The story of the British airship R101--which went down in a spectacular hydrogen-fueled fireball in 1930, killing more people than died in the Hindenburg disaster seven years later--has been largely forgotten. In His Majesty's Airship, historian S.C. Gwynne tells the story of great ambition gone terribly wrong.
Captivating, thoroughly researched ... 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 — in this case, the age of an empire on the brink of decline. At the center of Gwynne’s narrative is a brisk, tightly focused account of R101’s first and final voyage, which keeps the pages turning even as he zooms out to tell a larger story of airships and imperial dreams.
A Promethean tale of unlimited ambitions and technical limitations, airy dreams and explosive endings. Mr. Gwynne, a journalist and historian, sets the R101’s human and mechanical drama against a flammable backdrop: the longer and similarly disastrous arc of the airship as an alternative to the airplane.