Ministry of Defence
Ministry of Defence

Lest We Forget
British Legion
The Royal British Legion


HULL CEMETERY R38 DISASTER - Roll of Honour
Compiled and Copyright © Julie C Walton 2003
additional information Stephen Mather

The American Navy were so impressed by the R34 that they ordered a rigid airship from Britain. The R38 was the biggest one built with 14 gas cells and six Sunbeam engines each of 350 HP. It was 700ft long and had a speed of 71mph. The airship was built at Cardington and was completed on 7th June 1921. On 23rd June she left Cardington and was delivered to Howden, Yorkshire. Minor girder damage had occurred during the flight and suggestions were made that strength had been sacrificed in order to achieve lightness. The first speed trial was carried out on July 17th at Howden. On August 23rd, she was on her final test flight and, cruising over Hull at an altitude of 2,500ft, flying at 60 MPH, she suddenly broke her back, exploded in mid air and both parts fell burning into the Humber killing 44 out of the 49 on board. There were a number of both British and American airmen on board at the time. A disaster memorial in Hull cemetery contains two plaques, one for the British and one for the American airmen who lost their lives. Those on the plaque marked are buried underneath the memorial.

Photographs Copyright © Julie C Walton 2003

BRITISH

MAITLAND, C.M.C., D.S.O., A.F.C. Edward Maitland Air Commodore, Airship Base (Howden), Royal Air Force. Died on Wednesday 24th August 1921. Age 41. Son of Arthur and Margaretta Maitland. C.M.C., D.S.O., A.F.C. Buried in HULL WESTERN CEMETERY, Yorkshire.
  PANNELL J R National Physics Laboratory
  THOMAS, D.F.C. G M Flight Lieutenant, H.M. Airship R 38, Royal Air Force. Died on Wednesday 24th August 1921. Son of Mr. T. Thomas, of Savanna-la-Man, Jamaica, British West Indies. D.F.C. Commemoarted in HULL WESTERN CEMETERY, Yorkshire. "R 38" Memorial.
MONTAGU, D.F.C. Rupert Samuel Flight Lieutenant, Airship Base (Howden), Royal Air Force (Navigating Officer, Lieut.)., Royal Navy. Died on Wednesday 24th August 1921. Age 26. Son of Alfred John and Hester Vaudrey Montagu, of "Braeside", Cleveland Rd., Hillingdon West, Middx. Native of Essex. His brother, Herbert Gerald Montagu, was killed in action on the Somme in 1916. D.F.C. Buried in HULL WESTERN CEMETERY, Yorkshire. Grave 305. 29524.
  DUFFIELD C W National Physics Laboratory
MATTHEWSON, A.F.C. Thomas Frederick [Listed as MATHEWSON on CWGC] Flying Officer 270912, Airship Base (Howden), Royal Air Force. Died on Wednesday 24th August 1921. Age 34. Son of Harriet Mathewson and the late Thomas Mathewson; husband of Violet Theresa Mathewson, of "Melrose," Alexandra Rd., South Farnborough, Hants. Born at Seaford, Sussex. A.F.C. Buried in HULL WESTERN CEMETERY, Yorkshire. Grave 305. 29524.
