I’ve been doing a bit of rearranging this weekend and on the dining room table there was a little metal box which my chap brought down from his Fathers house ‘Up North’.
The box is pretty darn cute, it’s only a couple inches long and is designed to look like a safe with the makers name Rothwell Golbourne .
Inside was a bunch of coins including a 1875 Deutsches Reich Pfennig, a 1910 USA cent and a 1905 Canadian cent. However as I was investigating the contents of the box I noticed there was something wedged into the bottom-possibly a piece of paper. I gently pried it out and I realised it wasn’t paper-but was a rubberised fabric.
On one side there was joined up writing;
‘Lebaudy airship wrecked at Farnborough 1910/11″
My chap was around at the time of finding, he was very surprised because he’d never seen it before, and confirmed that it wasn’t paper but material from an airship!
So a little internet digging later and I discovered the interesting and sad story.
The LeBaudy ‘Morning Post’ Airship was designed in France by Henri Juillot and was a semi-rigid airship. The airship was commissioned by the newspaper The Morning Post, who created a fund to purchase the airship and present it to the British Army. It was 103m long and was powered by 2 engines and had 2 propellers.
The day it crashed was only it’s second flight in England, and unfortunately the 1st flight wasn’t very successful either as the craft got ripped open after snagging on a girder of the shed into which it was being towed.
It’s final flight was on May 4th 1911 in Farnborough, Hampshire which was a convenient location for aviation due to the wide open spaces. This flight was a trial flight to prove it’s air worthiness after it’s repair. The first hour was fine and crowds massed on Farnborough Common to watch the flight and associated display which included Samuel Cody and Mr deHavilland circling the airship in their aeroplanes. However, when the airship began its planned descent its speed was too great. Although towing ropes were dropped, soldiers on the common failed to catch them and she drove straight towards the balloon factory building. The ropes fouled but the airship then started toward trees on Farnborough plateau, the ropes tripping up scores of fleeing sightseers. On hitting the trees the enormous gas envelope was pierced, and the entire structure crashed, completely covering a house owned by Lady Mildred Follett. One of the French mechanics was badly burned but all the crew were rescued from the debris.
The site of the crash is now the Farnborough Telephone Exchange.
Airships, they’re basically totally cute but entirely unreliable, Their decline was accelerated by a series of high-profile accidents, such as the 1937 burning of the German hydrogen-filled Hindenburg.
I had a little look around the house a found a suitable frame for this piece of history, I used a vintage airmail envelope as background in the photo frame.
Hope you enjoyed the story of my little find and associated social history!