Norfolk village celebrates first transatlantic flight, 100 years on

The moored r34 Image copyright Courtesy of Diss Museum
Image caption The R34 - the length of two football pitches - at its moorings in Pulham

The "astonishing achievement" of a record-breaking transatlantic flight is being celebrated, 100 years on.

The R34 airship made the first ever return flight across the Atlantic in 1919, with its crew hailed as heroes.

On its return to the UK, the airship was unexpectedly redirected to Pulham in Norfolk, landing on 13 July.

Centenary organiser Sheila Moss King said Pulham had its place in aviation history, making it "1919's Cape Canaveral" - the US rocket launch site.

Image copyright Phil Wilkinson
Image caption Airfield workers at Pulham wave to the R34 from on top of a tank which was used to pull open the hangar doors

"There was a sea of people to welcome them - Pulham airfield had 3,000 servicemen and women and 2,000 civilians and it took 500 people to land a big airship," added Mrs Moss King, who can see her house in Pathe footage of the landing.

"A band struck up See the Conquering Hero Comes and got an absolute drenching when the water used as ballast was released.

"It was in the news, it was on the radio - people all around the world would have heard of Pulham."

Image copyright British Pathe
Image caption The R34 was 634ft (193m) long and just under 92ft (28m) high
Image copyright British Pathe
Image caption British Pathe filmed the R34 landing at Pulham on 13 July 1919
Image copyright Sheila Moss King
Image caption Shelia Moss King helped measure out the outline of the R34 on a playing field. The parked car is to give perspective
Image copyright Airship Heritage Trust
Image caption R34 airmen at Pulham airfield with the gramophone presented to them by Thomas Edison, and Wopsie the cat. The R34 can be seen in the background

The crew's 75-hour flight to the UK was a little less eventful than the 108-hour outbound journey from East Lothian to Long Island.

"They weren't sure if they were on the right course and they flew through the most terrible storms with the airship tipping up and down," said Mrs Moss King.

"They found a stowaway on board - the log said they found him 'somewhat wet and breathless'.

"He didn't make the final crew and he knew a boxing match would be happening in New York, so you can imagine he didn't want to miss that or this incredible flight."

Image copyright National Museums Scotland
Image caption The crew of the R34, pictured with their pets including Wopsie the cat
Image copyright Pritchard family/BBC
Image caption Wendy Pritchard - whose grandfather, Maj Jack Pritchard, parachuted into Long Island from the R34 - will give at talk at Pulham

In New York, they were showered with gifts - including a case of prohibited rum and a gramophone by Thomas Edison - and were greeted by President Woodrow Wilson.

An offer of $1,000 dollars for the airship's cat Wopsie was turned down.

After a couple of days partying in New York, the R34 and its crew were set to return to Scotland, with the change of course to Pulham unexplained in the airship's log.

Descendents of the crew and airfield workers are gathering at the village's Pennoyer Centre over the weekend.

It is exhibiting its archive and an outline of the 634ft (193m) aircraft, which was just under 92ft (28m) high, has been outlined in a field.

In nearby Diss, the museum has R34 memorabilia, activities around the town and a special church service at St Mary's on Sunday.

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