??which went down in a spectacular hydrogen-fueled fireball in 1930, killing more people than died in the Hindenburg disaster seven years later??has been largely forgotten. In His Majesty's Airship, historian S.C. Gwynne resurrects it in vivid detail, telling the epic story of great ambition gone terribly wrong.

Airships, those airborne leviathans that occupied center stage in the world in the first half of the twentieth century, were a symbol of the future. R101 was not just the largest aircraft ever to have flown and the product of the world's most advanced engineering??she was also the lynchpin of an imperial British scheme to link by air the far-flung areas of its empire from Australia to India, South Africa, Canada, Egypt, and Singapore. No one had ever conceived of anything like this. R101 captivated the world. There was just one problem: beyond the hype and technological wonders, these big, steel-framed, hydrogen-filled airships were a dangerously bad idea.

Gwynne's chronicle features a cast of remarkable??and often tragically flawed??characters, including Lord Christopher Thomson, the man who dreamed up the Imperial Airship Scheme and then relentlessly pushed R101 to her destruction; Princess Marthe Bibesco, the celebrated writer and glamorous socialite with whom he had a long affair; and Herbert Scott, a national hero who had made the first double crossing of the Atlantic in any aircraft in 1919??eight years before Lindbergh's famous flight??but who devolved into drink and ruin. These historical figures??and the ship they built, flew, and crashed??come together in a grand tale that details the rocky road to commercial aviation written by one of the best pop

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