  GREENER William Hunter Flight Sergeant 200501, Airship "R.38", Royal Air Force. Died on Wednesday 24th August 1921. Age 29. Born at Dunston-on-Tyne. Son of William and Margaret Ann Greener, of J, Newsham Rd., Blyth, Northumberland. Buried in NORTH SUNDERLAND CEMETERY, Northumberland. Grave N. 18.
  SMITH Frank Flight Sergeant 314374, Royal Air Force. Died on Wednesday 24th August 1921. Age 28. Husband of Edith Ellen Smith, of 8, Lock St., Caddy Field, Halifax. Buried in STONEY ROYD CEMETERY, HALIFAX, Yorkshire. Grave F. B. 13.
  MARTIN Alfred Thomas
Flight Sergeant 200658, Royal Air Force. Died on Wednesday 24th August 1921. Age 39. Husband of Winifred Mary Martin and father of five from Dickleborough Scole, Norfolk. Alfred Martin had seen nearly 22 years’ service in the Army and the R.A.F. Buried in south-east part of PULHAM MARKET CEMETERY, Norfolk. Moved from the Army (which he joined in 1899) to the Navy to the Naval Air Service to the RFC to RAF. When his grave was first marked, it contained a stone with a carved airship relief, which subsequently got broken and was replaced by a War Commission gravestone.
Photographs Copyright © Julie C Walton 2003
  BURTON Frederick Ernest Sergeant 314136, H.M. Airship R 38, Royal Air Force. Died on Wednesday 24th August 1921. Husband of Mrs. E. Burton, of 87, Guildford St., Poplar, London. Commemorated in HULL WESTERN CEMETERY, Yorkshire. "R 38" Memorial.
OLIVER William Leading Aircraftman 92523, Airship Base (Howden), Royal Air Force. Died on Wednesday 24th August 1921. Age 29. Son of Frederick Eaton Oliver and Alice Rachael Oliver, of Sheffield; husband of Annie Louisa Oliver, of 169, Shirebrook Rd., Heeley, Sheffield. Buried in HULL WESTERN CEMETERY, Yorkshire. Grave 305. 29517.
  PENSON Charles William Aircraftman 1st Class 301407, Airship Station (Howden), Royal Air Force. Died on Wednesday 24th August 1921. Age 21. Son of James Ambrose Penson and Eliza Ellen Penson, of 111, Westgate, Sleaford. Buried in SLEAFORD CEMETERY, Lincolnshire. Grave S. 345.
  DONALD C W Air Mechanic 1st Class 246147, Airship "R.38,", Royal Air Force. Died on Wednesday 24th August 1921. Age 20. Son of Margaret Donald, of 13, Rosebank Terrace, Aberdeen, and the late William Donald. Buried in NELLFIELD CEMETERY, ABERDEEN, Aberdeenshire. Grave 2. 493.
  PARKER Roy Aircraftman 2nd Class 251086, H.M. Airship R 38, Royal Air Force. Died on Wednesday 24th August 1921. Son of Mr H Parker of 3 Denton Terrace , Bexley , Kent. Commemorated in HULL WESTERN CEMETERY, Yorkshire. "R 38" Memorial.
CAMPBELL, O.B.E. C I R Superintendent Royal Airship Works, O.B.E.
WARREN F Assistant Constructor, Designer, Royal Air Force. Died on Wednesday 24th August 1921. Age 44. Buried in HULL WESTERN CEMETERY, Yorkshire. Grave 305. 29524.
