“SHE’S gone up in flames.”
These were the five words uttered by wireless operator Arthur Disley who broke the news of the R101 airship disaster to the world.
The Bolton man was one of only a handful of survivors of the crash 80 years ago today, which was one of the worst airship disasters.
The night before, on October 4, 1930, the airship had left its base at the Royal Airship Works at Cardington, Bedfordshire, for a maiden flight to Karachi, then part of British India, with 55 passengers and crew.
At 2am the following morning the R101, flying in poor weather and at a low altitude, went into a dive and crashed near Beauvais in France.
After his dramatic escape from the wreckage, Mr Disley, burned and dazed, staggered across the ploughed fields of northern France to find a telephone and contact the Air Ministry in London.
News of the crash, which led to the deaths of 48 people, was seen as a national disaster and ended British government research into airship transport.
The tragedy was even bigger than the famous Hindenburg disaster seven years later, which claimed the lives of 35 people.
Mr Disley was later awarded the medal of the civil division of the Order of the British Empire for his bravery in refusing treatment until he had alerted the authorities to the disaster.