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Willows No.4 / HMA No.2



During 1911 Willows moved his business from Cardiff to Birmingham, from where the Willows No.4 was launched in June 1912. The completed ship being 110 ft in length with a 24,000 cu.ft capacity envelope of oiled cotton, carrying a small car mounted on a long boom containing the crew of two or three and a 35 hp Anzani engine driving swivelling airscrews. Simple cruciform fin and rudder planes were affixed to the rear of the envelope.
This airship was inspected and appraised by the newly formed Royal Flying Corps and the navy, where the quality of workmanship involved in its construction was praised and the craft adjudged to be suitable for traing purposes for the two services. In July 1912 the Willows No.4 was purchased by the Admiralty and after modification, which included the fitting of new envelope, she became naval airship HMA No.2.
Willows built several other airships including a further order for the navy. This was to become the prototypr for the early Sea Scout class of airship used for convey protection during the war.

On August 19, 1913, “Naval Airship No.2” (the re-constructed “Willows No.4” – under the command of Lieut. Neville Usborne, R.N.) experienced engine failure due to a broken crankshaft near Odiham in Hampshire. In order to save the hydrogen in the disabled airship, it was decided to try and tow it home employing the airship “Eta” – newly-constructed by the Royal Aircraft Factory and currently undergoing its acceptance trials. Accordingly, a tow-line was attached and the two airships ascended, the “Eta” keeping about 600 feet above the towed ship so as to avoid all chances of fouling the rudder gear. The approximate 8-mile trip back to the airfield at Farnborough (the exact distance to the town of Odiham being 7.4 miles) was made at a groundspeed of 25 mph against a 5 mph headwind. The “Eta” was in all probability skippered by Army Capt. Waterlow at the time.







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