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Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Lt. Col. Vincent C. "Dope" Richmond (1893-1930)

Yes, that really was the guys nickname. And not because he was a fan of the green either.

An age ago I went on a course at Cardington in Bedfordshire, the area is dominated by two vast structures. Built during the First World War to house the British airship programme that would rival the German Zeppelins, they were 700 feet long - and were enlarged after the war when the airship programme was developed to serve the need for communication throughout the empire on which the sun will never set...

It never really took off (pun intended) with the improvements in aeroplanes and also a series of high profile disasters the most famous of which is of course the Hindenburg explosion at Lakehurst NJ.

The R100 and R101 were rival designs, the R100 being buyilt by a commercial company and the R101 by the Air ministry with radically different agendas. The R101 had all the weaknesses of being designed by committee, it was alos subject to meddling from the Air Ministry and as the Air Ministry wanted a high public profile by press attention.

Richmond designed the outer covering of the airship where he used his revolutionary technique of stretching fabric over astructure and doping it which would cause it to shrink which while satisfactory for small aircraft was less than ideal for such a large craft.

Its unknown why the R101 crashed in Beauvais, France on 4th October 1930. The official board of inquiry found that there was a failiure of the outer cover of the upper nose which destroyed a gasbag, but with so many pressures of the court the conclusions are less than reliable.

Richmond was on board and was one of the 48 out of the 55 passengers who perished in the crash as did the dream of dirigibles...

Just one of the plaques spotted on a mammoth day of plaque spotting starting in Chingford and finishing after a long walk back from Oxford circus to Liverpool Street as Marie was on a course and I was at a loose end and unwilling to carry on with filling boxes on a lovely autumn day...

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