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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 ship of empire, meant to dazzle the world with her technological advancement and immense size. Faster than a plane, more luxurious than an ocean liner, the R101 would connect the furthest reaches of the British Empire. It was, however, not to be.

The spectacular crash of the British airship R101 in 1930 changed the world of aviation forever. While most people have heard of the fiery crash of the Hindenburg, a German ship that went down in New Jersey seven years later, the story of R101 – whose downfall killed many more people – has been largely forgotten. At the time, however, the outpouring of national grief in Britain was equalled only by what happened after the sinking of the Titanic.

In His Majesty’s Airship, S. C. Gwynne recounts the epic narrative of the ill-fated airship and her eccentric champion, Christopher Thomson. With characteristic verve, Gwynne paints a luminous portrait of interwar Britain and reanimates the intrepid world of early aviation.

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


'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

'Transcendent… nothing short of a revelation… will leave dust and blood on your jeans.’

New York Times Book Review on Empire of the Summer Moon

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