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The R31 Airship

The R31 airship outside the shed at Cardington.

This picture shows the Shorts built R31 outside Shed no 1. The R31 was a wooden airship built to Admiralty specifications - her first trial flight was made in July 1918 in the closing months of World War 1 and she was actually fully commissioned in November 1918. Ironically she was never used in a battle capacity as the war finished in the same month. One wonders what the people of Bedford thought as they gazed up into the sky and saw the ship for the first time! There does not appear to be much available documentation of this airship but certainly some of the men and women who worked on her would have lived in the new houses built in Shortstown in 1917 and 1918. The information of the crew below has been gleaned from later newspaper reports. The R31 did not fly for many hours and for this reason it is difficult to find out details about her. She was scrapped in 1919.

Known Crew and Officials attached to the R31

The main Admiralty designer of the R31 was Commander C. I. R. Campbell. More details about him can be found in the Notable People section.

W C Hicks

Shown right a news article confirming the appointment of Grp Captain Hicks as D.A.D. at the RAW on July 1 1931. Earlier in his career he had served at Kingsnorth airship station and had commanded the R31.

Claude Percival Thomas Lipscomb


Born in 1887 Chief Draughtsman Claude Percival Thomas Lipscomb had joined Shorts in Rochester in 1914. He was part of the initial Shorts airship team to decamp to Bedford in 1916 and set up office in the town before their factory was complete. His team worked on all plans for the R31, R32, and R38 although they were overseen by Campbell’s office.


He returned to Shorts in 1921 and went on to have a very successful career designing their airplanes becoming their Chief Designer in 1943. He died in 1974.

Chief Draughtsman for the Admiralty Stephen Payne was born in 1886. He began his career at the Royal Naval Engineering College at Keyham, Plymouth. He was quickly promoted and was in charge of construction of several ships. In 1915 he transferred to airships and worked on the design of the R31, R32 and R38 airships under Ivor Campbell at Cardington. He later returned to naval duties.

Flight Sgt Walter Potter

Ass Cox Walter Potter had lived at Shortstown from at least 1925 to 1930. A survivor of the R38 crash in 1921 he was killed in the R101 crash.

Rigger George Martin Rampton joined the Royal Flying Corp in 1915 and served in the First World War. He also worked on the R32 and the R101. Sadly he too lost his life when the R101 crashed..

Flight -Sgt Thomas Greenstreet R.A.F. Worked on No.4 Parseval, No.3 Astra SS Willows, SS4 & 5 Coastal 21, HMA No 9r, HMA 23r, R31, R36, Second Coxswain R33, 1924-1926. Appointed Chief coxswain R100 21.05.29

Assistant coxswain Thomas Hobbs joined the airship service in March 1915. Prior to serving on the R31 he had served on P4, HMA No 9r, and also served on airships HMA 23r, HMA 24r, HMA 25r, R36, and R33 until 1926. He later worked on both the R100 and R101.

Engineer J S Middleton

Engineer J S Middleton served with early non rigids and from 1914 to 1916 was at Kingsnorth involved in the design and construction of Submarine Scout and Coastal Patrol airships. He was then stationed at Longside airship station before joining airships HMA 9r, HMA 24r and then the R31.

Rigger Corporal R J Burgess joined the airship service in 1916 and worked on both the R31 and R32 and then on the R34. He later joined the R100 crew and was part of an advance team of men who sailed to Canada to assist in the arrival of the R100. He is registered as a resident of Shortstown in 1930 and 1931.

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