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Airship Club
Arthur Eveleigh-de Moleyns, later the seventh Lord Ventry, had a passion for airships and balloons which endured throughout his long life. Born in Ireland in 1898, Lord Ventry was educated at Langton Matravers and later Wellington College, Berkshire. Having spied his first blimp while still at prep school, he made several railway excursions to Britain’s military airship base at Farnborough, Hampshire. There he managed to talk his way past the sentries to admire the huge craft within.

During World War 1 he fought with the Irish Guards but was wounded; while recovering at Branksome Gate Hospital near Poole, he visited Upton’s naval airship station as often as he could. Later he joined the Royal Air Force, commanding No.902 (County of London) Balloon Squadron. Becoming a certified balloonist, Lord Ventry flew frequently, although as he was nearly seventeen stone, the craft had to be reasonably substantial. Lord Ventry flew balloons at home and abroad, studied airship development assiduously, and helped the Air Ministry test its new blimps.

During World War 2, propelled onward by his absorption, Lord Ventry joined the Balloon Command and Intelligence organisation, organising tethered barrage balloons used to protect targets from German bombers. Post-war, he continued to campaign for the use of airships in submarine-spotting and naval convoy protection, long after most people had lost interest in the idea. But in 1950 he hired a hangar at Hurn Airport and, with a small group of supporters, set out to design and construct an airship of his own. Part of his wartime work had been assessing various types of observation and barrage balloons, and he believed that such a craft could be adapted to become a motorised airship.
Among his colleagues in the venture was retired RAF officer Squadron Leader Thomas York-Moore, who had commanded airship units and flown such craft back in World War 1. Other helpers included engineer Eric Eveleigh-Smith, pilot Alec Leith and one-time airship coxswain Fred Twinn.
Lord Ventry (centre) with a group of fellow airship enthusiasts
Plans were drawn up at Lord Ventry’s Poole home, Lindsay Hall. The little band founded the Airship Club of Great Britain, which they established at Wharncliffe Road, Boscombe. Their premises were formally opened early in 1951 by the Mayor of Bournemouth, Councillor Sydney Thompson. Numerous airship notables lent their support, including former Farnborough superintendent and engineer Major-General Sir John Capper, who had held the first British airship pilot’s licence ever issued. Past head of the Zeppelin company, Dr Hugo Eckener, also joined the club, together with several old airship hands.

Encouragement came from the Royal Aeronautical Society and the Air League of Great Britain. Bournemouth Corporation brought more tangible support, in the form of a substantial grant toward the airship made from the town’s Festival of Britain funding. Lord Ventry also contributed, while the government’s Ministry of Supply lent equipment and tools.
Lord Ventry retained his love of airships until the end of his years. He died in 1987 aged 88, leaving a collection of airship-related written material assembled over nearly a lifetime, much of which is carefully preserved by the Royal Aeronautical Society. Among the papers is a booklet he wrote in 1953 entitled The Small Airship, describing his own craft.

Of Bournemouth herself, it seems nothing remains.
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