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His Majesty’s Airship

The Life and Tragic Death of the World's Largest Flying Machine

S.C. Gwynne

The R101 was the largest object ever to take to the air. It was meant to dazzle the world with cutting-edge technology and awesome size. Better than a plane, more luxurious than an ocean liner, the R101 would connect the furthest reaches of the British Empire, tying together far-flung dominions at a time when imperial bonds were fraying. It was, however, not to be.

The spectacular crash of the British airship R101 in 1930 changed the world of aviation forever. Most have heard of the fiery crash of the Hindenburg, a German ship that went down in New Jersey seven years later. But the story of R101 and its forty-eight victims has largely been forgotten.

His Majesty’s Airship recounts the epic narrative of the ill-fated airship and her eccentric champion, Christopher Thomson. S. C. Gwynne brings to life a lost world of aviators driven by ambition, and killed by hubris.

  • Publication date: October 12, 2023
  • ISBN: 9780861547081
  • RRP: £25.00
  • Pages: 320
  • Publication date: October 12, 2023
  • ISBN: 9780861547098
  • RRP: £10.99
  • Pages: 320


'Captivating... Gwynne spins a rich tale of technology, daring and folly that transcends its putative subject. Like any good popular history, it’s also a portrait of an age.'

New York Times

'Utterly thrilling, the greatest tale of aerial hubris since Icarus. Reads more like a page-turning thriller than a well-researched history but is equally satisfying on both counts.'

Daily Express

'A Promethean tale of unlimited ambitions and technical limitations, airy dreams and explosive endings.'

Wall Street Journal

'Meticulously researched and vibrantly written... an immersive and enlightening account of how hubris and impatience can lead to disaster.'

Publishers Weekly

'An enthralling study of the airship era that has the reader hooked from page 1. Courage, hubris, ingenuity and a shocking disregard for safety are all bound up with fading empire and one man’s dreams.'

Julia Boyd, author of A Village in the Third Reich

'I’ve just closed this book and this is the feeling—I’m standing inside the massive airship, a whale in the air, on its aluminum 'ribs,' looking far up into the belly as ten-story tall gas bags shift and pulse like creatures in a fable... Gwynne’s lovely prose hunts and nudges across the page, as the airship hunts the air, revealing a grand story, its hubris, its heartbreak.'

Doug Stanton, author of Horse Soldiers

'Aviation history is nothing less than miraculous; it took a mere sixty-three years, after all, to get from the Wright brothers to Neil Armstrong... With His Majesty’s Airship, the inimitable Mr. Gwynne explores in vivid detail how this dream bloomed, and how it, in time, fell tragically to earth... remarkable.'

Craig Nelson, author of Pearl Harbor and Rocket Men

'S.C. Gwynne is a consummate storyteller, and his well-documented account of the 1930 crash of a spectacularly large hydrogen-filled British airship is not to be missed.'


'Gwynne meticulously recounts the final flight of the British airship R101 and the entire zeppelin era in this engaging history. There is plenty of international zeppelin history here, but it is the personal conflicts in the R101 control room, exacerbated by Scott’s spiraling problem with alcoholism, the social context, and the near minute-by-minute presentation of the tragic flight that will capture reader attention.'


S.C. Gwynne

S.C. ‘Sam’ Gwynne is the best-selling author of Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches and Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson. Originally an award-winning investigative journalist, he has written extensively for the New York Times, Washington Post, Time Magazine, Boston Globe and many more. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife.

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