If you come across some antique pots and pans during your travels, you could be looking at pieces of aviation history. More than that, though, that old cookware might be connected with some of the most amazing evidence of life after death on record.
The salvaged parts of Great Britain's giant airship R-101, which crashed in France on its maiden overseas voyage, on October 5, 1930, is said to have been turned into cooking ware. A dirigible, the R-101 was the largest airship ever built at that time. After several test flights, the giant airship departed Cardington in England on October 4 at 6:24 p.m. with 54 passengers and crew headed for Karachi, then part of British India. As a result of high winds, it crashed near Beauvais, just north of Paris, early the next morning, killing 48 of the 54 passengers.
The intriguing story of what followed may best be understood by a chronological look at the dates. The more complete story of Capt. Raymond Hinchliffe is told in the preceding blog entry, but is summarized in the first six entries below.
March 13, 1928 - Captain Raymond Hinchliffe is lost at sea when his plane goes down while attempting a trans-Atlantic flight.
March 31, 1928 - Beatrice Earl is experimenting with a Ouija Board attempting to contact her deceased son when Hinchliffe breaks in and asks her to contact his wife, Emilie. Anticipating that she will not be believed, Mrs. Earl makes no attempt to contact Emilie.
April 11, 1928 - Hinchliffe again communicates through the Mrs. Earl's board, appealing to her to contact his wife and providing her with the name of his solicitor. Mrs. Earl sends a letter to Emilie care of the solicitor with a copy to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the physician turned mystery writer (author of Sherlock Holmes) and Great Britain's best known spiritualist.
April 18, 1928 - As arranged by Conan Doyle, Beatrice Earl sits with trance medium Eileen Garrett to see if anything more evidential can be obtained. Hinchliffe communicates and gives details of his demise, again saying he wants to talk to his wife.
May 14, 1928 - Conan Doyle writes to Emilie Hinchliffe and persuades her to sit with Eileen Garrett.
May 22, 1928 - Emilie Hinchliffe sits with Eileen Garrett. Her husband communicates, providing very evidential information about the fatal flight as well as more personal information. Emilie moves from skeptic to believer and continues to sit periodically with Garrett, writing a book on her experiences with Garrett and other research into spirit communication.
Late September 1929 - Raymond Hinchliffe tells Emilie (through Garrett) that the R-101, which is in the final stages of development, will meet with an accident. "I do not want them to have the same fate that I had, as Johnston (the R-101 navigator) was a good friend of mine," Hinchliffe communicates. Emilie informs Captain John Morkham, her husband's good friend, of the messages. Morkham has come to believe that the messages from Hinchliffe are real as he feels the technical language communicated by Hinchliffe is beyond either Mrs. Garrett or Emilie. Morkham informs Johnston, but Johnston laughs it off.
July 7, 1930 - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle dies and soon begins communicating through various mediums around the world. Lady Doyle, a sensitive herself, reports receiving numerous messages from her deceased husband.
October 2, 1930 - Three days before the R-101 is to set off on its fatal flight, Ian Coster, a London journalist, contacts Harry Price, a psychical researcher, to see if Price can arrange for a sťance and hopefully contact Doyle (unrelated to R-101). While Price was known primarily as a debunker of mediums, he has come to accept that some are real. He recommended Eileen Garrett, and a sitting is scheduled for October 7.
October 5, 1930 - The R-101 crashes, north of Paris.
October 6, 1930 -- Emilie Hinchliffe sits with Beatrice Earl. "I am in the state of despair," her husband communicates through Earl's board. "I hoped that the crash could be averted, and even at the last moment we were working in some way to warn those in command of the ship. I know that death is not the end, but I hold life on earth as important to progress as life here, and willful disregard of warnings is suicide."
October 7, 1930 -Like everyone else in England, Coster and Price are shaken by the news of the R-101 disaster, but they decide to go ahead with their October 7 appointment with Mrs. Garrett to see if Conan Doyle will communicate. After Garrett goes into trance, Uvani, her spirit control, begins speaking and says that someone named Irwin or Irving wants to communicate. Garrett's voice changes again and a man appears to be speaking. He identifies himself as Flight Lieutenant H. Carmichael Irwin, captain of the R-101. The initial words are weak and he appears to be under great stress. "The whole bulk of the dirigible was entirely and absolutely too much for her engine capacity," the somewhat garbled message begins. The messages continue in staccato sentences. "Flying too low altitude and could never rise...Disposable lift could not be utilized...Load too great for long flight...Same with S.L.8. Tell Eckener.,..Cruising speed bad and ship badly swinging...Engines wrong...Too heavy - cannot rise...Never reached cruising altitude...Too short trials...No one knew the ship properly...Weather bad for long flight...Fabric all waterlogged and ship's nose is down. Impossible to rise...Cannot trim."
