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.
“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.”
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.”
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.