LITTLE, A.F.C. I C Flight Lieutenant, Airship Base (Howden), Royal Air Force. Died on Wednesday 24th August 1921. A.F.C. Buried in HULL WESTERN CEMETERY, Yorkshire. Grave 305. 29518.
  PRITCHARD, O.B.E., A.F.C. J E M Flight Lieutenant, H.M. Airship R 38, Royal Air Force. Died on Wednesday 24th August 1921. O.B.E., A.F.C. Commemorated in HULL WESTERN CEMETERY, Yorkshire. "R 38" Memorial.
  WICKS Victor Houghton Flying Officer, Airship Base (Howden), Royal Air Force. Died on Wednesday 24th August 1921. Age 29. Son of Mrs. Elizabeth Pettiford (formerly Wicks), and the. late John Wicks; husband of Beatrice Ellen Wicks, of 92, Brighton Rd., Reading. Born at Tilehurst, Berks. Buried in READING CEMETERY, Berkshire. Grave 76. 16342.
  HEATH, A.F.M. S J Flight Sergeant 314892, Airship Base, Royal Air Force. Died on Wednesday 24th August 1921. A.F.M. Buried in KINGSTON CEMETERY, PORTSMOUTH, Hampshire. Sailor's Graves 5. 12.
  THOMPSON Harold Flight Sergeant 11507, Royal Air Force. Died on Wednesday 24th August 1921. Age 25. Son of Joshua and Emily Thompson, of 70, Astbury St., Congleton, Cheshire. Buried in ST. MARY CHURCHYARD, ASTBURY, Cheshire. New section, grave B.11.
RYE John Flight Sergeant 314361, Airship Base (Howden), Royal Air Force. Died on Wednesday 24th August 1921. Age 34. Son of the late William and Ada Rye, of Liverpool. Buried in HULL WESTERN CEMETERY, Yorkshire. Grave 305. 29518.
  MASON J W A Sergeant 313827, Royal Air Force. Died on Wednesday 24th August 1921. Buried in ST. MARY CHURCH CEMETERY, TENBY, Pembrokeshire. Grave D. 12.
  ANGER G S Leading Air Mechanic 243858, Airship Base (Howden), Royal Air Force. Died on Wednesday 24th August 1921. Age 31. Son of John and Jessie Anger; husband of Christiana Anger, of 105, King's Rd., Caversham. Buried in CAVERSHAM CEMETERY, READING, Berkshire. Grave 2. C. of E. 2862.
WILSON John William Leading Aricraftman 314914, Royal Air Force. Died on Wednesday 24th August 1921. Age 27. Son of Fanny Wilson, of 13, Trafalgar Terrace, Brinkburn Rd., Darlington, and the late William Wilson. Buried in HULL WESTERN CEMETERY, Yorkshire. Grave 305. 29517.
  DREW John Cecil Aircraftman 1st Class 239474, H.M. Airship R 38, Royal Air Force. Died on Wednesday 24th August 1921. Son of Mr T Drew of 22 Archibald Rd , Tufnell Park, London. Commemorated in HULL WESTERN CEMETERY, Yorkshire. "R 38" Memorial.
  STEERE Eric Edward Aircraftman 1st Class 231041, H.M. Airship R 38, Royal Air Force. Died on Wednesday 24th August 1921. Son of Mr. J. Steere, of 37, Gloucester Place, Worthing, Sussex. Commemorated in HULL WESTERN CEMETERY, Yorkshire. "R 38" Memorial.
  WITHINGTON R Aircraftman 2nd Class 313300, Royal Air Force. Died on Wednesday 24th August 1921. Son of George Withington, of 2, New Street, Wolstanton. Buried in ST. MARGARET CHURCHYARD, WOLSTANTON, Staffordshire. Grave RH. 17. 24.
THOSE MARKED † ARE BURIED UNDER THIS MEMORIAL