The voice goes on to mention that the fuel injection was bad and the air pump failed. Also the cooling system was bad, as was the bore capacity. Irwin says he knew before hand that the bore capacity was inadequate, but was unable to get the engineers to correct the situation. He also mentions that the ship almost scraped the roofs at Achy and that he was guided by the railway tracks.
Both Coster and Price feel certain that there is no fraud involved. While the aeronautical terminology is evidential in itself and is later confirmed as technically correct, the most evidential item is mention of the small town of Achy. It is so small that it could not be found on most maps and had not been mentioned in any of the newspaper stories. Yet, it is confirmed that the ship passed right over the town. Perhaps even more evidential was mention of the S.L.8. Even air command officials don't at first understand what this refers to until they dig further and realize it is the designation of a new ship that is being developed by the Germans.
After some 45 minutes, Irwin fades out and a different voice begins speaking "Here I am," the voice says, "Arthur Conan Doyle. Now how am I going to prove it to you?" Doyle goes on to talk about the difficulties in communicating and about the conditions in which he finds himself - not much different than the world he had just left.
October 31, 1930 - Apparently hearing of the communication concerning the R-101, Major Oliver Villiers, an air command intelligence officer, sits with Garrett. He goes anonymously, careful not to give any indication of his military connections or his interest in the R-101 disaster. Nothing happens for the first 30 minutes and Villiers is about ready to give up when a voice is heard saying: "Irwey, Irwey - louder - Irwing, Irwin, Don't go, please. Stay, I must speak!"
Taking notes in improvised shorthand, Villiers reports that it sounds very much like Irwin's voice. Villiers then asks Irwin how the end had come, pointing out that the evidence shows the ship had dived, straightened out, dived again, and then crashed. "Yes, that'so," Irwin responds. "One of the struts in the nose collapsed and caused a tear in the cover. The wind was blowing hard and it was raining. Now you see what happened. The rush of wind caused the first dive and then we straightened again and another gust surging through the hole finished us."
Villiers asks if the electrical installation had caused the explosion. "No. Not that. It was the engine," Irwin responds, going on to explain that the diesel engine had been popping or backfiring after crossing the channel because the oil feed was not right. "You see the pressure in some of the gas bags was accentuated by the under girders crumpling up, and since gas had been escaping, extra pressure pushed the gas out with a rush and at that moment the diesel engine backfired and ignited the escaping gas. That caused the first explosion and others followed."
Many names and technical details that Garrett could not possibly have known are mentioned by Irwin, leaving Villiers convinced that he was actually speaking with Irwin.
November 2, 1930 - Villiers again sits with Mrs. Garrett. Uvan describes a man who is there to communicate but says he wants Villiers to figure out who it is.. He says early 50s, grey by the ears, used to have a moustache and wears a monocle. "Now, use your intelligence," Uvani relays the words of the communicator. Villiers immediately recognizes him as Sir Sefton Brancker, another victim of the R-101. Brancker was the director of the British Air Ministry and was one of several dignitaries on the flight. Villiers had worked under Brancker and the expression to use his intelligence was something he had heard Brancker say many times. "Little did I think when I saw you last that we'd meet again with things so upside down," Brancker says, Villiers again noting that the cadence of the voice was the one he had identified with Brancker. "No parties here, nothing in bottles. But spirits of other kinds, if you know what I mean."
Brancker admits that Irwin and other flight crew members wanted to postpone the flight because of the weather conditions, but he nixed the idea because Lord Thomson, British Secretary of Air, felt the honor of the country was at stake. "I felt awful," Brancker ends. "Of course, we never had a run for our money."
There is a pause when Uvani announces that a man with a round, jovial face and big head wants to communicate. The voice tells Villiers that it is "Scottie" (Major George Scott, officer in charge of the flight). "Villiers, it's all too ghastly for words. It's awful. Think of all the lives, experience, money, material. All thrown away. What for? Nothing."
