Incident Royal Airship Works ZR-2 R34,
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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 172881
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Date:Friday 28 January 1921
Type:Royal Airship Works ZR-2
Owner/operator:Royal Airship Factory
Registration: R34
Fatalities:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 26
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:south of Guisborough, North Yorkshire, England -   United Kingdom
Phase: En route
Departure airport:Howden, North Yorkshire
Destination airport:Howden, North Yorkshire
Confidence Rating: Information is only available from news, social media or unofficial sources
The R-34 was built in 1918 at the Beardmore Inchinnan airship factory, Glasgow. It was a massive airship; it measured 643 feet long, 79 feet in diameter and was 1,950,000 cubic feet in volume. It had five new Sunbeam Maori engines each with 270 horse power which gave it a top speed of 62 mph. It was nick-named "Tiny"! The R-34 had already made the first ever trans-oceanic airship flight in July 1919 when it flew to Mineola, New York and back. It had then been overhauled at Howden, prior to its crash near Guisborough.

On 27th January 1921 the R-34 airship was being test flown after a major overhaul and a period of inactivity. On board were a number of RAF navigators who, it is believed, were being given instruction. The precise course and details of the incident are not yet known but it is believed that some of the crew were in their bunks with it probably being a run-of-the-mill flight.

When it was somewhere just off the Yorkshire/Durham coast the weather turned bad and with visibility reduced the airship drifted in land and towards higher ground, it struck high ground south of Guisborough at around 1,200 feet above sea level but took a glancing blow.

A sudden downdraft had pushed the airship onto the Moors at 00:10 hours on 28th January which awoke those asleep in the bunks. The airship then bounced off the moor and back into the air but the Captain then ordered the engines to be stopped whilst the damage was inspected. The front gondola had been badly smashed and had heather stuck in it, it's engine had been made useless and the aft car similarly had it's propellers taken out. A distress signal was made and two destroyers, HMS Wrestler and HMS Walker were ordered to proceed from Harwich to stand by in case R-34 drifted out to sea. A tug from Hull also stood by in the Humber should it be ditched nearer Howden.

The airship arrived back at Howden later that night but it was 16:34 hours before it was landed. It had taken 15 hours to get back to Howden due to two of the engines being rendered useless after all the propellers had snapped off. The only power was through the engines on the wing cars. Because of the poor weather when they arrived back at Howden high winds then prevented the ground crew getting it into a hanger.

R-34 struck the ground a number of times and they resorted to mooring it to trees in a nearby field. The next day it was inspected and found to be too badly damaged to be repaired and over the next three days it was scrapped.

During the early part of 1920 the USA decided to buy the R-38 airship and it was planned that it would be flown over the Atlantic after purchase. A crew was therefore sent to Howden to learn how to fly an airship, namely this one, the R34. The R-38 was lost in the Humber with fatal results later in 1921 (which see).

It is not known exactly who was on board the R-34 the day it struck the North Yorkshire Moors - the airship was designed to have a full crew of 26 - but the total probably includes those listed below:

Captain - F/Lt Hedley Vicar Drew AFC RAF.
F/O Harold F Luck.
S/Ldr Gaskell.
Major George Herbert Scott
A/C man W Johnson
Corporal R J Burgess
L A C Frank Browdie
Possibly Fred Brodie, of Chippenham.

Whilst "Flight International" lists the crew that undertook the double transatlantic flight on 7 July 1919, ("six officers and 20 NCOs) it is not certain that any of them were on board on 8 Jan 1921


1. Collapse Of R.34" The Times (London). Saturday, 29 January 1921. (42631), col D, p. 10


R-34 Wrecked.JPG
"R-34 Wrecked" by Unknown - "Popular Mechanics" Magazine 1921. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Revision history:

11-Jan-2015 02:01 Dr. John Smith Added
21-Mar-2022 05:08 Ron Averes Updated [Registration]
19-May-2024 09:12 Nepa Updated [Time, Location, Operator]

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