The front cover of the service book from the memorial service at Westminster Abbey 7th September 1921 contains the following inscription:

In memory of Sir Edward Maitland C.M.G. D.S.O. Air Commodore, Royal Air Force

Louis Henry Maxfield, Commander United States Navy

Officers and Men of the Rigid Air Detachment United States Navy: Members of the Staffs of the National Physical Laboratory, and of the Royal Airship Works.

Lost in Airship R.38 (Z.R.2)

August 24th,1921.

Express Sept 10th. 1921

R38 Victim’s Funeral
A Native of Forest Gate (A district in N.E. London)

The funeral of one of the victims of the disaster to the airship R38 took place quietly but impressively at the City of London Cemetery, llford,on Wednesday afternoon The deceased was John Truscott Hancock aged 31, aircraft chief mechanic’s mate of the United States’ Navy and he was a native of Forest Gate, born at 13, Godwin Road, His body was recovered from the Humber a week after the disaster and was conveyed to the residence of his father 17, Godwin Road on Tuesday under the escort of one of his comrades of the American Air Force Detachment.

Mr. Hancock, who received his education at Godwin Road School and the Technical Institute, had a varied experience of engineering serving his time at the Thames Ironworks, and later working as a tester with the London General Omnibus Co. Prior to the outbreak of the war he emigrated to the United States of America, and white there saw service as a volunteer in the Mexican Border fighting. In 1916 he enlisted in the American Navy, and because of his mechanical knowledge chose the aircraft section. He served with the Americans in France in this section, and saw a great deal of service in “spotting” submarines from the air. He was the recipient of a letter of commendation from the American naval authorities. After the war he returned to America, and because of his keenness and fine engineering knowledge was one of twelve men chosen with nine officers to come to England and receive an instruction course on Britain’s rigid airships. Subsequently this detachment was made up to 50 and deceased was to have been one of the crew to take the R38 to America.

The was no public ceremonial to mark the occasion of interment, and except for the fact that the solid oak casket bearing the remains in an open hearse was covered with the Stars and Stripes there was nothing to indicate that it was anything other than a private funeral. As the hearse and two coaches drew quietly away from the residence of the deceased’s family at 17, Godwin Road and proceeded to St. Mark’s Church close by there were only a few small groups of friends and neighbours to witness the passing of the cortege. These joined a number of others waiting in the church and took part in the service, which was conducted by the curate (the Rev. W. J. Martyn). The service was simple in character, as was the ceremony at the graveside. where there was also a small gathering of friends and neighbours of the family, Sir Hugh Trenchard. Chief of the Air Staff and the Air Council were represented by Major Shaw.

The family mourners were Mr F. Hancock (brother) Misses K.and C. Hancock (sisters) Mrs. Fundell (aunt) Mr .J. W. Daniel (uncle) together with Mr. Hy. Herbert, representing Godwin Road School.

In addition to wreaths sent by the family and relatives there were those from his shipmates, officers, non commissioned officers and flying men of the RAF Base at Howden. Mrs H. L. Maxfield widow of commander Maxfield, the American airman who was to have taken charge of the R38 on her journey to America, Sir Hugh Trenehard, the British Air Council, Air Vice Marshall Vyvyan, the members of the Forest Gate Model Yacht Club, Manor road (West Ham) lnfants School, clergy, wardens and congregation of St. Marks Church Forest Gate, 5th Forest Gate Co. Girl Guides, Mrs McCarthy and Son, Mr. and Mrs. Julyan and family, Mr.and Mrs. Biackmore and family, Mr. and Mrs. Rowe, Mr Lewis and family, Mrs. Bowles and daughter, the Misses Hammond, and Mr. and Mrs. G. Leigh.

The funeral arrangements were carried out by H. Dyer and Sons, Forest Gate.

COURT OF INQUIRY’S FINDINGS.

System Criticised

The report of the Air Ministry court of inquiry into the disaster to the airship R38 which broke in two and caught fire off Hull, on August 24th with the loss of 44 British and American lives, was issued on Friday night. It states LACK OF VITAL INFORMATION

Many new features were introduced in the design. and it appears evident that in some cases there was a lack of vital aero-dynamical information as to the effect of these modifications on the strength of the structure.

Having regard to the great differences in the requirements between the R38 and previous British airships, the design should have been examined and discussed by an official and competent committee before actual construction was begun. There is no evidence to show that this was done.

The system by which the construction of the ship and the inspection of the work are centred in one head, as was the case at the Royal Airship Works, Cardington, Beds. where the R38 was built, is unsound.

ADMIRALTY STATEMENT

The Secretary of the Admiralty, in a statement issued simultaneously says:- With reference to the report of the court of inquiry into the circumstances concerning the loss of H.M. Airship R 38 and the Air Council’s statement thereon, the Admiralty are conducting a full investigation into the history of the design of the airship and of the initial stages of it's construction up to October 1919, when responsibility for the design and construction of airships was transferred to the Air Ministry, and the result of this investigation will be published in due course.

9 April 2004

Friends of the War Memorials
War Memorials Trust
Main page
Commonweath War Graves Commission
Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Copyright © Roll-of-Honour.com 2002-
Email: rollofhonour@ntlworld.com

See our on-line bookstore
Visit our bookstore