Villiers agrees but wants more detail about the fatal flight. Scottie refers to girder and engine trouble. He mentions there was some damage to a girder on one of the trial flights, but that it was just a strain, not a crack. Villiers asks if he had reported it to the Air Ministry.
"My dear man, you know all the damned red tape," Scottie replies. "This was purely technical, and when possible we always avoided technical reports. Otherwise, we should never have gotten our work done."
Villiers further records that there is a long explanation about the pressure of the gas being too strong for the valves. Scottie then explains that the rent in the outer cover was on the starboard side at 5C.
Villiers asks if the ship then nose-dived. "Well, Villiers, now imagine the picture. We have a bad rent in the cover on the starboard side of 5C. This brought about an unnatural pressure and the frame gave a twist which, with the external pressure, forced us into our first dive. The second was even worse. The pressure on the gas bags was terrific. And the gusts of wind were tremendous. This external pressure, coupled with the fact that the valve was weak, blew the valve right off, and at the same time, the released gas was ignited by backfire from the engine."
Villiers is confused because Scottie previously told him that the engine had oil trouble and the valve that went was near the front starboard engine. "Quite right," Scottie replies. "But both engines had caused trouble. At the least the engines were quite OK, only the oil feed was wrong. This engine backfired at the same time, and caused the igniting. It was all simultaneous. Johnnie was killed instantly. I was knocked out and knew no more. But Irwin, poor man, was crushed with tons of metal and had a terrible time."
November 5, 1930 - Villiers has his third sitting with Eileen Garrett. This time he hears from Wing Commander R. B. Colmore, director of airship development. Colmore asks about his wife, but Villiers is unable to answer him. Villiers asks Colmore about the weak girder at 5C. Colmore explains that the V-shaped end of the girder had apparently widened in flight and split the cover to expose the interior of the ship to untenable strain. After the split had widened, the crash had become inevitable.
Colmore tells Villiers that the history of the trouble can be found in a progress book marked A-5-7.
Scottie then returns. Villiers asks him when the rent appeared. "I should say ten minutes to two, about ten minutes before the end came," Major Scott replies..
Villiers asks him if it was steep dive. "No, it was hardly a dive," Scott responds. "You see, the rent had become bigger, and the gusts of wind were hitting her hard, making her difficult to keep steady and steer. And also the fourth and third girders were badly strained. Our only chance was to try a slow turn, and land downwind, which would enable the damaged starboard side to get shelter from the wind and the terrific gusts. We tried to correct the bump downwards, but she would not respond. Then she practically went into a perpendicular nose dive."
Villiers points out that the evidence showed that the nose did not strike the ground, but Scott explains that the gusts of wind blowing on the port side caused the ship to heel to port and it more or less crashed on an even keel.
Colmore comes back in and tells Villiers that the progress book he had referred to was his own personal book and could be found in his room (office). It has a brown-backed cover and on the back is marked A-R-101.
November 25, 1930 - At this fourth sitting with Mrs. Garrett, Sir Sefton Brancker wishes Villiers the best of luck in bringing all his findings to the attention of Sir John Simon, who was presiding at the Court of Inquiry into the disaster. Colmore then breaks in and mentions that First Officer N. G. Athersone also had two diaries which might shed some light on the pre-flight condition of the R-101 as well as the flight up until the time of the crash. However, Colmore and the others are unable to get Atherstone to take part in such strange communication.
November 28, 1930 - Atherstone is persuaded by the others to communicate. He tells Villiers that he had only one diary, not two, and that he does not feel they will be of much help. "But I don't count or cut much ice,' he says. Moreover, the diary was apparently destroyed in the crash.
Colmore's progress books could not be found in his office, but his widow verified their existence, telling Villiers that her husband would often dictate entries to her directly. Villiers took all the information he had gathered from the sťances with Mrs. Garrett to Sir John Simon. However, Simon said that the information would not be admissible in a court of law and therefore rejected Villiers' report. The Board's findings, however, were consistent with Villiers' report.
Primary references: The Millionth Chance by James Leasor, Reynal and Co., 1957; The Airmen Who Would Not Die by John G. Fuller, G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1979;
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